Recently Marvel has found great success with bringing characters to life on the big screen and comic book fans everywhere rejoice as some of the most beloved stories and super heroes get the hollywood treatment. With the recently released Avengers movie breaking records and surpassing expectations, it only makes sense that they would try and continue their success with one of their other properties that showed much promise: The Amazing Spider-Man.
Now before I begin I would like to say right off the bat that I have seen all 3 previous Spider-Man films and while some people may have their issues with them, no one can deny that they were overall a box office success. Spider-Man 2, being the most faithful to the comics and the best of the trilogy in my opinion. As much hope as I had for this “Dark Knight” reboot of the character, it ultimately fails on being as captivating or as fresh as the first time around.
If you have seen the first Spider-Man, then you pretty much know the story here, only this take has a darker, more up-to-date stance on certain events like how Peter Parker gets his powers or the loss of Uncle Ben. Granted, not much different from the Sam Raimi take on the events. But for those who haven’t invested their time in the last Spider-Man movies, let me give you a run down on the story here. Don’t worry, as always, I won’t give out any spoilers (at least the important ones) about the movie.
The story is about Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), a science geek in high school who at a young age was left to the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) by his parents Richard and Mary Parker (played respectively by Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) after a break-in to their home threatens their safety. Having grown up without any answers as to why his parents left him and never came back, Peter stumbles upon a leather bag that once belonged to his father and it sparks his interest in finding answers. This leads him to the only man who might know something about his fathers’ dissapearance, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a leading scientist at Oscorp who has been trying to make a breakthrough on a formula of cellular regeneration that he and Peters father had been working on for years.
Along the way Peter develops a keen interest in Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a girl in his high school who also interns at Oscorp for Dr. Connors. As he wanders around the building for answers, he stumbles across a restricted area where genetically enhanced spiders are being created, and gets bitten by one that escapes to which we now have the beginning of what we will know as Spider-Man. You might be asking yourself at this point “ok, that sounds cool, but why did you say I shouldn’t see this one if I saw the First Spider-man?” well, I’ll explain.
The biggest downfall for this reboot was that it stuck too closely to the formula of the first film and never really does anything memorable to distinguish itself or create an identity of it’s own. Throughout the film I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first one or feel like I’d been here before. There are ideas and conflicts that seem ripped directly from the first version of the picture. Where the first film had Norman Osborn who became a mentor of sorts to Peter but later does human testing on himself to save his career and ends up being the main villain, this one has…you guessed it, Dr. Connors who becomes a mentor of sorts to Peter but later on does human testing on himself to save his career and ends up being the main villain. There is even a scene where Dr.Connors (now well on his way to becoming The Lizard) is talking to himself in two different voices discussing whether Peter should be killed or defended. Sounds a lot like the stuff Green Goblin had going on huh? Both Lizard and Green Goblin are mutated versions of smart innocent men who just wanted to better mankind, and both worked at Oscorp. If the similarities ended there, there wouldn’t be so much focus on this, but they don’t. To prevent spoiling anything else, I’ll leave it at that, but trust me.. I don’t need to point out the similarities if you plan to see the new version after having watched the first one.
Emma Stone does right in her role as Gwen Stacy. No complaints here as she makes this character believable and actually adds more of an impact to this story than Mary Jane did in the first one (granted, I mean that because she was actually involved in the plot more than just as a victim). Andrew Garfield really showed great investment in his role as he had to deal with a lot of emotional scenes (and trust me, there are a lot) and pulls off the science geek who’s far from a hero with ease. But there lies an issue in this film that stands out: Peter Parker himself.
If there’s one thing people have heard or expect from this character, it’s his sarcastic quips and his sense of humor, both of which are vaguely represented in this film. Throughout the movie you see Peter crying (literally) or on the verge of doing so for about 80% of the film. I know Peter Parker/Spider-Man is known best for being one of the few super heroes in comic book history to have suffered so much loss in his life and uses it to find the strength to continue fighting forward, but it feels this film never wants you to forget that. Never. I wanted to like this take on him. I really did. And still do. But the fact remains, he doesn’t exhibit nearly as much variation in emotion or happy cheering moments as we feel he should. I know the reboot was to emulate for Spider-Man what Batman Begins Did For Batman, but sometimes that gritty, real-world take just doesn’t work for heroes who arent as serious as the Dark Knight is.
Personally, for as little screen time as he had in this film, I believe Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben was the best performance in the entire cast. Not merely on acting, as I said, Andrew Garfield had a lot of emotional scenes, but just how his role in the film was written. It is one of the few that is done exceptionally well and rounded so that Uncle Ben successfully captures our hearts as a loving and strict father figure in what little time he had to do so.
The worst offense this version of the film commits is that not once does Uncle Ben say the thing Peter Parker has lived by as Spider-Man: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” If you are going to copy a film, why leave that iconic line out when everything else was copied?!?
If you’re planning on seeing this film, Real D 3D is the way to go. The 3D is done about as well as it could be and the special effects, camera angles, and pop outs are meant to be seen this way. Don’t get me wrong, if 2D is your only option you won’t be disappointed. The beauty here is that this film does not overdue the 3D, but just makes it known in some scenes that definitely enhance your overall viewing experience.
In a summer of Avengers and Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man makes an attempt to web sling it’s way to the top. Unfortunately for this film, it just ends up feeling more like a “Dark Knight” take on the hero rather than a fresh start. It’s not bad, but it’s not new either. If you’ve seen the first Spider-Man from 2002, then go ahead and wait for this one to come to DVD or Blu-Ray. But if you haven’t jumped into this series yet and have been looking to do so, this film is great place to start.
A special thanks to my entertainment writer W. H. Stone for this review.
Disclosure: I attended a press screening of this film at no cost for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received. Thoughts are my own.