God, my output has been patchy of late. I have been doing stuff elsewhere (which you can find here,) with the result that this blog has been overlooked somewhat. Still, I’ve got some bloody plans for this place, so hold on to your goddamn hats. Anyway, did somebody say Spider-Man?
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
And yes, it is written as “Spider-Man”. Fucking sick of not seeing the hyphen in there when people talk about it. Am I being a pedantic wanker? There’s always a good chance, but say I was to write about BatMan or Super-Man. People would have a problem with it. As a Spider-fan, it greens my goblins. So, it’s 2012 and we have a reboot of a franchise barely a decade old webslinging its way in fuckmothering 3D to a screen near you. I’ve heard many people decrying the film for being a perfect example of the fact that Hollywood is officially out of ideas. Whilst that isn’t entirely false, you must understand that The Amazing Spider-Man is purely a business decision. Y’see, Sony own the rights to the Spider-Man franchise. They contractually have to do something with the license or the rights revert back to Marvel/Disney. Sony aren’t stupid. The Spidey franchise has made them billions of dollars and they’re not just going to roll over and let Marvel take their money-shitting machine home. Plus, after Spider-Man 3 thoroughly salted the earth with the tears of fanboys and moviegoers alike, it was time for a change.
The Amazing Spider-Man retells the famous origin story of everyone’s favourite nerd fantasy projection, Spider-Man. Abandoned by his parents and left to live with his aunt and uncle, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a typical nerdy high-schooler. He gets beaten up and has a hard time talking to girls, especially beautiful blonde Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). However, when he decides to investigate his parents’ disappearance, starting with his father’s close friend and colleague, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), Peter unwittingly signs himself up for a date with eight-legged destiny. All the marketing for this film has been focused on telling “the untold story” of Peter’s parents. Much like the best marketing, it’s what they don’t tell you that’s key. This is basically a retread of what we’ve seen before in a slightly different wrapper. My main problem is this: did we really have to see Peter get bitten by a spider again? As a webhead of many years I have seen the origin story played out a thousand times, with various versions present in the comics, the many different animated series, the video games and the Raimi film. Why the film didn’t take a leaf out of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk’s book, where the opening sequence alludes to the gamma accident and doesn’t take up half the goddamn film treading old ground, I’ll never know. At the end of it all, Peter’s still bitten and Uncle Ben’s still six feet under (more on that in a minute). It’s probably the most famous superhero origin story out there. We didn’t need this retelling/reimagining/re-whatever.
As for the actors, Andrew Garfield makes a fantastic Parker/Spider-Man. He’s just the right side of shy and dorky and has the acting chops to really sell those emotional scenes (something which I never really got from Tobey Maguire’s performance). Emma Stone is probably the stand-out as Gwen Stacy as she shares some fantastic chemistry with Garfield, completely charms and manages to turn what could have been a forgettable gal pal role into a memorable and likeable performance. Also great is Rhys Ifans, who was already fairly reptilian before all those expensive effects. He’s tasked with really selling the Jekyll side to his dual role and does well with it. I also loved Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May. They were so wise and caring. I want to stay at their house and eat May’s apparently terrible meatloaf (not a euphemism). The film really humanises its characters, rather than them being one note or two dimensional. It gives me great hope for future franchise entries as it looks like this take on Spidey is a lot more emotional than we’ve seen before. I really felt Peter’s pain after Uncle Ben’s death, especially when he snaps and slams Flash into a locker. It’s realistic and affecting.
The main success of the film is the central romance between Peter and Gwen. Director Marc Webb (no, really) knows his way around romance as seen in his previous work (500) Days of Summer. It’s believable and surprisingly sweet. I was pulling for the relationship to work. I actually cared. There are little character moments, like a bit where Peter gets shy and his voice cracks more than normal because he realises he’s in his girlfriend’s bedroom, that sell the relationship. It’s cute, but not in a retch-inducing way. The action and all-important webslinging are well handled too. The school fight with the Lizard is fantastic and also features the best Stan Lee cameo yet. I like the fact that Spidey invents comic accurate web-shooters as opposed to the organic ones Maguire-Man had. What I found confusing was the fact that the web is apparently a commercially available Oscorp product. I may have missed something, but he either bought or stole the “bio-cable” or whatever the hell is was called. Parker’s smart enough to have invented some shooters, it wouldn’t have been that much of a stretch to say he came up with the webbing as well.
What’s less of a success is the rest of it. I walked out feeling quite underwhelmed by the whole experience. There were just too many things that were off about it. Firstly, they tweak the Uncle Ben incident. which is fine, but it messes with Spidey’s motivations somewhat. Uncle Ben dies due to his own stupidity, rather than it being Peter’s fault. Having said that, I liked the manhunt Peter goes on to find his uncle’s killer. I wasn’t a huge fan of how the Lizard turned out. Whilst I thought Ifans did well with what he was given, the things that were interesting about the character was largely ignored. All Dr. Stumpy did was bang on about his missing arm. Yeah, I get that losing a limb sucks, but still, the guy needed more motivation than that. Plus, the Lizard’s design was rubbish, as were some of the effects used to bring him to life. Also, that lizard/mouse thing was RETARDED. As with most lazily written things, coincidence seems to be the driving force behind most happenings. At once point, Peter falls through a roof, into a wrestling ring, where he sees a poster for a luchador which gives him the idea for the iconic Spidey mask. A lot of things just struck me as a bit too convenient.
I was looking forward to this film correcting one of the greatest oversights in the Raimi films- the fact that Spider-Man is a witty, sarcastic kind of guy. This film makes attempts at this, but some of the “comedy” lines and sequences are about as funny as a mass puppy drowning. Dear Lord, it isn’t that hard to crack wise, but the film makes it seem like a Herculean effort. A lot of the humour is misjudged. That’s not to say it’s entirely unsuccessful, as the occasional one-liner or neat little gag made me chuckle, but I expected more. It shouldn’t be a thigh-slapping fest, but if you’re going to attempt humour, make sure your jokes work. Very few people were laughing in the packed screening I went to. C’mon Sony, Joss Whedon can’t be the only person who can illicit superhero-sized belly laughs. In fact, most of the dialogue is pretty god-awful.
Also (BIG SPOILERS AHEAD, highlight to read or skip to the final paragraph) is it me or were there plot holes a-go-go? I don’t normally pick a film up on this type of thing, but sometimes it’d feel like I missed a scene or two. Where did all the lizards in the sewer come from? What happened to the evil Dr. Ratha (Irrfan Khan)? He was on his way to test the serum on orphan kittens or something equally ridiculous, has his car chucked off the bridge by the Lizard and is then saved by Spidey. We don’t see him again. I expected a conclusion to his arc. Why was Flash all pally at the end? I know he showed understanding about Uncle Ben’s death, but still, it’s a big leap. Plus, I can’t tell you how much my heart sank at the beginning of the crane scene, which thankfully managed to be slightly more tolerable than the arse-puckering scene in Raimi’s original where Spidey gets protected by the New York public: “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!” Urgh. Nice to see a gratuitous shot of the American flag though. Not fucking sick of those in this franchise. Also, Peter struck me as a bit of a dick at the end. He doesn’t show up for Captain Stacy’s funeral, supposedly honouring his promise to stay away from Gwen. He then breaks up with her on the day she buries her father, then he fucking breaks the promise later anyway. What a douche!
Reading it back, I realise I actually sound quite bitter and angry. I’m not. To tell you the truth, I was pretty disappointed with the whole thing. My real problem was the fact the film felt it didn’t have any real soul- it felt very mechanical at times, ticking off boxes until it was sufficiently different from the 2002 film . Maybe I’m just a nitpicky fanboy, but some of these issues are basic movie failings, rather than spider-inaccuracies. There are many elements they got right, it just didn’t come together as a whole for me. It’s got a great cast, some really decent effects work and a believable romance that has the potential for amazing sequel fodder. Here’s what I want from the sequel: a non-shit villain, a better director and writers and J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. To me, it felt like a pilot for a TV show, lots of interesting ideas and potential coming out of its ears, but not a fully-formed piece of entertainment. Fret ye not, this isn’t a Spider-Man 3 type disaster. I just wish this new series had kicked off with a bit more oomph.