alfred molina, andrew garfield, batman, campbell scott, christopher nolan, embeth davidtz, emma stone, kirsten dunst, marc webb, martin sheen, peter parker, philip seymour hoffman, sally field, sam raimi, spider-man 2, spiderman, stan lee, steve ditko, superhero, the amazing spider-man, the dark knight rises, tobey maguire
Grade: C+ (SKIP IT)
THE BOY WITH a serious case of sticky fingers returns to the summer blockbuster scene with something between a bang and a whimper. Ten years have passed since Sam Raimi’s stellar start to the “Spider-Man” trilogy, and just five since “Spider-Man 3” bombed out the franchise and Toby Maguire hung up his blue-and-red tights 2.5 billion dollars later. Peter Parker by day and Spidey by night, Andrew Garfield is now in the title role with Emma Stone (“The Help”) as girlfriend Gwen Stacy. These fine young actors keep director Marc [“(500) Day of Summer”] Webb’s take from being two-hours-of-bummer. (Last month, I saw a truly amazing Garfield hold his ground in the face of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Willy Loman in a Tony-nominated role on Broadway.)
Nevertheless, since the arachnid is best known for its eight appendages, here are eight reasons that “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which doesn’t quite stick to its title, is a dead bug:
8. At a longish 136 minutes, you’ll want an escape-hatch. Oh what a lengthy web they weave.
7. The plot’s contrivances pile up high and fast. It isn’t enough that love interest Gwen Stacy is an intern in the very bioengineering lab (Oscorp) run by Dr. Curt Connors (“Rhys Ifans of “Notting Hill”), Peter’s departed father’s partner in biology. Small world! Oh no, Gwen Stacy’s father is also a Police Captain in pursuit of Peter, making the family dinner to which Spidey in plainclothes is invited awkward indeed. That’s not so much a tangled web but an improbable one even by comic book standards.
6. Total Recall. The lady selling popcorn at the concessions stand said it all when, discussing “The Amazing Spider-Man” with me afterwards, said: “It’s just about new faces.” Indeed, there is very little new or freshly inspired in this fourth filmic take on the Marvel classic imagined by comic book artists Stan Lee and Steve Ditko back in 1962. Eight long years elapsed between “Batman & Robin” and Christopher Nolan’s 2005 reboot; in the case of Spider-Man, we’ve experienced just five spider-less years since the negligible “Spider-Man 3.” Too soon?
5. Sally Field Never Leaves the Kitchen. Peter Parker is the abandoned son of Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) left with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field). The gender parity in this film is a throwback. Not only does Gwen garner laughs rather than respect when she throws a lab-coat over her mini-skirt and knee-highs but the only other female figure in the film, Aunt May, surpasses the status of homebody: she’s a shut-in who offers only meatloaf and weak words of advice.
4. Predictability. After 30 minutes, you may be wondering who the villain will be and hiding in plain sight, herpetologist Dr. Curt Connors is a contender. The lizard nemesis here is a cross between the Hulk and Godzilla lacking the fire and muscle of either.
3. Paging Dr. Ock! The lack of real action in the film’s first hour left me thinking of Dr. Otto Gunther Octavius, that is, Doctor Octopus, so brilliantly embodied by Alfred Molina in “Spider-Man 2” (2004) with those mechanized tentacles that sent taxi-cabs crashing through coffee shop windows. Importantly, it was Dr. Octavius’s grief over his dead wife that drove his rage, and in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” there is a total lack of pathos. The villain in this instance is cartoonish.
2. Andrew Garfield’s pompadour. As Parker and Mary Jane, Maguire and Kirsten Dunst had just the geeky vulnerability, not to mention working-class backgrounds, to fit the bill. Here, Garfield and Stone are just too, well, pretty. Mary Jane was the girl-next-door, literally behind the clotheslines strewn with Uncle Ben and Aunt May’s laundry, whereas Gwen Stacy…well, didn’t I already mention her costuming? Part of Peter Parker’s appeal – say that seven times! – is that he’s a superhero by night but a lowly super-zero by day, and there’s no way Garfield could ever look the part. He’s the lovechild of James Dean and a No. 2 pencil.
1. There’s a mightier superhero to anticipate this summer and that’s the bat-suited one in Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment to his noir series, “The Dark Knight Rises” (July 20). What Nolan has done there – aided greatly, of course, by the fabulous horrors of Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger – is retool the familiarities of the DC Comics series and give us something dark indeed. It is not for nothing that twice in “The Amazing Spider-Man” you hear ol’ spidey say, after a fight: “You should see the other guy.” Bring him on.
Logan Burd said:
On a scale of Spiderman 1, 2, or 3, where does ‘Amazing’ fall?
Good question: I should just state it as is: 1.5. What do you think? Did you like the earlier trilogy?
Logan Burd said:
I’ve yet to see it (when movie tickets cost three times as much as a new DVD rental, I rarely get out to the theater unless a movie looks really great), but I was a big fan of Spider-Man 1 and 2. 3 kinda stumbled. It’s showing at the local drive-in, so I might catch it with my girlfriend. Would it make a good drive-in flick?
I’d wait for THE DARK KNIGHT to rise on the drive-in screen! Lucky you, those are vintage Americana!
Logan Burd said:
I know, I just wish it’d show better movies!
I agree with a lot of your points, but I think you’re being a little harsh on Amazing. It’s a little slow, sure. And I don’t think we really needed to revisit the origin story. But there was still a lot to like about this movie. It had a lot more emotional resonance than the Raimi Spider-man. And I liked that film too.
Thanks for reading; they sure assembled some good actors in AMAZING and if it works at all, it’s only because of Stone and Garfield.
I am looking forward to this movie, but I am keeping my expectations modest. It sounds like, compared to Spiderman 1 & 2 in the earlier franchise, the character development isn’t up to par. That’s a shame — there is a lot of talent in this movie. Interesting observations about gender parity, too. It sounds like this movie’s presentation of female characters is stuck in the 50s.
Keep them modest, indeed; nothing new nor really interesting. Bring on the Bat-Man!
Great review. Loved thw line about Garfield being the child of James Dean and a number 2 pencil. Now we have a 6 degrees of separation started as Jmaes Franco played Dean and was the younger Osborb in the first franchize. We thought there wasn’t much chemistry tween Garfield and Stone. I said scripts had holes like swiss cheeze, that and the conviences you mentioned. Still its a pop cron movie
You should read a few Spider-man comics….This was about 20 times closer to the source material than Raimi’s films ever were. There’s a slew of differences between the films. In the comics, Peter is actually supposed to be really good looking, skinny, and lanky. He’s awkward, but he’s still charming. Peter was never not-good looking, and Mary-Jane even mentioned at one point how lucky she is to have such a good looking guy. The character development of the main characters i far better than Raimi’s characters. The Goblin had no reason to kill Spider-man, and the Lizard had plenty of motive. Andrew Garfield learned to use his powers to help others, not just himself. Tobey had to re-learn the Spidey-mantra every film, because every film was the same character arc. Tobey loses sight of being Spider-man, Mary Jane gets kidnapped (also Kirsten Dunst is nothing like MJ from the comics…), Spidey saves the day, cue wedding/funeral.
Wow, you certainly know your Spidey-stuff! Thanks for this. Excited for BATMAN (a better series, me thinks)…
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
I agree with Yambzack, this incarnation is much closer to the comic books than Raimi’s films, which were a bit rubbish really (except the aformentioned 2nd one, and then only for Alfred Molina). I went in not expecting much from this film but left thinking it was better than 1 and 3. It’ll be interesting to see how they develop the characters in the next set of films.
I also read that Sony and Marvel have been in talks about letting Garfield’s Spider-Man into the next Avengers film too, which would kick arse! In fact, had the Oscorp tower design been completed in time it would have been included in the NY skyline of Avengers: Assemble.
On another note, I can’t agree more about Batman being the biggest comic book movie of this year. I cannot wait to see that film!
As always; good to read your work, sir.
Thanks for this; well you both certainly know your Spidey template and all I was busy defending was SPIDERMAN 2, not the forgettable third installment. Garfield and Stone have great chemistry, apparently off-screen as well, but it just all felt very familiar and the villain, again, just plain silly. The Mad Scientist archetype is truly tired; bring on Bruce Wayne!
I thought Garfield was a lot closer to the Spidey I remember reading while growing up. I also like Emma Stone’s knee high boots.
Yes it was too early for a reboot.
Yes the lizard was lame.
Yes it is better than spider-man 3, but that is not saying much.
I wish they had skipped that crane cheese fest near the end.
I like Leary and now he is dead 😦
good but not great is my opinion.
I think Garfield fit the spiderman role good but not the peter parker role. I think Macquire was more of the peter parker i remember from the comics. Emma is cuter to me than Dunst. I do think it sucks killing Leary off. But I agree with Colin that it was way too long and the villain was not that strong for the reboot of a series. What did you guys think of Avengers and Dark Knight?
Way too long, indeed, and totally forgettable by year’s end; more a vehicle for the actors, and one with no soul. The Macquire-Dunst combo was more memorable…
You are a one-track mind, ha! Indeed, not great and even “good” is a spidey-like stretch! Bring on the bat!