Seen: In 2D at the Boston Common AMC/Loews.
You guys my comic book nerdiness mostly applies to X-Men, Tank Girl, and Farel Dalrymple but I do have a fondness for Spider-Man. He's cute, intelligent, and he's got jokes- what's not to like? Also... limber. I know a reboot so soon after the most recent film is a dirty, money-grubbing move, but I can't pretend like I'm actually surprised or like it actually makes a difference. This time around Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a smart high schooler who pines after brilliant student Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and also tries to solve the mystery of why his parents left him when he was a little kid and then died. He seeks out Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a former colleague of his father and a researcher at Oscorp, and accidentally comes upon a horde of radioactive spiders and one bite gives him awesome super powers, you know how it is. Things proceed from there into Action-Town.
Drawing from some different sources in the comics but maintaining most of the recognizable points of his origin story, the film tries to distance itself from Raimi's trilogy while still appeasing fans of the character. I'm sure diehard comic fans will find an endless array of things to gripe about but honestly I haven't read Spidey comics in years and for the most part I never expect source accuracy in film adaptations of these things. So enough of that. As a film I mostly dug The Amazing Spider-Man. Surprise! I had my doubts about Marc Webb's limited experience, especially after my issues with his debut, but the promise of a strong central cast (especially compared to the stars of earlier films) and one of my favorite villains were enough to get me excited.
Turns out my doubts about direction were well-founded, mostly because Webb isn't strong with the action scenes. The POV shots of him web-slinging just looked stupid (tip: if you want awesome Spidey POV and have the means, check out the ride at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. It's a little dizzying but fun!), and I felt the battle sequences lacking. Maybe it's the fact that a giant lizard man doesn't actually translate well to the big screen (much to my dismay), but also I just think the way the action was shot was less compelling than it could have been. And The Lizard was basically a let-down as a character anyway, despite being played by the remarkable Rhys Ifans, who could only do so much. I know this is going to sound dumb as a critique of a big-budget action movie, but he doesn't have the nuance I wanted from the character.
Ok but I liked basically everything else about this movie! Andrew Garfield is such a fucking cutie, I can't even take it, and I think he's much more believable as the character than Tobey Maguire ever was. He's vulnerable and sort of angsty (hey, he's a teenager), but you root for him. Garfield is well-suited to Webb's more serious take on the story- there's less wisecracking Spidey and more hard-staring Spidey. I love Emma Stone in general and she's great as Gwen Stacy, a superhero girlfriend who manages to never get kidnapped and hung from a tall building or whatever! Good for her! Stone is funny and wonderfully subtle, and I liked that Gwen and Peter's relationship is shown as a team. This movie takes its time establishing relationships and building to its inevitable climax, and I thought that was great. At times it felt more like a movie about Peter Parker than about Spider-man, showcasing Webb's strength with realistic human interaction and dialogue. I kind of wish we could take all the good things about this movie and splice in some big fight scenes from Sam Raimi. Wouldn't that be rad?
So yeah I know a lot of people are unhappy with this film but hey, I was entertained and I really loved the new cast. It didn't do anything groundbreaking or risky, but I can't expect much. Maybe one day we'll get an awesome version with the new Ultimate Spider-Man.
Pair This Movie With: Well for my guest episode on the Matineecast (go listen!) I went with Danny Deckchair since it's my favorite Rhys Ifans. Plus both films involve a dude given the means to be who he wants to be without naysayers holding him back.