Reduce, Reboot, and Recycle
After Sam Raimi declined to make a fourth film to his franchise and parted ways with Sony, there was an interesting vacuum for Spider-Man. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was beginning to rise in popularity and build towards its eventual commercial and financial success. As part of that growing success, the executives of the MCU reached out to Sony (who had full custody and rights over producing Spider-Man related content) to see if they would be willing to sell the rights to the character back over so that he could be a part of the Avengers. Sony declined, and instead decided to pursue their own Spider-Man Cinematic Universe and reboot the franchise. Enter The Amazing Spider-Man, a by product of Sony’s greediness, irrationality, and lack of creativity to try and bring Spider-Man back. There is nothing overtly interesting, intriguing, mesmerizing, or exciting about this film. Looking back on it almost 10 years later, its a pretty “nothing” movie where there’s generic villains, characters, and motivations that add nothing new to the Spider-Man franchise. All thought Andrew Garfield’s tenure as the web-head is certainly underrated, the writing and creativity of these is nothing short of baffling.
Marketed to audiences as “The Untold Story”, The Amazing Spider-Man attempts to put a new spin on the character by exploring the backstory and mystery of Peter Parker’s absent parents. While certainly an interesting concept and new idea to potentially keep things fresh, it is plagued by the fact that it retreads the origin story of Peter Parker. Uncle Ben has to die again, Peter needs to be bit by the Spider again, Spider-Man has to discover his powers…again, the idea to rehash details audiences and fans already know especially after only recently starting after the end of Raimi’s film feels like a misstep. It takes approximately 1 hour into a 2 hour and 10 minute movie for Spider-Man to actually show up in full costume and ready to fight which is almost double the amount of time it took in the original Raimi films. You have Peter investigating a little bit about his parent’s disappearance peppered with some flirty moments with Gwen Stacy, but for the most part it feels all too familiar and boring.
Andrew Garfield is in an interesting place because he is sandwiched between two of the greatest Spider-Man actors. Garfield portrays Spider-Man more comics accurately and does the superhero antics of the character, for the most part, justice. Spider-Man has web-shooters, the costume looks a little more hand made, and he is more sarcastic and quippy with the bad guys (a signature of his fighting style). While suited up, Garfield plays the character very well and may even be underrated in some parts. However, he is a TERRIBLE Peter Parker portraying him as moody, rebellious, and smooth which is nothing what he should be like. This is more so due to the writing of the character as opposed to Garfield’s performance, but its a complete departure from who Peter Parker truly is. He broods in the hallways and at home, humiliates the school bully when given the chance, and completely disregards a promise he made to a dying father so that he can be romantically involved with his daughter. Maguire played Peter with a lot more sincerity, and awkwardness, but Garfield is brash and moody more akin to a character from The Vampire Diaries than an adorkable teen.
Garfields chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is undeniably eclectic. You feel the burgeoning care between the two, and smile as the two awkwardly but sincerely flirt with one another. However, the writing of their relationship is poorly constructed. Gwen Stacy is not really a character in her own right and is merely around as convenience. As Peter searches Oscorp for clues about her father, Gwen is conveniently the intern running the tour. When Spider-Man needs to produce an antidote, Gwen is there to help synthesize it. Even a big moment of Spider-Man revealing his identity to Gwen feels sloppy as we never see a connection that Gwen has to Spider-Man before Peter reveals his identity. It lessens the impact of the moment and plays a big moment such as revealing his secret identity off as a comedic and flirtatious happenstance as opposed to big moment for their relationship.
Even the villain this time around is a lazy thrown together monster that wants to turn New York City into lizard people because…he wants to? Rhys Ifans Lizard does not hold a light to any of the villains in the Raimi movies. His motives are generic, he turns evil for evil’s sake, and conveniently has a connection to Peter’s father. He lacks the nuance and depth of previous villains who are motivated by their internal desire to prove something or are a downfall of their own genius. Dr. Connors goes from a simple scientist to crazed maniac in a matter of seconds, and is given minimal development and nuance. The connection between him and Peter is also convenient and completely forgotten to pave the way for more superhero action instead of genuine conflict.
The film’s writing is pretty terrible, with complete plot threads, ideas, and characters being completely abandoned in favor of uninspired ideas, moody brooding, and generic action. There’s Peter’s quest to find Uncle Ben’s killer that is thrown out the window to make way for his confrontation with the Lizard. There’s the coporate men from Oscorp that threaten Dr. Connors and Peter’s family who disappear halfway through the movies. And then there’s the idea of Peter’s parents, a big marketing ploy and something that is focused on for maybe 15 minutes of the film and then never talked about again. The movie is lazily put together, not really understanding which ideas it wants to commit to and flesh out. The result is a jumbled mess that echoes previous Spider-Man films while not committing to the original ideas that it has.
The tone and color design of this film is also in contrast with one another. Spider-Man is supposed to be more of a light-hearted hero, but the film tires to be more dark and serious in the spirit of films like The Dark Knight. It contrasts with itself as we see Spider-Man more in the night time, brooding on rooftops, and awkwardly interjecting his foes with humor in dark alley. It feels misplaced, as it tries to be more serious and dark but also have Spider-Man be extra quippy and tell all of his jokes. This film doesn’t have an identity of its own and comes across haphazard
The Amazing Spider-Man is a film filled with loose ideas and concepts and never truly commits to anything. It’s more concerned with being dark and silly at the same time than telling a compelling story about its central character. While Garfield is certainly great in the role, the writing of this Peter Parker/Spider-Man feels oddly alien to both fans of the Maguire and Holland films and comic book purists. The chemistry between Stone and Garfield is certainly there, but the writing doesn’t afford them much to grow in that respect. Sadly the writing, laziness, and lack of creativity continues into the sequel, and boy oh boy can I not wait to review that one! With that being said, I am still holding out for an appearance from Garfield in No Way Home.