I love being proven wrong about a movie I am ready to hate.
I recently came across a post I had put up on the Facebook page for Amazing Comicast a couple of years ago. I essentially said that I fully rejected the notion of a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. I hated the idea and the reason was that Sam Raimi's films were (and still are) fresh in our minds. And they were (with the exception of the third film) and still are strong versions of the story of the character. But cooler heads prevailed, I was impressed by the footage and the 12 year old version of me would not go quietly into the night without going to get his Spidey fix.
The inevitability of spoilers is something that I cannot avoid in some respects. I will stay clear of major plot points as much as I can but if you are a fan of the Spider-Man comics, much like me, you will know ahead of time the fate of certain characters. I will try to stay as spoiler free as possible though. Also, the comparison between this one and Raimi's Spider-Man 1 is unavoidable. The reason being that they are both the telling of the origin story of the character.
I guess we should be thankful that Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 was so poorly received. Had that not been the case, we would not have gotten a reboot of the series. I think that a reboot was necessary in this case because of the bad taste that Spider-Man 3 left in people's mouths. What Marc Webb has pulled off though is something that I never expected. There were a lot of liberties taken with the character. And being a Spider-Man fanboy, I know where the liberties were taken.
At the same time however, I know that this is very much like a comic book in that there can be different writers, different creators, different artists and all give their unique spin on things. Amazing Spider-Man is no exception. I say this because while yes, certain aspects of the origin story are the same as before, there is enough to keep things fresh without making them stale. A major difference is the absence of the web shooting from the wrists being something that is part of the mutation caused by the spider bite. The shooters are mechanical and this is true to the comics. I genuinely like that aspect being brought to the proceedings.
As far as performances, Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is fantastic. He brings the angst of a teenager to the role and is a vast improvement over Tobey Maguire who looked too old in the role of the high school age Parker. (Even though Maquire was actually YOUNGER than Garfield when he starred in Spider-Man.) He also brings a absolutely welcome snarkiness to the role of Spider-Man which is something that we definitely did not get with Maguire's version of the character. Spider-Man is a mouthy character. He talks smack while he is laying the smack down as a way to both distract his opponents and amuse himself. This is a vital part of the character that I sorely missed in the previous films and was more than welcome here. Garfield's performance was excellent and I loved his take on the character.
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy was pretty great too. She brings an intelligence to the character that is absolutely welcome. The romance of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy is essential to the mythos of Spider-Man. It is her fate in the comics that shapes the character further and gives him the additional depth that he needs to continue the fight against evil. Stone brings more to the character than Bryce Dallas Howard did as Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3. Thankfully, she had a better script to work with as well. Even still, I quite liked Emma Stone as Gwen.
Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May were fantastic. You really get a feel for the relationship between Peter and Uncle Ben in a strong way. The relationship is stronger here than Raimi's movie because Marc Webb takes his time with the characters and builds that relationship, making Uncle Ben's death all the harder to deal with. Sheen's performance really sold the character of Uncle Ben on me. I liked him a lot. Sally Field however was a bit of an issue for me. I think the reason is that she only played on two levels for the entirety of the movie. She was either angry, or sad. I get that her character needs to be so but it still bothered me somewhat. Even still, it did not prevent me from enjoying her as Aunt May.
Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/the Lizard was another one I took some issue with. I felt he needed to be more in the movie. We needed to see more of the relationship between Connors and Parker. It would have added to the arc of the character. That said, I thought that the lizard effects were fantastic and I am glad we got to see Spider-Man finally fight something that was not completely human. This gives me hope for the future films because effects have come to a point where we can really have some fun seeing Spider-Man's rogue gallery in action.
There was one surprise performance for me and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed him in the movie and that was Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson. I cannot say much about his character but his arc was something that is straight out of the comics and it was absolutely welcome here. I cannot wait to see him developed further in the future movies.
The action in this movie was unexpectedly awesome. Marc Webb had only done one other movie prior to this and that was the romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer. The choice to make him director for this movie was an interesting one and while the focus of the film was less on the action sequences and more on the dialogue and relationships between the characters, this worked for the benefit of the movie. Webb allows his characters to breathe and this is most welcome to the proceedings. When the action does happen and when Spider-Man is on screen, we do get some incredible moments and we get to see Spider-Man move and pose in ways that were only achievable previously in drawings in the comics. Excellent stuff that.
Also, the aspects of the spider not previously visited in the films are touched on. A spider using the webs to detect its prey through vibrations is something that is true to life and something I never ever expected to see done with Spider-Man. It works and is one of those holy crap moments that I loved in this movie. I won't say exactly how it was used but still, they pulled it off!
Finally, if I have a complaint about the movie is that Spider-Man gets unmasked too much throughout. Almost as if the filmmakers are contractually obligated to remind us who is under the mask every couple of minutes regardless of what is going on. But then, this has always been a sticking point for me with most superhero movies. A secret identity is supposed to be exactly that. A SECRET. Even still this is just fanboy complaining.
I quite liked The Amazing Spider-Man and found it to be enormously entertaining and one of the better entries of the summer. As I said before, I was ready to hate on this movie and I am genuinely thankful that I was denied that opportunity. What we got was a solid reboot and something that promises some greatness in future films.
Final Grade: A-