*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.