THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(The Scene: The top of a skyscraper. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES walk along the edge looking down at the tops of smaller buildings and the tiny cars and trucks driving along the streets below.)
MA: I definitely wouldn’t like being Spider-Man. I don’t like heights.
LS: What? Are you afraid you’d fall or something? Or worse yet, that someone might push you, like this? (Shoves MA off the building, and MA is heard screaming as he falls). Yeah, I know we usually save these shenanigans for the end of the column, but we thought we’d shake things up a bit, and have some fun right off the bat. (someone taps LS on the shoulder. He turns to see MA standing behind him.)
MA: Your turn. (He shoves LS off the building, and we hear LS cry out, “Yippee!!”) I was going to cry payback, but he’s having too good a time, the crazy bastard. (Someone taps MA on the shoulder. It’s SPIDER-MAN.)
SPIDER-MAN: Will you two stop fooling around, stop playing with the special effects equipment and get to reviewing the movie? I want to hear what you have to say about it.
MA: I dunno. After you hear what we have to say, you may be the one pushing us off buildings.
SPIDER-MAN: I wouldn’t do that. I’m SPIDER-MAN. I’m a good guy.
LS (climbs up the side of the building until he reaches the top): Hey, Spidey! How’s it hanging?
MA: He wants us to review today’s movie. He’s anxious to hear what we have to say.
LS: Sure. Today we’re reviewing THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012), the latest Marvel superhero movie to hit the big screen.
I wasn’t really sure what the point was of rebooting the series. Everyone already knows Spider-Man and the cast of characters. Why not just make it a new Spider-Man movie? Even if they pretended the three Sam Raimi-directed movies didn’t happen, did we really need his origin story told again?
MA: I’m with you in this line of questioning. I just didn’t see the need, and for me, it seemed way too soon for a reboot. That being said, I went into this one with an open mind. I felt the same way before seeing last summer’s X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011), and I ended up loving that movie.
LS: Despite this, the movie does an okay job of retelling things with just enough spin to make it a little different this go-round.
MA (grimaces): I don’t know about that, but continue.
LS: This time, the focus is on Peter Parker’s parents, who drop him off at the house of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) and disappear into the night, never to be seen again. Were they secret agents or something?
MA: It would have been nice if the movie had shed some light on this, but it doesn’t.
LS: Peter was old enough to remember it all vividly, but young enough so that Ben and May raise him for the majority of his life, and you can tell they’re a close-knit family.
The origin is tweaked a little, as Peter gets bitten by a spider while poking around in the genetics lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who, it turns out, worked closely with Peter’s father at one point. Connors now works for Oscorp., the shady conglomerate owned by Norman Osborne (who, we know from the previous films—and the comics—is really the Green Goblin, but we never see him in this movie – we just hear that he is gravely ill). Connors is trying to develop a way to splice animal and human genes in order to combat disease—something that his unseen “boss” needs to stay alive. But Connors is also in this for himself, since he lost an arm and is eager to grow one back using reptile genes.
Peter finds some old documents linking his father to Connors and then goes to seek him out. It’s in that Oscorp. lab that special spiders are being bred to create very strong web strands (sold by Oscorp. to manufacturers). There are hints that maybe Peter was predisposed beforehand to take on the powers of the spider that bites him, since those same spiders (and their amazingly strong webs) were the result of an early experiment by his father. Is there a chance Daddy altered young Peter’s DNA somehow? Well, if he did, we certainly won’t find out in this movie!
Along the way we meet Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone)—at least the new movie gets this right. In the comics, Gwen was Peter’s first real girlfriend and Mary Jane came later (something Sam Raimi got backwards)—who is an intern at Oscorp., working for Dr. Connors. She also goes to Peter’s high school and he’s had a crush on her from afar. Her father is Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), who is in charge of the NYC police force. And who becomes obsessed with capturing Spider-Man once the masked crime-fighter makes his presence known.
The death of Uncle Ben, a pivotal event in the creation of Spider-Man is also handled a bit differently here, as a guy robbing a convenience store where Peter is buying milk, runs into Ben (who is looking for Peter) and shoots him in a scuffle. Where in the first Raimi movie, Peter’s failing to stop the criminal led to his taking on “responsibility” in the form of Spider-Man, there’s the added motivation here that Peter is also trying to track down the guy who shot Uncle Ben and got away – so that vengeance is a big part of why he dons the red and blue costume.
And those super-strong spider webs that Oscorp makes? Scientific genius Peter uses them as part of his costume, thus coming full circle, since one of those spiders was the one that gave him his powers.
Meanwhile, Dr. Connors has finally figured out how to make his regeneration serum work (thanks to an equation provided by Peter) and injects himself in an act of desperation that first grows him a new arm, then turns him into the vicious creature known as The Lizard. And it’s up to Spider-Man to stop him.
While I still don’t see the point of starting the story all over again from the beginning, I guess it works here because of the entirely new cast of actors in these roles, and the new director, Marc Webb. A fresh start isn’t all that awful, but THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN has as many flaws as it has fresh spins.
MA: I’ll say, and then some!
LS: First off, Andrew Garfield is pretty annoying as Peter Parker.
MA: I’ll second that right here. I did not like Garfield as Peter Parker.
LS: The way he almost twitches as he speaks, his inability to articulate his thoughts, his occasional stammer, he’s more a collection of tics than the nerdy guy we know from the comics (and the Raimi movies). In fact, his mannerisms are actually kind of creepy. I actually found it irritating to watch Garfield onscreen. I was never a big fan of Tobey Maguire as Parker, but I almost missed him in comparison to Garfield. Which is too bad, because Garfield looks right physically. It’s just his odd behavior that throws things off a little. And if you don’t really like the “hero” in a movie like this, it kind of limits how much you’re going to enjoy the movie overall.
MA: I agree. That might have been my biggest problem with this movie, that I didn’t enjoy Andrew Garfield’s performance. Pretty hard to like a movie called THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN when you don’t like Spider-Man!
I actually liked Tobey Maguire a lot as Spider-Man, so it goes without saying, I missed him here. I also missed the wise-cracking Spider-Man from the comics. He’s nowhere to be found in this movie.
LS: What about the scene, when he first starts patrolling the streets as Spider-Man, and jokes about a car thief pulling out a knife. “You found my weakness, small knives!”
MA: That was one of the rare times Spider-Man tries to be funny. Garfield and the writers seemed to be going for a darker element here—perhaps taking a page out of Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN series—because for the most part things seemed more serious here and less like the Spider-Man comics I remember. But the trouble is, while it may be serious, it’s not all that dark. In fact, I found Garfield’s interpretation of Spider-Man dull.
LS: You’re right, he is dull. This Peter Parker doesn’t have much of a personality. And, for the record, there is no reason why Spider-Man has to be particularly dark. In the early days, what made him so interesting was that he was constantly telling jokes when he fought villains. He was the complete opposite of dark. Despite what Hollywood thinks, not every superhero has to be dark! Spider-Man certainly doesn’t need to be. It would have been a lot more refreshing if he was constantly cracking jokes.
MA: I also didn’t buy him as a high school student. He seemed older.
LS: I liked Emma Stone as Gwen, but she isn’t given an awful lot to do here except fall for Peter and become his confidante.
MA: I didn’t like Stone either. Again, as was the case with Garfield, I didn’t buy her as a high school student. And she seems to be head over heels in love with him almost immediately, and I didn’t understand why. We never really see them get to know each other. Yeah, they do share some onscreen chemistry once they’re together, but that’s because they’re a real life item. In the movie, I didn’t really buy their relationship.
LS: Denis Leary is okay as Captain Stacy, the guy who declares Spider-Man a menace, but I really missed Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson, who is nowhere to be found in this version of the story. There’s a cable channel like CNN called the Daily Bugle, and that’s all we see of it. Maybe the newspaper went out of business?
MA: That’s another huge drawback to this movie, in my book. J. Jonah Jameson, as annoying as he is, has always been one of my favorite Spider-Man characters, and he’s nowhere in this movie. His absence created a void that the movie was unable to fill.
Yeah, Leary is okay, but I thought Captain Stacy was pretty boring. And the scene near the end when he comes to Spider-Man’s rescue and declares, “No, he’s not alone!” nearly made me throw up!
LS: Sheen and Field are appropriately sappy in their roles as Peter’s uncle and aunt. I didn’t think Field actually looked scrawny and sickly enough to be Aunt May (in the comics, there used to constantly be the threat that she’d have a heart attack and Peter would be alone).
MA: Sappy and then some! I think Sheen was covered in maple syrup in his scenes. Again, I nearly gagged when Peter Parker is listening to his uncle’s voice message after he’s died and Sheen says “You’re my hero.” I almost expected to hear Bette Midler start singing.
LS: Yeah, that was hard to sit through. I hate when movies get that sappy.
MA: I missed Cliff Robertson from the Raimi movies.
LS: Me, too.
MA: I also didn’t find Uncle Ben’s death scene anywhere near as dramatic as it was portrayed in the Raimi movie.
And you’re right about Sally Field. She didn’t seem sickly enough to be Aunt May. She wasn’t sick or weak at all, for that matter.
LS: Yeah, she’s just way too healthy-looking. And whether or not she actually is an appropriate age, she didn’t seem old enough to play the character.
Rhys Ifans is okay as Curt Connors, but nobody is really amazing in this movie. Everyone for the most part is just doing their job.
MA: Agreed. Although one supporting bit that I did like was by C. Thomas Howell. He plays the father of a little boy who Spider-Man rescues on the bridge, in probably the movie’s best sequence. It’s a brief bit, but Howell makes the most of it.
And although you mention Curt Connors, you didn’t mention his alter-ego, The Lizard. Yes, this is another knock on this movie: I didn’t like The Lizard. I thought he was just another standard CGI creation with little personality. When it comes to superhero movie villains, I thought he was a big-time fail. I wasn’t even that impressed with the way he looked. Next to Willem Dafoe as The Green Goblin in the first Raimi SPIDER-MAN film (2002), The Lizard is a tadpole in comparison.
LS: Let’s not go there. I HATED the way the Green Goblin looked in the Raimi movies. I swear he looked like one of the Power Rangers.
MA: Well, okay, I guess that came out wrong. I was talking more about Willem Dafoe’s performance as the Green Goblin, rather than just how the Green Goblin looked, because you’re right, the look was silly, but I liked the way Dafoe made him menacing.
LS: And I wasn’t as disappointed with the way The Lizard looked as you were. Sure, there’s too much CGI involved, which makes him look fake some of the time. And instead of a lizard’s snout they give him a weird grin – he looked like The Joker or something (or 1961’s MR. SARDONICUS!). But, over time, it grew on me.
Stuff I liked: the scenes with Spider-Man swinging around the city and his fights with The Lizard, aren’t half-bad. I’ve always liked The Lizard as one of Spider-Man’s more interesting villains.
MA: Yes, the special effects were better than the Tobey Maguire movies, but that’s to be expected, since the CGI technology seems to get better and better. The scenes of Spidey swinging around the city look great. However, while the special effects have improved, that doesn’t translate into quality scenes. I wasn’t impressed by the Spider-Man vs. The Lizard battle scenes, nor did I find much in this movie that made it all that cinematic. I liked the one sequence on the bridge, as that was impressive, but other than that, I wasn’t impressed by the directorial effort by Marc Webb.
And once again, I thought the 3D effects were unnecessary and added next to nothing to this movie.
LS: Luckily, I didn’t see this one in 3D, so I didn’t have to pay extra and I didn’t have to feel like I wasted money once again.
But I have lots of questions, too. If the serum changed Curt Connors’ genetic structure, why would he revert back to his human self after a short time? Wouldn’t he stay The Lizard permanently?
MA: You’d think so.
LS: And what was up with the stupid storyline about The Lizard having some kind of gas that turns other people into Lizards like him? It seemed tacked on like an afterthought, they never really developed it or made the transformed people look dangerous, and the people (mostly cops) get “cured” way to easily by the end. Once again—a very convenient resolution for a serum that is supposed to change people on a cellular level.
And, to back up for a moment, once Peter is aware of his new powers, why does he use them so many times in public, where there are lots of witnesses? This just seems incredibly stupid. It’s like he doesn’t even try to hide his “secret” from the outside world. Why don a mask later on, then? There’s this whole series of scenes early on that annoyed the hell out of me. You’re telling me that all the people who saw him do amazing things in school couldn’t figure out he was later Spider-Man. Aren’t there any smart kids in that high school?
MA: Yup, I was thinking the same thing. My take on it was that the writers didn’t seem as if they wanted to be bothered with these details. It was almost as if they felt the previous movies had explained things so they wouldn’t.
I thought this movie lacked details. I didn’t know, for example, how Peter Parker even felt to be Spider-Man in this movie. Was he upset about it? Happy? Psyched? At first, he’s totally unable to control his new abilities, yet he doesn’t even seem upset by this. The next thing we know he’s outside swinging from buildings like he’s been doing it for years. Yep, just another day at the office. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty excited about these new abilities. I didn’t get this from Garfield’s Spider-Man.
LS: Taken on its own, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN just seemed kind of mediocre to me.
MA: I found it less than mediocre.
LS: Nothing really “amazing” at all, but not completely horrible, either. And it actually goes up a notch when compared to the last Sam Raimi Spidey flick, SPIDER-MAN 3, which was just abysmal and ranks with the worst supherhero movies of all time (and what a waste of the Sandman and Venom!). Despite its flaws, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is at least an improvement over where Raimi was going with his Spider-Man movies.
I give it two and a half knives. Which isn’t a great rating. Either catch a cheap matinee or wait until it comes to cable or Netflix.
MA: I didn’t like SPIDER-MAN 3 either, but I also didn’t enjoy THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
The biggest problem with this movie is it never drew me into its world. I missed the wise-cracking Spider-Man from the comics, as Andrew Garfield’s interpretation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man lacked humor and heart. There was something “off” about it, and as a result, I never got into his character.
I liked Garfield in one scene, where he breaks down over a confrontation with his Uncle Ben about his dad. This was a very good scene, and Garfield’s excellent in it, but for me, that was as good as it got. This movie seemed to be setting up Spider-Man to be a darker character, but the story never makes good on this promise.
Speaking of set-up, early on, a lot is made of Peter Parker’s parents, especially his dad, and their subsequent disappearance, so much so that it appears their fate will play a role in the story later on, but strangely, the movie never goes in that direction. Parker’s missing dad is mentioned throughout the movie, but no further light is shed on his fate. I found this disappointing.
LS: You just know the “secret” of his parents will be explored more in the sequel. None of these movies is self-contained anymore. Everything has to leave loose ends for next time. If that’s not the line between art and consumerism, I don’t know what is. They just want you to buy one product after another, instead of just telling a complete, satisfying story.
MA: I didn’t love any of the characters and found them all to be mediocre at best, and I was very disappointed with The Lizard as the villain.
I was also disappointed with the screenplay. I thought it did a poor job developing the characters, especially the romance between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. I didn’t think it did a good job of carving out the Spider-Man character either, as he seemed pretty generic here, and the conflict between Spidey and The Lizard wasn’t all that interesting.
This surprised me, because one of the writers, Alvin Sargent, a screenwriter who’s been in the business since the 1950s, also wrote the screenplay for SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004).
LS: The one with Dr. Octopus. That might be my favorite of the Spider-Man movies.
MA: Then again, he also was one of the writers involved with SPIDER-MAN 3. One of the other writers who worked on the screenplay for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Steve Kloves, also wrote the screenplays for the HARRY POTTER movies. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised by my disappointment.
I also didn’t enjoy the direction by Marc Webb. Other than the scene on the bridge, there really weren’t a lot of cool scenes in this one, and there was very little that made this movie seem cinematic.
I really didn’t like THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN at all. Except for the fact that it was pleasing to the eyes, I thought it was a dud.
I give it one and a half knives, and I sincerely hope they don’t make another one. This is not the kind of movie that should inspire a series.
LS: Well you’re not going to get your wish. Plans are already moving forward for the next one. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was a box-office hit the first day it opened. Which proves you don’t need quality to keep a franchise alive and bringing in the cash.
Also, like all Marvel movies these days, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN has an extra scene during the end credits (luckily, you don’t have to wait until the very end of the credits to see it). I didn’t think it was as good (or as clear) as similar “easter eggs” in other Marvel movies, but you might want to stay a little bit when the credits start rolling, to see it.
MA: If it wasn’t a scene showing Spider-Man about to join The Avengers, I wasn’t interested! Like the rest of the movie, this scene was a dud.
LS: Yep, it doesn’t help clarify anything.
Well, we disagree on this one. I didn’t love this movie, but I’m surprised that I liked it a little more than you did. I thought you’d be sticking up for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
SPIDER-MAN: I can’t say that I like either one of your opinions of this movie. I loved it!
LS: Spider-Man! You’re still hanging around.
SPIDER-MAN: Sure I am, I wanted to hear your review.
MA: But don’t you think you deserve better? You’re one of my all-time favorite comic book characters! This movie doesn’t do you justice, and you shouldn’t settle for something like this!
SPIDER-MAN: I dunno. They paid me a lot of money. It’s hard to dislike something that pays so well. How much do you guys get paid?
(MA & LS push SPIDER-MAN off the building.)
LS: Sore topic.
MA: Yep, he hit a nerve. Let’s go grab a bite to eat before we review our next movie. Shall we take the elevator?
LS: Elevator? Who needs an elevator in Cinema Knife Fight land? (Leaps from building) Geronimooooooooooooooooo!
MA: I’ll still take the elevator. (Presses button, door slides open, to reveal THE LIZARD in the elevator.)
THE LIZARD (grinning and revealing his mouthful of sharp teeth): Going down?
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN~ one and a half knives!
LL Soares gives THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ~two and a half knives.