Comic-book nerds around the world were polarized going into The Amazing Spider-Man. Some felt that it was too soon to reboot the franchise. Others were excited by the potential of a new cast and crew. Last week, I attended a Spider-Man screening thanks to my pal at Marvel. I enjoyed the movie, but wanted a little time to put it in perspective. After some thought, I feel that it’s a very good superhero movie that’s not quite great. Compared to recent spandex adventures, it’s not as good as The Avengers or the Iron Man movies. Compared to the three previous Spidey movies, I’d say it’s better than all of them save for Spider-Man 2. The rebooted Spider-Man is off to a great start, but the movie had one major weak point. Here are some random thoughts (not a review!) on The Amazing Spider-Man.
Andrew Garfield Kicks Tobey Maguire’s Ass: For the most part, Andrew Garfield was wonderful as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. His version of the wall-crawler felt fresh and current. Tobey Maguire is a fine actor, but I never really loved him as Spider-Man. After getting past the whole Facebook thing, I really enjoyed Garfield’s performance. He did a great job at displaying a wide range of emotions — vulnerability, strength, uncertainty, etc. He was a hero that was easy to identify with (and he went on to be a founder of Facebook!).
That’s not to say he was perfect. One of my favorite aspects of Spider-Man is his overuse of humor to deal with threatening situations. There was only one scene where I got a good sense of that. There were a few Peter Parker scenes where Garfield was over-emoting and shaking his head to the point of being distracting. Like the movie in general, Garfield is off to a very good start and has room for improvement. Also like the movie in general, he was better than his predecessor.
Emma Stone Kicks Kirsten Dunst’s Ass: This one was tough for me to admit. I adored Kirsten Dunst in Bring it On. I interviewed her once and found her to be very charming. I just didn’t like her as Mary Jane Watson — not enough of an edge. I’ve been an Emma Stone fan since Superbad. She performed exactly as I expected her too in The Amazing Spider-Man — cool, cute, awkward, and edgy at the same time.
Her character was given aspects that were a bit too convenient, but none of that is her fault. She did a great job with what she was given. Emma Stone was simply charming in this movie.
The Chemistry: Garfield and Stone had great chemistry onscreen…which helps explain why they’re currently boning offscreen. Maguire and Dunst come off as flaccid by comparison. The chemistry helped their scenes come off more powerfully and believably.
CG and Posing: The Spider-Man CG was fantastic, which was to be expected given advancements in technology. There wasn’t much in the way of breathtaking 3D, but the scenes of Spidey swinging around the city and fighting baddies were more than thrilling enough. One of my friends from Sony mentioned that there were a lot of cool Spidey poses. He was on the money with that comment. A lot of poses and moves that are considered Spider-Man’s signatures are found in the movie. Very cool stuff.
The Lizard: Now for the movie’s weak point — the villain. In the comic books, The Lizard was always kind of lame. A giant walking lizard wearing a lab coat?!? I suppose that’s literally scary (lab coats are menacing) but it seems silly by 2012 movie standards. The Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man had some slick CG, but still came off as ridiculous. Rhys Ifans did a decent job with what he was given, but he was weak compared to Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and (especially) Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus. In fact, the latter is really the measuring stick. Doc Ock is kind of a silly character, but Molina utterly owned that role. Ifans was merely serviceable.
Part of the problem was that several great Spider-Man baddies were already used. I already mentioned Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Venom and Sandman have already appeared in the previous movies. The Vulture is arguably more ridiculous than The Lizard. Do you go with Kraven the Hunter? Personally, I would have preferred the rebooted Spider-Man to battle bank robbers, muggers, etc. That would have left more room for characterization and relationships. Of course there’s pressure to include a super villain to combat the superhero, but the villain was the movie’s biggest weakness.
Conclusion: I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man. Admittedly, my expectations weren’t super-high or anything, especially coming off the outstanding Avengers. The cast is more talented than their predecessors and the crew is working with better tech. For the most part, I liked it better than the previous Spider-Man movies, except for Spider-Man 2 with Alfred Molina’s incredible performance.
When you see The Amazing Spider-Man, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the movie. Did you dig it? How do you think it stacks up against Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy?