Movies: The Not So “Amazing” Spider-Man

Director Marc Webb, who made a whimsical splash with his debut film (500) Days of Summer seemed like an inspired choice for reviving the pop romantic sensibility of Spider-Man but nothing between Gwen & Peter ever lands with the force of that upside down kiss. What the new-but-also-old Spider-Man has going for it is a stronger sense of the hero's extremely flexible physicality and fighting style (Andrew Garfield has been doing his yoga).

Spider-pose

Webb comes through with a few instances of visual invention like a scene where Spider-Man creates an entire web in the sewers to function as a motion detector and a POV shot from the superhero’s swinging point of view which featured in an early teaser. Otherwise it’s mostly more of the same which might not be such an enormous problem in a less superhero satured movie culture.
 
Spider-framePeter Parker is still Peter Parker. Sort of.

Tobey Maguire has stepped aside for Andrew Garfield and at first Peter Parker 2.0 seems like an improvement since his lanky frame looks so very right in the skin tight Spider suit and the screenplay hands him the kind of wisecracks that comic book readers missed in Raimi's trilogy. But eventually Garfield’s long limbed swagger and emotive confidence as a screen actor starts to chafe against the character… at least when he's out of spandex.  It’s all just too easy for him. Though he tears up frequently there’s none of the awkward growing pains that marked Tobey Maguire dazed portrayal. This Peter's “awkward” flirtations with Gwen Stacy are so crush-worthy that they feel less like an everyman nerd’s discomfort and more like a pick-up gimmick, like Peter 2.0 can’t imagine not nabbing the girl. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have fine onscreen chemistry (and offscreen chemistry too as it turned out) but their romance never once feels like the happy miracle of the Maguire / Dunst pairing, just a given from the first Meet Awkward frame. Maguire vs. Garfield is Corny Sincerity vs Cocky Heroics… so I suppose it's a matter of taste.

This Spider-Man also loses the pop pleasure of Raimi's brightly colored palette (I blame Batman that most superhero movies, The Avengers aside, prefer to be dark and gritty now) and the sly joking about sexual adolescence (no sticky fluids escape Parker’s body this time that he didn’t plan on). Worst of all it has none of the joyful sense of discovery (admittedly harder to capture the fourth time around).  In short it's less magical. Not “Amazing” at all.
 
Dr, Curt Connor’s one-armed tragedy is that in seeking to do good with cross species genetics (he hopes to restore lost limbs to combat veterans via reptilian DNA), he does evil instead. The Amazing Spider-Man’s best new image comes via Connors first transformation when he wakes to find a malformed log-like appendage where his new arm should be. He begins tearing at it with his good hand, and it turns out to be only a shell, a scaly arm cocoon. A fresh slimy new human hand emerges from its ruins. The new arm soon fails him in multiple ways. It’s a stunning icky image and even a handy metaphor for the movie. Sony would like to regrow their billion dollar franchise but this new attempt only looks promising. Dr. Curt Connors has never quite solved the problem of macular degeneration and the movie studio hasn’t really answered the question of “why does this exist?” beyond, of course, new piles of easy cash.

Lizard-sewer

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Comments

  1. The Polar Beast says

    I couldn’t disagree more with Nathaniel. I think this is a vast improvement over the Maguire version of Spiderman. I like Garfield’s vulnerability and his complexity. I like Emma Stone’s ever-present wit.

    If you know the Myers-Briggs Interest Indicator then you will understand the next sentence. Where Maguire’s Spiderman was a “thinker,” I find Garfield’s “feeling” version of spiderman much more enjoyable and approachable. Gwen Stacey does not hold back, she is aware and she goes for it. Including going for the sexy new spider-dude who is not a eunuch. You have to admit Nathaniel, the spandex really accentuates his ass and it looks perfect.

    I love Martin Sheen and Sally Field as the aunt and uncle. Again they acted well and brought heart to the screen. There will be no screams and hospital beds for Sally Field’s Aunt May and I LIKE THAT!! The characters that are balanced in heart and mind and action.

  2. says

    I agree with the Polar Beast. We saw Spidey on Tuesday night and absolutely LOVED it!!! The story is more dark, grim, and adult-oriented. It’s a big step-up from Maguire and Raimi’s version of the story. I loved it so much that first thing after seeing my patients tomorrow at the hospitals, I’m going to see it again!

  3. Billy says

    I LOVE comic book movies, but will not see this one in protest. There are so many more characters that need their story told. They could at least have made it “Spiderman and his Amazing Friends”. I know there is a whole Sony vs Marvel thing happening, but a guy can dream.

  4. Ricco says

    First, very few people would kick Toby Maguire out of bed . . . I know I would not . . . but it is stupid to prefer Andrew Garfield’s Spider Man to Toby’s Spider Man just because Andrew Garfield looks better in the spandex suit.

    Of course that is a matter of opinion.

    But Nathaniel is right. There is no mystery, no joyful discovery with Garfield’s Peter Parker . . . not with the metamorphosis, nor his relationship with the girl.

    The Peter Parker character was supposed to be the ninety pound weakling on the beach who suddenly finds himself buff, and able to stand up to the bully who kicked sand in his face. He was awkward, as most adolescents are.

    The difference between Maguires portrayal and Garflield’s is the palatable difference between a serious motion picture, with true-to-life depictions of teenage awkwardness and angst, and the the BS one sees on the CW network where the kids looks and act like their in their late twenties, covered in a false veneer of adolescent behavior, which they mostly accomplish by juxtaposing the alleged teen actors against the older actors who act like old fuddy duddies.

    How sad that two great actors like Martin sheen and Sally Field have nothing better to do but lend credibility to Garfield’s inauthentic portrayal of a teenager.

    What we liked about the original Spider Man was the fantasy of the nerd becoming extraordinary. So, maybe Garfield fills the suit, but he hardly filled Maguires shoes.

  5. Ricco says

    I don’t see the point in doping a remake so soon. Usually one does not do a remake until the original actors are either dead or so old that the current demographic never even heard of the original movie, let alone seen it.

    Hollywood clearly has run out of ideas.

  6. Jay says

    I really hated Raimi’s trilogy from start to finish – with exception of a great turn by Alfred Molina, I found them all plodding and completely miscast. I saw ASM at midnight opening night and was surprised and how much I enjoyed it, even though we have seen the origin story before. It wasn’t perfect, but it was miles ahead of those films and I’m actually glad they hit the reset button here. If only I had as much faith that MAN OF STEEL will be any good…

  7. A_gay_guy says

    I disagree with Nathaniel. I don’t know what you were expecting, a new Spiderman? An amazing philosophical and cinematic wonder on a comic book hero? The movie did great.

  8. Jay says

    Oh, and about remakes? Hollywood’s been remaking films since it started – silent into talkies, black and white to color and a thousand variations on LOVE STORY & A STAR IS BORN. “Rebooting” has been doing this since we sat around campfires and made them up. Also: continuing superhero movies is very different than a shot-by-shot PSYCHO. I’ve heard “Hollywood is out of ideas” my whole life. I don’t buy it.

  9. Martin says

    Nathaniel’s Review was Completely Biased and Way Wrong!!! Andrew Garfield was AMAZING ( sorry about the Pun..LOL )… and his take on Peter Parker was Awesome…. he is Nerdy and Sexy all at the same time and his Chemistry with the Gorgeous Emma Stone was pure Dynamite !! Somewhere deep inside I want her to play a Duel role also as Mary Jane Watson (nee Parker)… just to keep them together…. I love Sam Raimi, but this was vastly better directed and way more true to the Original Makeup ( No Inner Webbing, which to me made NO sense in the Originals) all the Lead Actors were awesome….I hope parts 2 and 3 of this Planned Trilogy add more Spiderman Villians not included before as such as RHINO, KRAVEN, ELECTRO( which i believe would be an Incredible Next Villian)… i say this Movie is the Best By A Mile of the others… I do agree Alfred Molina’s DOC OCK would be hard to top…

  10. BrianM says

    I have not seen it yet, but what Nathaniel says about Garfield’s performance intrigues me — and reminds me about the one weakness I saw in Maguire’s otherwise terrific performances. I’ve read a lot of Spidey comics, and what’s interesting about the character is that he might be a nerd in day-to-day life, but when he dons the costume he becomes cocky, quipping and confident. I didn’t get that from Maguire, but now I want to see if Garfield brings some of that to the role.

  11. Kevin says

    Could not disagree more with this review, this Spiderman was far and away a better movie. We entered expecting an ok film too soon to reboot and left with – wow that was really, really good.

  12. Rovex says

    While this is a better movie than any of the previous ones, its unwanted, unnecessary, and out far too soon.

    I saw it under protest and didnt really enjoy it although part of the problem is that I find Garfield intensely dislikeable.

  13. woodroad34d says

    I just went and saw the movie today. I have to agree about the “been-there-done-that’ feel to it. The strange secrecy about Peter’s parents was fun and new and showing Gwen Stacey as the first love of Peter’s life (as it was in the comics–not M.J.) was good. Other than that, the picture is interesting for the visuals only. Andrew Garfield was perfectly fine, as were the other actors. It just seemed to lack a certain something–freshness?

  14. sparks says

    Gonna have to disagree with this review; THE POLAR BEAST posted a more accurate one in the comments.

    I especially enjoyed Sally Field’s “Aunt May” and Martin’s “Uncle Ben” — both parts were far better acted in this version than the two in 2002’s Spider Man.

    Oh and I’d agree with Billy’s sentiment, too. There are many other decently known comic book heroes with interesting stories that would be entertaining and appealing enough for a mass audience, not just comic fans. And with modern graphics and CGI, there is no longer the excuse that a comic would be too fantastical to bring to the big screen.

  15. Guy says

    Origin stories are always coming-of-age stories and, as such, are classics. That’s why they’re retold, and re-viewed.

    I think Rogers is right in saying that how well you like Amazing Spiderman is a matter of taste. I loved Raimi’s first film, but I didn’t care for its obviously artificial and vintage quality. The setting and portrayals could have been 1940s New York. Plus, as appealing as Tobey Maguire’s portrayal was, I never believed that he could throw a punch.

    In Amazing Spiderman, the setting is both more realistic and contemporary. Garfield and Stone are more knowing and sexual characters. Sex never entered Raimi’s version of Spiderman.

    Rogers does not give the stunt work enough credit. The swinging Spiderman is totally believable and looks like the superhero in the comics. That’s because Webb made more use of real people than CGI.

    For me, this was a very entertaining film on its own.

  16. Ryan says

    Is it as good as Raimi’s first flick? No. But it laid the pieces down for the next one. I wish they (Sony) skipped the origin story and just jumped into their own plot, but there are key differences they’re making with this new franchise and I don’t blame them for wanting to introduce those ideas in a full origin piece.

    My guess is the next film will play off ideas brought forward in this film, including Peter Parker’s parents (as Peter learns more about what happened to him) and Gwen Stacey… who is a very different character than Raimi’s Mary Jane… which was basically a slighly more likable and pretty version of Bella. Stacey kicks butt.

    So while I think this one is only okay, it put more than enough out there to be excited for the next one.

  17. 99% says

    Other than the Star Trek francise, these rebooted series just hold no interest to me. The more they tool with what was done masterfully in the past, the less I want to see them.

  18. says

    While I love comics and enjoy many comics-based films, there’s no way I’m going to see this. It already felt tired in the trailer.

    If they wanted to change the cast, etc… FINE, but tell a new facet of the story. It just seems unnecessary and wasteful to me. Glad others are enjoying it though.

  19. says

    While I love comics and enjoy many comics-based films, there’s no way I’m going to see this. It already felt tired in the trailer.

    If they wanted to change the cast, etc… FINE, but tell a new facet of the story. It just seems unnecessary and wasteful to me. Glad others are enjoying it though.

  20. Randal Oulton says

    “there’s nothing wrong with comfort food beyond its lack of nutritional value”

    Most people’s comfort foods are stuff from their childhoods — homemade mac & cheese, a bowl of spag bol, etc — so I guess it depends on what your mother fed you!

  21. Paul Bashline says

    Who cares what so-called reviewers think? It is just one opinion. Obviously people like the film to a tune of $140 million so reviewer’s opinions such as Nathaniel Roger’s don’t amount to a hill of beans. I have seen some great films trashed by reviewers and some reviewer’s great films that were awful.

  22. Tyler says

    Totally disagree. As a lifelong reader of spiderman, I am so thrilled to see a movie that at least partially fits in the genre. Although I did enjoy the first movie, the second and third were painful to watch. Dunst was the beyond flat, Maguire was beefy and to controlled, and the writing was like some awkward cartoon gone awry. Finally we have an actor who looks like Peter, and a movie that in my opinion fits the spiderman style. The movie starts early in the spiderman story, so I think many of the missing elements, such as working for the paper, will come later. This movie avoided the awkward jokes that I felt killed the first trilogy. I’ll be first in line for the sequel!!!

  23. SgtSausagepants says

    There’s a very simple reason this exists.

    If Sony stops making Spider-man films, the movie rights revert back to Marvel, who could then start using him in their Marvel studios movies.

    This is why you won’t see spider-man in an Avengers movie anytime soon. Sony has made way too much money to let the rights to this expire early.

    Same goes for X-men, you’ll be seeing new X movies every few years for a while.

  24. Caliban says

    This isn’t the kind of movie I’d see in the theater anyway but I’ll watch it when it’s released for home video.

    Based entirely on the trailer, one thing I did like was that in the action scenes the poses the character struck and the way his body moves and occupies space looked like the comics I grew up with, like panels from them come to life. The still above is a good example- that exact pose has been drawn hundreds of times- THAT is what Spiderman is supposed to look like. And Garfield does look more like the weedy Peter Parker from the comics.

    One thing I liked about the Maquire/Raimi version was that Spidey’s web’s were biologicallly produced as a result of his transformation. To me that makes more sense (even if it’s not true to the comics) because if someone can just invent a wrist gadget that produces super-strong strands that can support 1000s of pounds why wouldn’t lots of people have them, like firemen, construction crews, etc?

    To me it sounds as if both the critics and the haters are right. It’s awfully soon for a “re-boot.” (Heck, the remake of Steel Magnolias seemed too soon and the original was made over 20 years ago!) And of course this version was made because Sony wanted to make money and Spiderman has been a reliable money-making franchise. But that doesn’t prevent the movie itself from being well-made and entertaining in its own right.

  25. says

    I dunno, I loved the hell out of it and i went in thinking i wouldn’t.

    dynamic action scenes, emma stone totally nailing every moment on screen, andrew garfield was wonderful, the whole cast was great actually. it was a fun, quick, smart summer thrill-ride.

    what’s not to like?

  26. Tre says

    Really? There was a Spiderman 3? Who knew…
    My complaint with these movies is that if they are going to make a movie called “Spiderman”, then get a freakin’ MAN to play the part ! These flicks should’ve been titled “Spiderboy”. Its absurd…

  27. Stefan says

    It seems unfair to compare this to the Raimi flick as if that’s the best and only way to imagine Spidey. The comparison should really be with how Spider-Man is in the comics, or–better yet–how the movie functions (or not) as a standalone work. This characterization is much closer to the Peter Parker and Spider-Man dichotomy from the comics, and more importantly is starting the origin story correctly with Gwen Stacey. Read the story arcs from the comics, and you’ll realize that Raimi’s trilogy was way off the mark.

  28. al says

    TOTALLY disagree with nathaniel’s review. i thought the amazing spiderman was indeed amazing. in contrast to tobey maguire’s wide-eyed adolescence, garfield played a much more true-to-life angsty highschool teen. he nailed spiderman’s signature wisecracking in the midst of battle and perfectly captured the bendy physicality required of spiderman. garfield’s onscreen chemistry with emma stone was also HOT in a way that maguire-dunst never was. finally, martin sheen and sally field’s superior acting skills were also welcome additions. can’t wait for the next movie!

  29. michaeld89119 says

    Hey, Nathaniel, seems that your desire to live in a movie theater has blinded you to good, old-fashioned entertainment. The next time, when you wish to pan a film, just say, “I didn’t like it” and let it go at that. I’m perfectly capable of making my own decisions on the worth of a movie. If you hate film so much, why are you a smarmy little critic? Just asking…

  30. Iko says

    The writing, casting, acting and story were all vastly superior to the first Spiderman movies. I hated the first 3 (especially Tobey) and was relieved that the new take on it doesn’t suck.

  31. Diogenes says

    @MICHAELD89119
    Because MichaelD, *GASP* it’s a blog! People share their opinions on blogs! And oh my God, some people’s opinions might not be the same as yours! Novel, I know.

  32. jaragon says

    The very entertaining “Magic Mike” has been designed as a star vehicle for Channing Tatum and he delivers on every level from dancing to showing of his beautiful naked butt. It is a much more serious movie but I really did not buy the bromance between Mike and the Kid (pretty but dull Alex Pettyfer) All the boys are straight but there is a tease at some bisexual action at a drug induced orgy but it never delivers. But the charming Mr Tatum is a joy to watch.

  33. JerzeeMike says

    Sorry, Nathaniel, I saw the movie last night and VASTLY enjoyed it more than the previous three COMBINED. It was a good story, action packed, and kept my attention throughout. The last three barely kept me awake.

  34. dms says

    LOVED this version of the tale. I agree with a single point–that this tale is a bit too familiar at this point, particularly with the broadway version which I saw only a year or so ago still relevant. In fact, I wasn’t planning to go at all due to the overfamiliarity. But I trekked out anyway with a larger group and boy am I glad I did– this is an enormously entertaining and emotional version of the tail. It’s the first version of the tale that really moved me–perhaps it’s the fact that emma stone is so much more engaging than kirstin dunst. Perhaps it is the edge of your seat special effects–I caught myself dodging steal beams in my seat. Clearly the author of this review did not agree, but I think this is the best film of the summer thus far–far superior to Avengers, so go and make up your own mind. I’d be surprised if you don’t have a great time.

  35. Johnny says

    Good riddance to Tobey! This movie was actually good and a better portrayal of how Peter Parker should have been….no more sticky gooey bodily fluid spitting webs!

  36. Gette says

    I think that the Amazing Spiderman was pretty good. But, nothing could beat the original, it was pretty weird watching the same story without MJ. I prefer the original trilogy than the reboot, too bad the original will not produce anymore of its sequels :((

  37. will says

    I saw Spider-Man (2002) the day it came out on the theaters and I was truly amazed, mesmerized even because my dreams of a Spidey flick were coming to life. The film wasn’t only great when it came to the effects but the charaters were amazingly well written. Its melancholly gave true meaning to “with great power, comes great responsibility” (notably absent frm Webb’s film). The story and the sacrifices it meant to for Peter Parker to be a “hero” were true homage to Stan Lee’s creation.
    I saw The Amazing Spider-Man and I had a bad taste in my mouth, I wasn’t surprised, amazed or anything, if anything it felt mediocre and I agree that Garfield doesn’t fill Maguire shoes. And I can’t help to wonder how in the world are they going to even attempt to do a better Gobling than Willem Dafoe.
    I could not disagree with Ryan mre when it comes to MJ, its an insult to compare Dunst’s Mary Jane to that tasteless cartoon in that chessy vampire movie.

  38. Jauren says

    If you haven’t seen this see it!

    It is the first authentic spider-man film that truely captures the wonder and adventure of spider-man without ABSOLUTELY BUTCHERING the source material the way Raim’s soap-opera face-palm worthy attempt did. MUST SEE for actual SPIDEY fans! Go go!

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