Can you really think of a better working director to take on a Spider-Man movie than one that’s named Marc Webb? Fine I’m sure that you, like me, could think of a better action director than the man whose last film was an indie guy friendly romantic comedy, but all things considered after seeing THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN I think Webb was the right man for the job. I’ll be honest- I don’t give a damn about Spider-Man origin- I never read the comics and he’s never been my favorite character of the comic book movies that have been hitting theaters every year. Now, this version of Spidey isn’t anywhere close to THE AVENGERS level of awesome, but color me shocked that this thing is still pretty damn good.
The elephant in the room here is Sam Raimi’s original origin story with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst- a film I liked okay enough but didn’t love by any means. I am right there with almost everyone else confused about why it was necessary to have another origin story- but its here so now it’s just time to debate which one is better. Raimi’s depicted Peter Parker as a shy mild mannered wimp and the opposite of aggressive that was in love with a girl named Mary Jane. Webb’s Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is still a nerd, but is more aggressive, angry and in love with a girl named Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Both films have Parker bitten by a super powered spider; powers are discovered, developed, perfected and used for the greater good. With the rest they both have their differences and similarities yet if I had to chose which origin I would have liked to see from the get go, I’d go with Webb’s version.
I feel like while Raimi did a decent job of getting me interested in a character I couldn’t have cared less about, his three films as a whole worked against my excitement for seeing another sequel let alone a new origin. I was not excited to see THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and part of that is because Raimi’s Spidey flicks the only one I still watch with regularity is SPIDER-MAN 2 and the others do little to get me amped for more.
The new iteration of the comic character takes a little of column A and a little of column B in terms of recent comic book adaptations. It mixes the dark and the light in a way that may make it seem a little hard to pin down, but the final product for me was quite enjoyable. I wouldn’t call THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN darkly realistic, but it wouldn’t be fare to say it’s grossly over-the-top either. It highlights the fantastic nature of what Parker is able to do when he gets these incredible powers while also giving a decent depiction of just how difficult it would be to not get hurt or even caught- either by a gang of thugs, cops or a giant lizard hell bent on creating an army of lizards. Parker gets bruised, cut, shot, tased and nearly split into pieces at several points in the film and he feels the effects of each. At some point you’d think you roll your eyes that he could keep going after it all, but the story moves fast enough and is affecting enough that his determination and motivation feel nothing short of heroic and even kind of moving in the moment.
I can still picture comic book purists having their vitriol for the film, about rather or not it is faithful to the character and rather or not it gives Spidey justice. I’m here to say that faithful or not, the story worked for me as a non-comic book enthusiast and is delivered at a pace that makes reliving the origin tolerable enough to get to the more action heavy moments. The action itself I feel is funner and more exciting than in Raimi’s original film and the special effects while messy still look pretty cool next to the dated effects in Raimi’s film. I would venture out far enough that the special effects look rushed, but are rendered in such a way to make it evoke the sense of watching a moving comic book- rather or not that’s the case, I don’t know, but it helps when I start trying to get too critical about it.
The cast here works on so many more levels for me as well. Once again I’ve not read the comics but Garfield looks and plays Peter Parker way better than I ever thought Maguire did and his looks seems to fit that of a character pulled from the comics. The same goes for Emma Stone, who I already find adorable and charming in every single thing I see her in. I got to say I miss the red hair, but she is dramatically great in the part and has pretty great chemistry with Garfield. Rhys Ifans has moments where he’s a better villain than Willem Dafoe was, until it ventures into him having arguments with himself in his own head and the generic groan inducing villain talk rears its ugly head. When he’s the lizard though, the CGI is cool enough to make him intimidating right along with his voice as he talks. Denis Leary offers a nice dose of comic relief, though he has little else to do while Martin Sheen and Sally Field offer sweet roles as Parker’s grandparents.
Some of the extra stuff here has its ups and downs- I didn’t find anything spectacular about the score, aside from the main theme that I sort of enjoyed. I saw the film in IMAX 3D and while I feel the 3D was okay, I don’t think I would recommend anyone go that route- although it should be mentioned I am 100% anti 3D and hate wearing the glasses over the glasses I already wear to see. There is also an end credit scene or should I say mid-credit scene that I someone may have to fill me in on, otherwise it meant nothing to me except to make me stop walking out of the theater for 20 seconds.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN isn’t everything the title would suggest, but I’m going to skip offering an alternative to avoid the risk of sounding cheesy. Given Webb’s previous work and my previous ho-hum attitude toward Raimi’s first SPIDER-MAN I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. It has its flaws in the script department, effects and even just small nitpicks about character actions or non-actions, but it’d be hard to enjoy anything if I didn’t overlook certain aspects that don’t factor into my enjoyment. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is an origin story we didn’t need or even want, but one that I am personally willing to concede victory to as the superior. I love the cast, I loved the action and I loved the tone and style that Webb took with the film. In the end the new Spidey has all the cartoony action and flashy gadgets of a flawed but perfectly enjoyable summer blockbuster that in my opinion bests its previous iterations.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)