Comic movie! Comic movie! Friendly neighborhood comic movie! Is it G? Not it's not. It's PG, plus 13. PG, PG-THIRRRRTEEEEEENNNNN! (My daughter watching me type this: "I watched that and it's PG-13?" Yeah, kid. It's got some blood. Some mild language. Uncle Ben keeps dying, so that shouldn't be too shocking. PG-13.)
DIRECTOR: Marc Webb
*snort!* His name is Marc Webb! He directed The Amazing Spider-Man! Do you get it? I'm sure someone lightly played this up, but how wasn't everyone talking about this? I'm going to give an unpopular take on this movie. I think this movie is much better than people make it out to be. I like the reboots. They're fine. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't perfect. Neither is this one, I suppose. But I think that this movie gets a lot right. I, too, agree that there was no reason to reboot Spider-Man, but that doesn't mean that the reboot is without merit. This is going to sound way too defensive. I kind of want to beat me up to, but I think people just like dunking on The Amazing Spider-Man because it is an unnecessary reboot. I honestly don't think it really has a prayer, especially since Spider-Man: Homecoming was so darned good.
But I'm going to beat you to the pass. There are a few things in this movie that really don't work that well. Both movies really make this mistake, the second more than the first. For some reason, Marc Webb and his team decided to pull from some really obscure content that no one liked the first time. Marvel Comics in the '90s was a hot mess. There's a couple of things that could be pulled that are mildly awesome. Like, Ben Reilly was a great character who had someone of the worst storylines in Marvel history. But one of the real stinkers of the era was the attempt to make Peter's parents important. When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man, it was just a story about a nerdy kid who was raised by his aunt and uncle. That's it. It was normal. Peter Parker was criminally normal. When he's bitten by the spider, it's the larger world encroaching on his mundane life. I can get behind that. Why in the world would it be implied that Peter's life was special before all of that? Spider-Man makes Peter special, not some nearly impossible destiny that makes his special. Marvel kind of realized that after the fact. (Sure, Peter's now got a biological sister, but it somehow works.) But the reboot wanted to separate itself from Sam Raimi's trilogy. So they took the completely wrong element from Spider-Man lore and make that the focus. Yeah, they say that Uncle Ben is his real dad, but that's saying, not showing. It's this scramble to find something different. Spider-Man has something kind of unique compared to a lot of other superhero narratives. It's been running for over fifty years. But a those other superhero stories tend to be episodic. There's a storyline here and there that stand out ("The Dark Phoenix Saga", "The Sinestro Wars", etc.). But Spidey actually has a pretty well known mythology. The entire story is pretty well laid out. It's why we keep getting Oscorp show up. Norman Osborn's influence over the entire series is pretty prevalent. So Spider-Man shows up with this framing narrative and then has some important storylines that intertwine through that ("Kraven's Last Hunt" / "Spider-Island", etc.). But we keep seeing the Osborn narrative. Starting Spider-Man from scratch means having to tell the Osborn story again. Don't think that Spider-Man: Homecoming got around that. Eagle-eyed viewers will note that the Osborn obsession with family is still there, only it has been given to Liz Allen.
The other thing that is a minor hiccup for me is that Tom Holland is just a better overall Peter Parker / Spider-Man. I'm going to gripe about this in the most minor way because I really like Andrew Garfield in this role. His Peter Parker is different than Tobey Maguire's and he has to be. But Tobey Maguire really nailed Peter Parker. Peter Parker kind of stinks at life. Maguire nails "the Parker luck" way more than Garfield did. Garfield is actually kind of functional as Peter. He's a dork in the sense that he's in the lower 49% of cool. Maguire's character keeps sucking. Spider-Man is meant to be an escape from the humiliating luck of Peter Parker. But now to start praising the movie. Maguire never got how to play Spider-Man. Garfield? He gets Spider-Man. Why Homecoming worked so well is that it gets both elements of Spider-Man are explored so well. Pete and Spider-Man are the same guy, but two sides of the same coin. It's great. But watching The Amazing Spider-Man movies after seeing Homecoming does kind of stress the faults. But forget that I've written a lot about the terrible ends of this movie. They aren't even that terrible. They are pretty good. Andrew Garfield, if you had no one to compare him to, would be an excellent Spider-Man. He's in a fun Spider-Man movie about Spider-Man versus the Lizard that really succeeds. The Amazing Spider-Man actually succeeds where it should actually fail. It is in response to horrible Sony oversight. Sony kneejerk reacted to Sam Raimi saying he needed more time to make the Vulture work. (This is all heresay, but I tend to believe it.) Marc Webb had to make Spider-Man work in a different world than the first three. Remember, Spider-Man 3 was lambasted. Sony wanted a proper reboot. I'm sure that someone said, "Grim" and he had to just react to that. So he made a different world that definitely was Spider-Man's world. Sam Raimi nailed a lot of the great elements. I mean, J. Jonah Jameson! How do you get better than that? So they had to continue making this world look more grounded without taking itself too seriously. It's pretty impressive.
And the Lizard works. He's not the way I would have designed him. It's a very weird look that seems to be very comic-booky. But Curt Connors makes a good villain. Again, a lot of The Amazing Spider-Man suffers from the fact that it is a movie cna only be described in comparison to the other films. Curt Connors was already played by Dylan Baker in Raimi's trilogy. He never got his pay off, so we have a different Curt Connors. I keep playing apologetics for this movie and I hate it. Because The Amazing Spider-Man is an origin movie, it doesn't give the time it needs to the Lizard. Curt Connors is, fundamentally, a guy trying to make himself whole, no matter the cost. The movie covers that element pretty well. But he's making himself complete so he can hold his son. The Lizard tears Connors away from his family and that's never really covered. I think that the filmmakers thought that they could boil down the Lizard to his base. I see the temptation. I CAN'T STOP SAYING THIS: The Amazing Spider-Man works really well if you've never seen the Raimi trilogy. I complained that the Green Goblin gets underbaked (which I consider a far greater crime) in the first Spider-Man movie. For what we get, it's great. If The Amazing Spider-Man was the first Spider-Man movie, it's better than the original Spider-Man. The problem is that it isn't. We have a series that builds a Spider-Man universe that is well-developed. So to present an underdeveloped villain at this point is a little unforgivable. But The Amazing Spider-Man really isn't about its villain. It's about its big deviation: Gwen Stacy. What Marc Webb really nails is the difference between Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy. Let's talk about how perfectly cast Gwen Stacy is? Emma Stone is so good. It's superficial, but she really looks the part. I know that Bryce Dallas Howard played Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, but she's a clone of Mary Jane in that one. Gwen is not the same character. We never really get one of her defining traits in this series, which is a shame. She loves Spider-Man, unlike the comics. But that's because Peter makes the right choice in this one and immediately tells Gwen. It's such a different dynamic from the previous ones that isn't based on trust. I really like that decision.
There's a lot that's absolutely perfect about this series. I almost would enjoy watching The Amazing Spider-Man series more because of its potential. But the previous series is just a constant shadow on these movies. It's a shame because there's a story to be told here. There's stuff that's being set up even in this one that never really gets paid off. But it is a far better movie than people have been making out. Give this one a whirl and watch it not in juxtaposition to the other Spider-Man movies, but for a series that was trying to do its own thing.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.