The Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Friday without summer camp = movie time!  So the G-men and I ambled off to see this new iteration of my all-time favorite Super Hero.

The Movie
The Amazing Spider-Man, Columbia Pictures

Genre
Science Fiction (uh, radioactive spider, anyone?)

Age Appropriate
I let my 7-year-old see it and while there were a couple of scenes that I might have liked to see first (which I will note below in my spoiler section), in all I didn’t feel like a bad Dad having taken him to it.  So I’ll say 7 and Up.

Good for Grown-Ups?
Yes.  Not very thoughtful, but a good overall ride that was well-acted by mostly the entire cast.  Solid piece of chewing gum.

Spoilers for Younger Kids
It mostly comes down to two deaths of two major father figures: Uncle Ben and Captain Stacy.  The Uncle Ben death is pretty classic for the Spider-Man lore and is sad and contains a fair amount of blood.  Stacy gets it from The Lizard with impaling claw action near the end of the film.  It is quick, but surprisingly graphic given the overall bloodless nature of the film.  Some kids may be taken aback when both Connors, and subsequently come police officers get Lizard-ified.  When the Lizard starts to break open the gas canisters, that’s a good time to have the little ones close their eyes. Finally, there is one “jump” scene right after the Lizardification where Gwen is hiding from the Lizard, and he rips the door open and she screams.  Short, and nothing bad happens, but could give little ones a start.

Quickie Plot Synopsis (light spoilers ahead)
Brooding teen genius Peter Parker, being raised by his aunt and uncle after his parents mysteriously die in a plane crash, attempts to run the gauntlet of bullies and hormones of his New York high school.  After finding out that his crush, gorgeous genius Gwen Stacy heads up an internship program run by an old colleague of his father’s, Peter stumbles into a science experiment with spiders, and, chomp, here comes a Spider-Man!

That colleague, Dr. Curt Connors, with some help from Peter, is able to successfully create a cross-species gene therapy, but when Connors tests it on himself, something goes horribly wrong.  This leads to Spidey, Gwen, and her father Captain Stacy working together, sometimes reluctantly, to rescue the Big Apple from an insane Connors’ plan to mutate the entire human race.

Are your Spider-Senses tingling at the prospect?

My Review
As a life-long fan of the Web-Head, I tend to go into Spider-Man with some very specific expectations.  In this new incarnate, some were met, but many were not.

Take a look, over-head!

The good of this move starts with the visual.  Even since Sam Rami’s relatively recent Spider-Man 3, special effects have come a long way.  Can he swing from a web?  You bet your keester!  The sense of barely controlled mayhem from the speed and torque of swinging from skyscrapers was caught here like never before.  And Spider-Man’s speed and agility, not to mention the Lizard’s raw power, were captured brilliantly.  I saw the film in 2D as neither I nor the boys really find 3D particularly engaging, but even without the added layer of depth, it was an impressive spectacle.

The real people were actually quite good, too.  No one gave a head-scratching performance, and the chemistry between Andrew Garfield’s Parker and Emma Stone’s Stacy felt natural and all the right kinds of awkward and overly dramatic for a teen romance.  Rhys Ifans did a very competent job as the heavy both in voice when reptilian and as the angst-ridden Dr. Connors.  No complaints here.

The plot was simple, but moved along well, not adding anything particularly offensive to Spider-Man purists and paying short homage to pieces of Spider-Man lore (wrestling, photography) that they decided not to travel down.  Many of the pieces of the plot (genetic manipulation, self-testing of serum with resulting strength and insanity) felt derivative of Rami’s Spider-Man, but not so much so to feel like a rip off.  No real surprises on either the good or the bad.

No, thanks.

Where The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man really parted ways was with tone.  Garfield’s Parker is very mod.  The brooding outsider—the Twilightification of Spider-Man, if you will.  Indeed, the whole tone of the film took on that brooding, angst-y feel to it.  Indeed, the scenes where Spider-Man even attempts some trademark witty banter really feel out of place.  Instead, the scene where Parker gives his mask to a boy to wear to give him courage while he saves him from a burning car felt far more point-on for this iteration.

And, to be honest, I really didn’t like that.

There was simply no release valve for the melodrama in this movie.  No goofy goober science nerd Peter Parker.  No hilarious wrestling barker.  No sardonic bosses making Peter’s life a living hell.  All the things that really ground the Spider-Man character and help him feel like the quintessential everyman put in impossible circumstances really feels missing from this movie.  In short, it really seems to be missing the fun.  To use an Avengers reference—it really needed more shawarma.

Both Gus and I felt we’d rather go back and see what Tobey McGuire’s Parker is up to rather than following where Garfield will take us next, though Gunnar felt that this one was a flat-footed tie with the earlier take.

Really, please, for the love of Pete, no.

Now that they’ve announced that this new version will be a trilogy, I’m hoping that Amazing Spider-Man 2 might take itself a little less seriously and bring the soul that Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Sam Rami gave to this timeless character rather than shoving the artifice of the sullen, brooding teens down our throats like we’re fed in the modern teen hand-wringer like The Hunger Games.  Because if we end up with Team Gwen vs. Team Mary Jane, I’ll be squarely on Team Please for the Love of God Stop, You’re Destroying My Favorite Super Hero.

Overall Score: 3 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “The Review: The Amazing Spider-Man”

  1. Thom Harp Says:

    My sentiments exactly. The thing about this Spiderman was that it was really great with the chemistry of the leads the energy of being Spiderman. There was less, as you said, fun. No JJ Jameson, no witty banter, no really really bad jokes. It felt like what they ought to have done was to hand the finish script over to a comedy writer and said “hey can you make this 50% more fun and not any longer?”

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