The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man

Early ads for The Amazing Spider-Man claimed that we were going to get “the untold story” this time. It was a major selling point and important one too since we were all wondering how this movie was going to be different from director Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spiderman movie (which I will refer to as Spiderman: Original from here on out). From the trailers, the tone of this new version (directed by Marc Webb) looked darker. We saw a Peter Parker with a little more angst, a Spiderman that seemed a little more menacing, a little more on the edge. I can easily say that we got just that, but as for the untold story idea, well that was nowhere to be seen.

The origin story is more or less the same. Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) lives with his Uncle and Aunt. He gets bitten by spider and develops spider-like powers. He goes through the obligatory and always-fun discovery period where he learns to master his powers. And then he becomes a vigilante hero. The small details are all different from Spiderman: Original, but this movie doesn’t veer far from the Spidey’s comic book beginnings.

While Spidey is going through his transformation, his father’s colleague, Dr. Curt Connors (played by Rhys Ifans), is going through his own genetic transformation, but he’s becoming something a tad more animalistic.

The Lizard

Peter’s love interest in this movie is Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone), daughter of NYPD Captain Stacy (played by Denis Leary), which makes things complicated for Peter as the captain has issued an arrest warrant for Spiderman.

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy

Captain Stacy

On top of all this, Peter is still struggling to deal with the abandonment by his parents when he was just a kid. His spider bite is actually a direct result of his search for answers about his father. It’s a lot for anyone to deal with, and it takes a  toll on Peter. This Peter is darker than Tobey MacGuire’s Peter in the original. This Peter has more angst and confusion. Abandoned, bullied, and lonely, he’s rawer this time around. And Garfield plays it all really well. He’s a solid actor. I liked him right away in The Social Network. It’s so easy to read his emotions from his face. He comes across as innocent and well-meaning even when he’s making the wrong decisions.

Uncle Ben, Aunt May, and Peter

All the other performances were equally as good. Martin Sheen makes a great Uncle Ben. I’ve heard interviews with Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez together, and hejust sounds like the nicest father you can imagine. Even though he’s only Peter’s uncle, there’s a paternal love there that Sheen conveys really well. I like Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy too. She’s pretty, but she can be just as dorky as Peter is.  Their love story was infinitely better than the Peter/Mary Jane love story in Spiderman: Original. In those movies the whole will-they-or-won’t-they thing tired me out. I like that this version of Spiderman focuses way more on his personal journey rather than just his love life.

Dr. Curt Connors

Rhys Ifans makes a good Dr. Connors, but I will say that I didn’t completely buy his transformation into the violent Lizard. It seems like with a lot of the Spiderman villains something catastrophic happens to them when they’re in a desperate and vulnerable state, and then when they undergo whatever transformation they undergo, they all become mentally unhinged in some way. Green Goblin heard voices. Doc Ock’s arms started controlling his thoughts. The Lizard begins to think he’s the height of human evolution. They all start off as fairly decent and normal men, and then all of a sudden they have a disregard for human life. There are some hints that Dr. Connors was that way before his transformation, however we don’t get to know him well enough to know what he was really like before he changed. I generally don’t like it when the reason the bad guy is bad is because he went crazy. It’s a weak catalyst. I find this to be a fairly common flaw in comic book movies though; villains rarely get the character development they need in order to be believable bad guys.

That’s part of what keeps this movie from being great. There are also several unresolved conflicts. It feels like the filmmakers had bigger goals, but for whatever reason weren’t able to achieve them. They put several ideas in motion but didn’t return to all of them by the end, and because of that you don’t get a sense of completion. Maybe it’s because they wanted to save some stuff for the sequels, but it makes poor sense to sacrifice the sanctity of the current story to set up the possibility of future stories. Spiderman: Original was better able to tell a complete story while setting things up for sequels.

The Amazing Spider-Man International Poster

One huge example of not seeing an idea through to completion was the whole notion of the “untold story.” (**SPOILER WARNING** These next few paragraphs contain mild spoilers, so read at your own risk. I’ll let you know when the spoilers are over.) I’ve read a few websites that have gone into depth about elements that were in the trailers of the movie but were at some point removed from the final cut, elements that suggest there was more to Peter developing his spider-like powers than just a random spider bite. Rumors abound that Peter became Spiderman because his father altered him genetically. There is no proof of this, but trailers offer hints. See the trailer directly below. At the 1:21 mark, someone says, “Did you tell the boy about his father?” At the 1:30 mark, Dr. Connors says, “If you want the truth about your parents, Peter, come and get it.” At the 1:56 mark: “Do you think what happened to you, Peter, was an accident?” At 2:00: “Do you have any idea… what you really are?” None of these lines actually occur in the movie itself.

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See also the following passage that I found on the badassdigest.com article Was The Untold Story Cut From THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN?:

Curt Connors is talking about how every other subject upon whom cross-species DNA merging was attempted died. He does not know that he is speaking to the one success story. But how did Peter survive? The movie leaves this sort of dangling there, but the clues are in front of your face. Peter was bitten by a spider… a spider that Peter’s father bred. A spider like the one under glass in the film’s prologue. A spider like the one on the chalk board in his father’s office.

Again, none of this is proof that the untold story was that Peter was altered genetically before the spider bite, but it at least seems that they originally (and very recently) intended to explore the mystery behind his parents further than they ended up doing. After you see the movie, feel free to read the rest of the badassdigest.com article and make up your own mind. (**SPOILERS OVER**)

Webshooters

Webshooter

Despite the unresolved issues there is a lot to like about this movie. The action is stunning. Technology has improved since Spiderman: Original, so the visual effects of this movie look even better. The aerial shots looked amazing in IMAX. 3D was unnecessary, but it didn’t hurt. I’ll need a second viewing to confirm this, but I think this time around Spiderman’s swinging style looked a little less perfect and controlled. It was more of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of swinging. It felt more like he was making the decision about which building to swing from on the fly, which is probably what a real Spider-Man would do. It contributes a lot to the danger and excitement of his web-slinging. And the fact that he uses his own hand crafted web-shooters (instead of producing the webbing from his own wrists) adds even more to that sense of danger. That he uses web shooters actually says a lot about Peter. First it shows that he’s pretty darn smart. It also shows the faith he has in his own intelligence because it seems a lot scarier to risk your life using a device you created in your bedroom than to rely on something your body creates on its own. This more reckless version of Spiderman would do just that.

Now if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to take a moment to discuss just how much I love watching Spiderman web-slinging through the city. I’ve tried explaining to my girlfriend just why it captivates me to see Spidey swing through the skies of Manhattan, but I can never get across just how beautiful it is. It’s almost like watching a ballet or parkour, but hundreds of stories in the air. There’s something awe-inspiring about how he has to maneuver his body, about how he has to be alert at all times, looking out for the nearest building to swing from. It’s simply wonderful. Plus it looks like so much fun. I always used to wish I had the power to fly, but now if I had the choice I’d so choose to web-sling instead.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Spiderman is easily my favorite comic book character. If Hollywood keeps putting out movies about him, I will keep seeing them, even if they look horrible. I’m so glad this version wasn’t. Marc Webb gave us a fun and exciting Spiderman movie. When the sequel comes out I’ll be there. And if I have the chance I’ll even go see this one again at the theaters. I love Spiderman. There, I said it.

Happy movie watching.

 

The Amazing Spider-Man
Director: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer)
Writers: James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Losers), Alvin Sargent (Other People’s Money, What About Bob?, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3), and Steve Kloves (Harry Potter: Parts 1-4, 6 and 7)

Even though I already put up a trailer above, I’m posting another one. I like this one the most because it has a first-person scene of Spidey running across rooftops. It’s almost like being Spiderman.

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