*Mild Spoiler Warning if you haven’t seen the film*
As an adult comic book geek I’ve come to a place where I’ve learned to accept one really tough truth- the movies I loved as a kid/teen sometimes just don’t hold up as well later. Christopher Reeve will always be Superman. I’ll always remember how incredibly cool I thought the Burton Batmobile was. (I had posters of it all over my room.) I’ll remember how much fun I had watching the original Spider-Man movie at the theater…3 times. However, if I’m being honest and objective, those movies just don’t hold up as well now.
The Chris Reeve Superman movies, while groundbreaking at the time, are really kind of cheesy and boring now (Addendum: The Donner Cut of Superman II is still pretty good). Chris Reeve is still a perfect Superman, but if you’re honest with yourself the plots were generally kind of lame, the humor was cheesy, and they could never agree on what Superman could actually do- memory-wiping kiss, eye beams that could rebuild walls, S logo that turns into a large fruit roll-up to trap enemies, to name a few. Burton’s Batman movies are just plain boring and ridiculous now. I can’t sit through the first one without getting bored, and Returns is so bad it’s painful. We won’t discuss the travesty that is the Schumacker movies that came afterwards. Raimi’s Spider-Man movies (not counting 3) are worshiped on many a fan-geek’s alter, but they aren’t the end-all be-all either. Kirsten Dunst was a horrible and boring Mary-Jane. Toby McGuire made a decent “geeky” Peter, but he was always a bit too whiny and his portrayal was severely lacking the cocky-wisecracking that makes the comic book Spidey so much fun. They, too, could be kind of cheesy, as they were made at a pre-Nolan time when comic book movies were still not treated as serious cinema. Raimi’s movies did a good job in helping to fix that mindset, but they were still just not quite on-par with the quality of storytelling we’ve been spoiled with in the last few years. I loved Spidey 1 and 2, but they’re not as fun for me to watch as Iron Man or Avengers. They were just too plodding and were missing the sense of fun that the comics have when Peter is being Spidey. As a Spider-Man fan (especially ASM and Ultimate) I was excited when they talked about rebooting, because the Raimi movies never really nailed it for me.
Now that The Amazing Spider-Man has hit Bluray the discussions about just how good a Spidey flick it is have begun again. I felt that over the summer Spidey got lost among the Avengers hype, and it never really got the recognition it deserved. It certainly had a few issues, a few of which had more to do with cuts that the studio made, but overall I felt that it was a very solid foundation for a Spider-Man series. Andrew Garfield brought a large range of emotion to the part that really sold it for me. He could convey emotion without going into “whiny” territory, and he sold the fun, cocky wisecracking when in the Spidey suit that was really missing in the Raimi series. Yeah, he could be kind of a jerk at first, but that was kind of the point. He’s a kid that’s had it rough, he’s lost people he cares about, and once he lost Uncle Ben he snapped for a while and was lashing out. It was authentic. It made sense. He never quite became the “comic version” of Spidey, either ASM or Ultimate, but there were large traces of it and I could definitely see him growing into that characterization with further movies. He had great chemistry with Emma Stone, who played Gwen. Their relationship felt natural, not forced, and I love that Webb didn’t play into the same tropes as so many other comic movies do. He treated the audience, and the characters, as intelligent people. They don’t drag out Peter telling Gwen who he is. (The audience I watched it with in the theater cheered when he webbed her in and kissed her). When Peter tells her he can’t see her anymore, she doesn’t act like a mindless twit. She realizes right away that it was because her dad made him promise. Best of all was how Aunt May was portrayed. She isn’t a doddering, blind old woman. You know by the end that she’s figured out who Peter is and what he’s been doing without the movie having to telegraph it. The scene after the last fight, when Peter limps in covered in bruises and cuts, and painfully pulls out the carton of eggs while muttering “I had a rough night” was beautifully done. The casting of Sally Field and Martin Sheen as May and Ben was inspired, and while many a fan had a problem with Ben not using the “With great power comes great responsibility” line, I think the way he referred to it when talking with Peter got the same point across in a meaningful way.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man was a great foundational movie. It sets the stage for what is very likely to be a great Spider-Man movie series that gets us closer to the Spidey we all know and love from the comics. I’m really looking forward to what they do with the next couple of movies. Maybe you felt the same way. Maybe not. Feel free to comment down below and discuss.
J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, and the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, both available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about both books can be found here.
One response to “Rant Alert- The Amazing Spider-Man”
My biggest problem with the old Raimi movies is the fact that it felt too much like a comic book from the 60s. I never got the feeling that Spidey was for real, it always felt like a hyper reality built around the Lee/Ditko era comics, which, while they laid the groundwork for the character we know and love today, don’t really hold up to the idea of modern NY or modern audiences. At the time I thought Maguire was perfect casting, and I still think he was great, but he only brought half the character to life. Garfield feels more genuine as Peter, more like a kid you might have known in school, the one you’d see in your periphery but maybe didn’t take the time to know. They definitely made this feel more legit even if it hasn’t been decades since the last movie hit. I actually loved the fact that they had real people swinging around like Spider-Man this time around instead of CGI, too.
The Uncle Ben relationship was handled in a very good way. By the time he did die I cared and I understood Peter’s need to seek justice, plus I love how he never found the guy who killed Ben. Some people felt that was a huge plot hole, but I felt it was smart that he didn’t find him because it would be too similar to the first movie but also because it felt more realistic to me. I also love how his search to find the killer helped him to update his “costume” into what finally becomes the Spidey suit.
One of my absolute favorite moments from the movie is the school fight with Lizard. That scene was so well handled and choreographed that I was giggling like an idiot watching it, feeling like they just took it from the pages of the comics in only the best ways.
A few other moments worth mentioning:
The bridge scene where Spidey saves the little boy in the car. That scene sold me on the movie and it was even better in the context of the movie. Plus that’s the moment where you can tell Peter realizes he has a bigger, greater context to be Spider-Man in when he says “I’m Spider-Man.” There’s a weight to that moment that gave me chills.
The crane sequence where the father of the boy Spider-Man saves helps him to get to Oscorp quickly. That moment has more emotional impact for me than the sequence in the first movie where the people on the bridge start throwing things at the Goblin saying “This is New York, you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.” It summed up the way Spider-Man is in the comics, for me. Trying to do the right thing while the general public might be wary of him, but there’s always that one or two people who know he’s a good guy and are cheering him on or helping him out.
The voicemail of Uncle Ben. I won’t lie. I’ve watched this movie 4 times now and every time I get tears from this scene, partially because if makes me think I wish I saved some of Mark’s voicemails, but also because I wish my dad had left me some sort of a message that I could reference like that to let me know he thought I was better than I gave myself credit for. The part about “be my hero” gets me every time and I LOVE that it does.
Definitely a good, positive step in the right direction for a new franchise. I’m actually looking forward to seeing who could be Norman Osborn this time around. Maybe this time he won’t be in some ass Power Ranger suit and we’ll see a more legit version of the Goblin.