The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

“Is that a knife? Is that a real knife? You found my weakness, it’s small knives!”

What was supposed to be the fourth film in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise turned out to be something entirely different due to the catastrophic failure of Spider-Man 3. Instead of continuing a convoluted story with a dull protagonist titular hero became a reboot, a fresh start, and a new vision for the web head. Even though we all just witnessed the origin story a decade prior for Peter Parker/ Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) we get to be reintroduced to a reimagined origin story. It’s not like this type of reboot hasn’t happened before, look at Batman and Superman – how many times have their origins been shown and retold by different directors and writing teams.

But maybe it’s the small gap in years that makes this an origin not worth telling – at least with the whole getting bit by a radioactive spider and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) storyline. This time, there is no Norman Osborne seen (only mentioned by name and silhouetted at Oscorp’s building), no Harry or Mary-Jane or J. Jonah Jameson. Peter’s love interest is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) – something that was just done albeit poorly handled in Spider-Man 3. The difference between Raimi’s version of Gwen Stacy and director Marc Webb’s version – chemistry. Andrew and Emma have the best on-screen chemistry next to Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Possibly due to the actor and actress dating in real life, their energy and timing together is unrivaled in a comic book adapted film.

A new rogues gallery villain is featured that hasn’t been done on screen which also gives more emphasis to a fresh start. The character of Dr. Curt Conners was in Raimi’s trilogy played by Dylan Baker but his alter ego The Lizard never made his entrance. Marc Webb’s Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) serves as formidable yet distracting villain. What made Peter start his crime fighting was to find the criminal who killed Uncle Ben. The screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin argent and Steve Cloves never conclude that plot point leaving it unresolved for the duration of the second half of the film.

Since Raimi’s trilogy is held in such high regard amongst fans (not sure why, this reboot is leagues better than 2/3 of Raimi’s trilogy) comparing it to Marc Webb’s version is inevitable. Webb’s version is more grounded with a better version of Spider-Man. His weakness is small knives, we can now take down Spider-Man. Much of that credit goes to Garfield who brings the humor and sarcasm when the spandex is on. Something that was sorely missed when Tobey had the suit. But while Tobey was an excellent Peter Parker, Garfield misses the mark. His version of Peter is way too cool – skateboarding and being a touch extroverted where he should be more introverted. That all changes after Uncle Ben dies – Peter becomes more reclusive but still doesn’t feel like Peter Parker. 

For the most part, the story is fine – introducing a new storyline works in making the reboot feel fresh. That new element involves Peter’s Mother and Father and why he ends up in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben. If you’re noticing a pattern with adding more story lines to the pot than you’re not wrong. The script sets up a lot and only follows through on about half of it all. But the added mystery of Peter’s parent’s death leaves much to be desired going forward. 

There is no denying how iconic Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin or Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is and what those villains mean to their respective films. Ifans’ Lizard is given the development and motivation for a well written villain. Wanting to create a world without weakness because of his differently abled body is arguably more relatable than the aforementioned villains. Taking J. Jonah Jameson’s place for seeing Spider-Man as a public menace is Captain George Stacy (Dennis Leary). Leary is the perfect choice to play Gwen’s father as the mistrusting replacement with a voice that can do damage to Spider-Man’s reputation. Leary doesn’t have to utter a word to be intimidating let alone argue with over a YouTube video while having Branzino.  

What makes any Spider-Man film amazing (no pun intended) is getting the chance to watch him swing from building to building. A more comic book accurate appearance of the web shooters makes The Amazing Spider-Man more authentic, and science based showcasing Peter’s advanced intelligence. Also, seeing the first-person point of view cinematography by John Schwartzman puts the viewer in the mask – making anyone feel they can be Spider-Man. 

John Schwartzman’s cinematography isn’t Bill Pope’s but he adds a different dimension to the stellar action sequences particularly in the school utilizing the Z-axis when Spidey is fighting Lizard. 

The smarter option of rebooting the Spider-Man franchise prevailed only proving that no matter who makes a Spider-Man film if the story is good and the characters are written well, it will be successful. The Amazing Spider-Man is a more realistic version of Peter Parker’s tragic beginning. His dynamic with Aunt May isn’t as focal but his relationship with Conner’s Lizard and Gwen makes up for that. It’s funnier, more grounded and has easily better chemistry from all actors and actresses. Though he looks too old for the role, Garfield brings a youthfulness to Peter Parker that Tobey Maguire couldn’t provide.

Written By: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent & Steve Kloves

Directed By: Marc Webb

Music By: James Horner

Cinematography: John Schwartzman

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Martin Sheen, Sally Field

Release Date: July 3, 2012

Running Time: 2 Hours 16 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%

My Score: 4 out of 5

Based On: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

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