The Amazing Spider-Man is a movie that had to justify its existence way in advance. Retelling the story of how Peter Parker got bitten by a mutated spider seemed a little early – after all Sam Raimi’s version of Spider-Man had been done a mere ten years ago.
Having watched this reboot directed by Marc Webb ( (500) Days of Summer) it is pretty clear why one had to yet again revisit the origin story: it is a story that always works. The protagonist who gets equipped with superpowers has no idea what he is capable of doing and stumbles from one crazy situation into the next.
As soon as those things are done the movie spirals down into an abyss of been-there-before-moments and when you are close to the ending the movie just ticks every cliché in the book.
But lets get the positive things out first
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) and Emma Stone (Zombieland) have a pretty good chemistry as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Stone especially is a huge improvement over Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane. Where Mary Jane was the annoyingly screaming girl who got abducted Stacy has some good moments – although as with all love interests in superhero movies her great actions are just some things the script has to come up with to keep her busy and make her look important.
The origin story is done differently enough to keep our interest yet there are some checkpoints that are mandatory for Spidey.
The loss of Peter’s uncle Ben is done differently which has caused a lot of nerdrage from people who can’t see past the shallow surface. While there is no wrestling match in this movie the general idea is still here:
- Peter gets screwed by the system,
- he wants to get revenge by not helping the person who screwed him over
- not helping causes the death of his uncle
- because of this Peter realizes that just because the world is unjust he still has to help
There is even a pretty nice idea about a personal vendetta of Spider-Man and that he initially is more of a rage filled man who is not really out for justice – sadly it is only addressed in one sentence and never picked up again.
When it comes to the villain of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man loses momentum. Curt Conners (played by the fantastic Rhys Ifans) is nothing more than MadMarvelScientist#4 teaching us again that scientists will eventually turn into monsters and have nonsensical motifs.
Especially in a series that has given us Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) – who is one of the most memorable not-really-bad-guys in comic book adaptions – Dr. Conners a.k.a. The Lizard is just ridiculous. Plus the split evil personality has been done already with the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) so we again feel like this has been done before.
The entire final act is filled with trite clichés and while the special effects have improved there is nothing truly amazing about Spider-Man fighting or swinging. Maybe it has to do with the fact that there is zero tension in the final confrontation – who knows.
The shadow of the bat
The Amazing Spider-Man not only has to put up with comparisons to the original there is also another movie that obviously inspired this film: Batman Begins. The entire movie tries to recreate the hyper-reality that has become so popular with Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the Batman-character.
And up until the moment we see the final Spidey suit it works remarkably well. It feels very personal and not at all like the standard superhero formula we have come to know.
But when the finale kicks in the Iron Man 1 effect takes over – the movie drastically has to stop all the character interactions and give us the formulaic finale. Very much like Iron Man you are left wishing for more of the character moments.
In the end the villain and the hero fight and everything feels like we have seen it before – yet again…
The second half bored me more than I could have thought and it really saddens me because the beginning of the movie is very promising yet it all falls apart. In the end everything is neatly wrapped up but not before we have to force some small storylines for sequels into the last moments.
Unlike Iron Man or Batman Begins the story (aside from this superficial plotstrings) feels pretty much wrapped up whereas the other two movies had more of a “first step done – still much work to do” feel which works infinitely better for a first movie in a new franchise.
In the end the movie is scared to go too far away from the original Spidey but succeeds every time they take a risk – which they don’t do with the finale. The Amazing Spider-Man is an industry product with a neat checklist – much like The Avengers. But while The Avengers underwhelmed me I never felt as bored as I felt watching the Lizard and the Spider fight.
Which is a shame because there are so much things the movie gets right but in the end it remains a lazy industry product.