The Amazing Spider-Man is a perfectly fine reboot for the Spider-Man series1. Andrew Garfield playing Peter Parker is more emo than nerd. That might have bothered me but for this movie, it worked. It was a good idea to start with Peter’s relationship with Gwen Stacy (a charming Emma Stone) if only to differentiate itself from the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films. Starting with Stacy as the love interest allows the producers of this series to stretch out Parker’s time in high school and slowly lead up to Mary Jane Watson.
There are two things I will give this film over its predecessor. They handled Parker’s intelligence well, having him design his web shooters and have intelligent conversations with Doctor Conners (Rhys Ifans). Also, the improvements in CGI technology allowed Spider-Man to look more fluid and less cartoony than Raimi’s Spider-Man.
(It sounds like I’m okay with the film overall but here’s where I drop the geeky hammer).
I understand that this movie can’t just remake the last Spider-Man movie and need to present something different. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was a different film from Tim Burton’s Batman. Burton’s film focused on the tragedy of the Waynes’ death while glossing over how Bruce was able to achieve his goals as a vigilante. Nolan decided to examine what it would take to become a person capable of challenging criminals (training, resources, determination). I never felt like either movie betrayed the source material, just approached it from different angles. I feel that The Amazing Spider-Man tries to rewrite the book on Spider-Man.
Peter Parker’s motivating force was the death of his Uncle Ben. It was Uncle Ben who taught him “with great power comes great responsibility2.” “With great power comes great responsibility” may be the most important words in Marvel Comics if not comic books in general. Those six words describe the motivating force behind most comic book heroes even if Spider-Man is the only one who says it over and over again. In Raimi’s Spider-Man, Uncle Ben says those words to Peter the day he was killed. Do you know when Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) says it to Peter in The Amazing Spider-Man? NEVER. It seems like a little thing but I went from liking the movie well enough to wishing it never existed. Yes, Uncle Ben implies it pretty much telling Peter, “Hey, you’re a nice guy. Keep being a nice guy” but that’s not good enough.
After the credits rolled, things I was willing to forgive stood out to me. Building this whole conspiracy around the death of Peter’s parents (they are, at best, irrelevant in the comics), and making Norman Osborn an old man just screamed out to me as things done to make it different but not better. Even if Osborn ends up becoming the Green Goblin (which you need to bring Stacy’s story to completion), there won’t be a Harry Osborn. I know I’m nitpicking but I don’t care. HOW CAN YOU NOT SAY “WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY”!?!
One other thing bugged me. After Uncle Ben died, Peter was such a jerk to Aunt May (Sally Field). It was almost shocking to me. In the comics and previous Spider-Man movies, Peter went out of his away to conceal his Spider-Man nightlife and subsequent injuries. He would sneak in and out the window with Aunt May none the wiser. This Peter Parker walked in and out the front door looking like he was in Fight Club. When Aunt May was naturally worried about him, he just yelled at her and stormed off for most of the film. Excuse me, Peter. On top of losing her husband (which you bear some responsibility in), her nephew, who is the only family she has left, looks like he’s a male prostitute who’s pimp keeps giving him the backhand. It just rubbed me the wrong way.
My issues with this movie might not be your issues It was perfectly enjoyable as a film and the chemistry of Garfield and Stone alone make this an entertaining film. I just can’t remember a comic book movie annoying me so much as a geek.
1. The only reason they rebooted the movie so quickly is Sony has to release a new Spider-Man movie at least once every 5 years, or the license reverts back to Marvel (Spider-Man 3 was released in 2007).
2. Yes, I know that Uncle Ben uttering that line was a bit of a retcon but it happened before the films were made and therefore should be accepted as canon.