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The Amazing Spider-Man (2012 film)

The 2012 film directed by Marc Webb Based on the Marvel comics character

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Visually Amazing... And That's ALL That's Amazing

  • Jul 3, 2012
When the original Spider Man trilogy came out ten years ago in 2002 it paved the way forward for just about every comic book movie.  It was the movie that really popularized the trend of doing so.  This is why for the past ten years no summer has ever lamented a major Super Hero movie.  Because Spider Man came, saw and conquered.  It was a hit with the critics and a hit at the box office (until The Dark Knight it was the king of Super Hero movies in terms of Box Office, a feat that now belongs to The Avengers).  Spider Man 2, by comparison was labeled as one of the finest Super Hero movie sequels out there.  Then Spider Man was driven into a ditch with Spider Man 3 when Marvel studios and Sam Raimi couldn't seem to agree on where to go from there.  They put so many eggs in one basket and so many different stories and characters into one movie it didn't work so well.  Thus a super hero franchise that had once been well regarded by critics and fans (it's a super hero movie, it's going to have its detractors) suddenly crashed and burned.  Despite being a box office giant, Spider Man 3 was not well received at all.  Those who paid for it weren't sure what exactly they paid for.  It had nothing on the first two and just ended up being a mess.

And then a year later, The Dark Knight comes out and blows everyone away.  Spider Man 4 had been in the works, but then upon seeing the success of The Dark Knight a new idea came into order: A reboot!  Yes, reboot Spider Man.  If it worked for Batman it can work for Spider-Man, right?  In some ways it does.  And in other ways The Amazing Spider -Man isn't quite as amazing as you'd expect it to be.

Here, Columbia Pictures and Marvel tried a different approach.  Or rather a very similar approach to Warner Bros. and DC did with Batman.  After Batman and Robin flopped hardcore (to its credit at least Spider Man 3 was a financial success) it was time to regroup and rethink.  Warner Bros. decided to go with an indie director (at the time he was indie) and someone less well known.  Who could bring a different flair to Batman.  Warner Bros. found Christopher Nolan who brought a sort of realistic, gritty nature to Batman that actually really suited Batman in and itself.  Nolan brought  a level of style.  But more than that, Warner Bros. was more than willing to let Nolan do primarily what he wanted to do.  A risk, sure, but Nolan actually brought something to the table.  And by doing that Warner Bros. revived Batman.

The problem with the "gritty reboot," approach to Spider Man is that Spider Man is NOT Batman.  The other problem is that The Avengers came out and once again changed the landscape of the Super Hero movie once again.  The third problem is that here the boys at Columbia and Marvel tried nearly the exact same approach.  They sought a not so well known director and tried for a more gritty and realistic take on Spider Man.  Instead of getting a director they were familiar with (Nolan had Insomnia and Memento under his belt and Warner Bros. already liked him a lot) they got Marc Webb.  A guy who's only film before The Amazing Spider Man was (500) Days of Summer.  This is going in the complete opposite direction for the starting director a little too fast.  Nolan, at the very least was able to ease into Batman Begins, but Marc Webb has come off a film that was largely in the complete opposite direction.  The Amazing Spider Man isn't bad, but in terms of rebooting the franchise it's less Batman Begins and more along the lines of falling into the "What if..." category.  You must understand that Batman Begins was so good it more or less outshined the original 1989 movie.  And we don't forget about the 1989 film by any means.  But with The Amazing Spider Man are you likely to say it outshines the 2002 version?  That's hard to say.

The Amazing Spider Man, as you guessed, centers on Peter Parker.  A loser in high school who seems to get picked on by his classmates.  He's the nerd type.  People don't want to date him, they just ask him to take pictures of THEIR boyfriends (or their cars, as is the actual case in the film).  As a kid Parker was left in the care of his Aunt May and Uncle Ben while his parents went off on some venture.  They never come back and instead are killed.  We don't really know why Parker's parents HAD to leave him (but given the extra clip during the credits we can assume this will be explained in the sequel) but they do.  As such, Parker has been let down pretty much his entire life.  He's got a crush on a girl named Gwen Stacey and is tortured by a guy named Flash.  When he uncovers a document that belonged to his father it turns out that his father was into some pretty secretive stuff.  Working alongside a man named Curt Conners, Parker's father and Conner were both highly criticized for their work, which involved splicing animal DNA to make everyone equal.  Peter takes this info and manages to get into Oscorp where Dr. Conners works, and is soon able to show Conners what his father left behind.  Unfortunately with this knowledge the compound that Conners creates doesn't work quite so well.  Here, Conners is missing one arm and he hopes that if he combines his DNA with that of a lizard his arm will grow back in the same manner that lizards can grow back their limbs.  At first it seems to work out just fine until it actually turns him into a lizard. 

Oh, and Parker gets bitten by a spider and because of it gets heightened senses, climbs walls and has super strength.  One of the biggest things that fanboys seemed to despise (or just not care about) with Sam Raimi's Spider Man was that his web was organic.  An actual power.  Here they go back to the web cartridges.  Which, for the most part, only makes one major difference... the fact that fanboys will finally shut up and hopefully rejoin society.  But who am I kidding, this movie is going to give them so much more to complain about, anyway.  Parker decides to use his gifts for good once his Uncle Ben is shot by a mugger he failed to stop.  Parker then sets out to find the guy... but never actually does.  And the movie actually FORGETS about this, and that's not exactly something people should let slide so easy.  This is the REASON that Parker became Spider-Man.  He looks for Ben's murderer for a little bit, but the movie sort of never finishes up this arc in anyway, or even offers much of a reason for Parker to stop in his search.  We get one small hit that the search continues but it seems like a good way to sort of just ignore the origin.  But more on that later.

Along those lines, as Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man, the police decide he's a dangerous vigilante.  And it just so happens that Gwen Stacey's father is the captain.  All the while Doctor Conners is taking his research a little too far.  And when Oscorp gives him the axe he decides he's better than them and hatches an evil scheme that is oddly familiar to Batman Begins but with a totally different premise in mind.

There are quite a few good things to say about The Amazing Spider Man and we should take care of some of this first.  The action sequences are actually pretty amazing in and of themselves.  The intense fights and the action are really fun.  Some of the films humorous moments are also a lot of fun.  It's a well shot movie that opts to take the audience on a ride.  This alone almost makes it worth going to see.  The actual adventurous moments and some of the humor are actually great.  This is an all around FUN movie to watch!

But the problems with the story are HUGE and can't save it entirely.  It's hard to even pick a spot to begin.  The big issue with The Amazing Spider-Man is that it opts to leave too much open or just sort of leaves plot points hanging.  When Uncle Ben is murdered Peter starts looking for the murderer by going out at night and finding random thugs to beat up.  But when he discovers the thug isn't his killer he often just... tosses them aside.  But suddenly the movie drops this.  It's there to help him become Spider Man and to see him finally dawn the mask, but once this happens... suddenly catching Uncle Ben's murderer isn't important anymore.  I get it, there are bigger fish to fry with a giant lizard man running around, but perhaps they could've done something with this plot point instead of just cutting it off and hoping the audience wouldn't notice.  To sort of put the Uncle Ben thing on the backburner shows a grave misunderstanding of the material they're handling.  Even worse is the omission of the, "With great power comes great responsibility," line.  Basically the REASON Parker becomes Spider-Man in the first place is stepped on pretty hardcore in this.  And yes, this will make fans mad, but even those who don't care for the comics will kind of be upset at this because the drop off is so sudden and subtle you kind of just forget about Uncle Ben.  Again, this is a pretty important character in the mythos.  If they had done something else to give Parker motivation to be Spider-Man it would've been nice, but they kind of don't.

Likewise, there's a guy from Oscorp that is on the bridge when Conners as a lizard starts terrorizing everyone.  It's clear why Conners wants to kill this man, he's the guy who gave Conners the axe.  Spider-Man saves the man's car from going into the water beneath the bridge but... doesn't bother to save the man IN the car.  He saves a little kid, but that's about it.  After he returns the kid to his father guess what?  The movie moves on. And that guy who decided to take Conners research and give him the axe?  Never heard from again.  What happened to him?  Movie never comes back to it.

Which also brings about two major problems in and of themselves.  The first is that the movie's pace is just a little off.  During the moments when Parker is discovering his powers he has a few showoff like moments that, after a while, just stand to reinforce to the audience that he can do these things.  It starts off fine by having Parker do things like destroy his bathroom or how he can't control that his hand sticks to stuff at first.  But when it gets to the moment when he uses his powers to get revenge on Flash and upstages him on the basketball court it's... a little embarrassing at this point.  But then he suddenly dawns a leotard seemingly out of the blue.  It's as though they get tired of showing off what he could do and decided that perhaps it was time to actually provide a plot.

Another major problem is that the tone of the movie is often clashing with itself.  It wants to be a gritty movie while still being as goofy as the 2002 movie was.  Without realizing why some of that goofiness and cheesiness kind of worked for the 2002 movie.  This one doesn't opt to be cheesy very much because it wants, instead to be more serious.  Sure Spidey still jokes, but a lot of the delivery just feels off at times.  You'll laugh at some moments, but the movie then constantly reminds you that it's supposed to be serious.  It's like the kid who puts on his father's tie so that he can say he's a grown up.  That's often how The Amazing Spider-Man comes across.  It just about begs you to take it seriously, especially in the latter half of the movie where they really play up the gritty realism.  At least the 2002 movie embraced it's goofiness and cheesiness.  This one makes a joke and then goes right back to putting on the serious face as though to remind you it doesn't have much time to joke around.

The last thing that is odd, is that for a movie that's trying so hard to reboot a franchise that fell off it's perch it doesn't really opt to do much of anything beyond what Raimi did.  And by that I mean, it's as though Marc Webb and his team watched the original and said, "Let's just do this, but very differently."  Many moments are going to feel familiar.  Watching Parker discover his powers is certainly going to be a case of deja vu.  But the movie tries to do it in its own way, of course.  It's just odd that it relies so heavily on Raimi's movie in so many moments.  The exception being when he finally actually becomes Spider-Man.  Once this happens there's a strange shift where, instead, Webb seems to be trying to be more Batman Begins than Raimi's Spider Man.  There's a moment in the film where it's clear Webb is saying, "This is where shit gets real!" 

But Webb hardly has the character for it.  If there's one thing I can certainly compliment Raimi on (and Nolan as well) it was that those movies had character.  The Amazing Spider-Man sort of makes sure we focus on only Peter and Gwen without really doing much with other characters. In particular, Aunt May is a character that takes up space.  The only thing she ever does is look worried.  And Ben?  Well, once he's murdered the movie seems to press on as though he didn't really exist.  And only because they pretend Aunt May doesn't exist a lot of the time.  It's strange because it's not as though Spider-Man is an overpopulated movie.  Nor does it have to focus on all its characters, but a lot of them are really flat.  Conners himself isn't all that compelling at all.  And he pretty much explains what the big face off near the end of the movie is going to be about in the third or fourth scene with him (he actually literally tells the audience... by only glancing at a machine, explains what the machine does and then we don't actually see that machine again until he actually needs it... using it to do exactly what he told us it was designed for). 

As the Lizard Man it's even worse because there just isn't much to the character dynamic here.  Lizard Man's whole plan and motivation just feel flat all around.  Remember how I said it throws in a dose of Batman Begins?  It does so much more here when you realize just what he wants to do.  But Lizard Man just wasn't quite that interesting.  The dueling dynamic between Conners and Lizard Man is briefly talked about, but never actually shown very well.  Before long Lizard Man's motivations come off as paper thin.  They hint at it and even have a moment where they tell us what Conners as the Lizard Man wants but... at no point does the movie feel the need to emphasize.  In fact, if the movie didn't outright tell you, it's not as though you'd ever really know.  But because it doesn't do much to make Conners or his alter ego compelling you sort of feel as though it has to explain itself.

The next paragraph contains spoilers, do no read if you insist on seeing the movie:

Perhaps my strangest gripe with the movie (and this is a minor spoiler) is that often Spidey takes off his mask quite a bit during the movie.  The whole secret identity thing doesn't seem to be all that important.  All the major characters will find out Parker is Spider-Man.  Gwen Stacey will, Doctor Conners will and so will even Captain Stacey.  There's little tension when Parker decides to reveal himself.  The emotional impact of these moments is also pretty non-existent as a result.  By the time Spidey either takes off his mask or is unmasked once again, we're hardly shocked.  Again, all the important characters either figure him out or he straight up reveals himself to them.  What's the point of having a secret identity if you're going to reveal who you are so often?
End Spoilers

Again, a lot of the action is quite good and quite fun.  It's just that the story seems to have left a lot on the cutting room floor by sweeping certain characters under the rug or out right dropping subplots.  It's a visually impressive movie but one that can't sustain itself on this alone.  And some moments are quite good.  Although even the action sequences are hampered at times thanks to some really quick edits, making some moments hard to really keep up with.  But what makes some action moments rather bland is that they sometimes lack an emotional punch that even Raimi's movies had.  The final showdown between the Goblin and Spider-Man in the 2002 release isn't quite as flashy as what you get in some of the moments here, but the emotion is so high that the scene itself becomes much more engaging.  There are some action moments that aren't really that emotional, but are just flashy.  There are a couple of moments that are really good (there's one near the end that's pretty well done) but before long you'll realize that The Amazing Spider Man offers up a lot of flash but not much substance. 

Say what you will about Raimi's 2002 film, it didn't quite make these enormous mistakes.  Raimi's film was an origin story but one that seemed to try to include its characters.  Aunt May, for example, isn't "just there," and the movie doesn't just forget about Uncle Ben.  And I can't stress how important it is that a Spider Man movie SHOULDN'T forget Uncle Ben.  It also stays consistent with its stories, trying to weave them together or at least offering proper resolutions where they're needed. 

Am I saying the 2002 movie was better?  Yes.  It was loads better but only because the mistakes weren't this particularly huge.  I didn't hate The Amazing Spider-Man but it was really hard to love it with the things that really stuck out.  Raimi's movies were at least fun, not taking themselves so seriously and offering up quite a bit of character (you just can't replace J.K. Simmons as Jameson, and luckily this movie doesn't try to).  It does what it does well while covering up quite a few of its mistakes.  This movie, by comparison has mistakes that are glaringly obvious.  It just hopes you don't notice them.

If there is anything Spider Man benefited from in 2002 it was being released before Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.  The Amazing Spider Man just tries too hard at the "dark and gritty," look and feeling for a movie that... for the most part just didn't need it.  The 2002 film certainly emerges as the stronger of the two, but mainly because it's not trying to be something it's not while The Amazing Spider-Man clearly is.  It just doesn't do much to really distinguish itself.

Like I said, it has it's moments.  The action is fun.  The acting isn't bad either.  Particularly from Emma Stone and Denis Leary (although Garfield isn't bad at all, either, he's... unfortunately out shined by these two).  It's even got some tense moments.  It's almost worth seeing just for the action and adventure alone.  But in terms of story it's going to leave you hanging.  There are moments that aren't resolved and the movie isn't too interested in its characters beyond Peter and Gwen.  That being said, it's not a movie I would tell you not to see by any means.  You'll have some fun, but it's a movie that had the potential to reach so much higher than it did... and simply didn't.

What did you think of this review?

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July 05, 2012
I am in almost complete agreement with you on this one (I needed two sittings to read your review LOL) The script on this one is messy, really clumsy and it made me wonder if the movie had been re-written more than twice. There were rumors that Ben wasn't supposed to die here, as sort of a "What if" (glad they did not go with that one) and I really had issues with the subway scene, the way Gwen figured out the anitidote among other things. Webb struggled to keep coherency in its script, but it was very hard to do so. Nice rant..er...review LOL!
July 03, 2012
Engaging review!
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Director: Marc Webb
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Release Date: July 3, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Studio: Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios
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