Spider-Man was never one of my favorite heroes. Yeah, I watched the Saturday morning cartoon when I grew up but I never read any of the comics and didn’t particularly love the character. But I walked out of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) desperately wanting to be bitten by a radioactive spider. I think The Amazing Spider-Man succeeds in some areas where Raimi’s film did not, and fails in other respects. For now, I’ll keep things spoiler free and short but I’ll keep spoilers under the jump and I’ll markedly notate when the more in-depth discussion starts. Essentially we get a retelling of the Spider-Man origin that is fairly ubiquitous after Raimi’s 2002 film. However we get a new villain this time (one alluded to with Dylan Baker’s Dr. Curt Connors in Spider-Man 2 and 3), a refreshing cast, and a bit of a shift in the mood of the film. Oh, and it was filmed in 3D.
I’ll sum my thoughts up quickly here for those who haven’t seen the film yet. I loved the cast. I originally thought Sally Field and Martin Sheen (Aunt May and Uncle Ben) were strange fits for a comic book movie, but they certainly pulled it off. Dennis Leary (Captain George Stacy) also did a great job in a role not as outwardly comedic as I’m sure he’s used to in recent years. Of course, Emma Stone is a great Gwen Stacy and Andrew Garfield seemingly embodies Peter/Spider-Man more than Tobey Maguire ever did in my eyes, not to mention their on-screen chemistry is greater than anything we received in the previous films in the franchise. Director Marc Webb continues to gain my complete faith after 2010’s (500) Days of Summer with a lot of brilliantly shot/staged/envisioned scenes. There’s a scene in the first hour post Peter/Gwen flirting that I think very well may be my favorite scene from the movie and it’s safely rooted in Webb’s music video past. Lastly because of the lack of J. Jonah Jameson we get that initial wonder from the public about Spider-Man. They know and feel he’s doing good at a certain point in the film and it’s great to spend time with Spider-Man as a hero before JJJ tries to paint him as a menace. There’s a really beautiful sequence which illustrates this, and while it doesn’t top the train/Jesus allegory scene in Spider-Man 2, it definitely put a smile on my face.
On the flip side of the coin, there were a few things I didn’t like. I generally have no love for the Lizard. I wasn’t a big fan of him on the cartoon so it’s not a big surprise that I’m not a fan of him here, but I think there are good reasons to why I don’t care for him. It’s not the serviceable performance from Rhys Ifans or the adequate computer generated imagery of the villain, but writers Vanderbilt, Sargent, and Kloves did little to nothing to make me care about Dr. Curt Connors. There are maybe two or three scenes that inform the tortured figure that is Dr. Connors but it’s few and far between for any sort of effective connection that the character could actually carry with the potential he has. There was also a little bit of carbon copy for a few details in the film from Raimi’s film, which is to be expected because it’s a re-telling of a story, however Webb’s film handles these moments in a seemingly less-compelling fashion and, despite the movie’s darker/moodier tones, it manages to gloss over a few moments that could’ve been quite powerful. While Danny Elfman’s score for Raimi’s Spider-Man was really nothing to write home about, Horner’s score for this film is even less so in my opinion. Nothing in Elfman’s score sticks out in my mind but there’s a few moments in Horner’s that just stood out like sore thumbs to me and felt quite cartoony to the film’s detriment. For a few last thoughts, there were some special effects that needed more time in the oven (including and not including the Lizard), the lack of J. Jonah Jameson was heartbreaking, especially without J.K. Simmons reprising the role, and the 3D wasn’t terrible but it didn’t serve the high-pace action of the film very well. Spidey fights fluidly some of the time but he’s very quick and his spider-sense creates some jarring experiences with the 3D.
All in all, it’s a good film — solid direction, great cast, but missing some essential elements to be a great film or in my top 10 at the end of the year. It’s not my favorite film in the franchise (Spider-Man 2 is just that good), but I could see its sequel becoming my favorite given the right writing team (which it doesn’t have at the moment with Vanderbilt returning and Kurtzman/Orci tweaking but that could change). NOTE: There is no AFTER-credits scene but there is a MID-credits scene. Don’t leave till you see the names scrolling up the screen instead of appearing centered on the screen. Go check it out and then read on below the jump if you’re seeking more discussion.