I will spare you a review blurb that uses the title of the movie for a non-clever pun like, “The Amazing Spider-Man is ‘Amazing’” or “Spider-Man spins the Best film of the franchise”. I like to think I am better than that and slightly more clever than most people. I realized that I put this film on my winners list for July Release, but I would like to take back that placement. As far as summer films go, this is one of the bigger disappointments I have seen this summer. Let’s not joke and say that people were clambering for a new Spider-Man installment, except for toy makers. This movie was made because Sony was close to losing the rights of the film if they didn’t do anything with it, thus reverting the rights back to Disney/Marvel. I hate to think that this movie suffered because of those circumstances, but the more I reflect on this movie, the more it seems that it was phoned in from the start and they were playing damage control with all the marketing and tie ins. You know what, fuck it, “The Amazing Spider-Man was Amazingly Bad”. I can’t resist a movie pun.
Director Marc Webb (I think Sony hired this guy cause of his last name and the use of webs in the Spider-Man) promised to bring us “The Untold Story” of Spider-Man, which apparently means telling us the same exact origin story as the 2002 film, except with a few things shifted around and unnecessary shit added in only to alter the origin. This is really almost, and I mean almost, the exact same movie as the first one from a decade ago. High School nerd Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is picked on by a stereotypical jock named Flash (groan) and lusts after Mary Jane…errr I mean Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Peter wants to know more about his parents who left him with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Fields), which is probably the untold story portion of the film. Blah blah blah he gets bit by a spider at Oscorp after meeting with his dad’s former colleague played by Rhys Ifan. Powers develop, bullies are schooled, Ben is shot and shoehorned villain conflict ensues. That’s about it.
The plot is really just the same as the first origin film, save for adding in a few elements that differentiate from the predecessor. The inclusion of his parents and their disappearance is really the new element, which is just used to fuel arguments and eventually get Uncle Ben shot. The whole disappearing parents is never really mentioned again until AFTER THE CREDITS. Gwen replaces Mary-Jane and Norman Osborne is replaced by Curt Conners, so suffice to say those are the elements. It all feels so familiar and disjointed, a lot of different ideas and points were added and dropped just to satiate the need to propel the narrative along. Peter gets his powers, schools the bully and Gwen immediately goes into panty dropping mode and a relationship begins. It sort of comes out of nowhere with little setup, but you just go with it cause the leads are cute and adorable. I will say, both Garfield and Stone are wonderful in their respective roles, but it is just crushed under the incoherent film.
I can’t seem to get over the plot in terms of what we expect to happen and what just happens for no reason at all. The biggest example I can give is the Rhys Ifans as Curt Conner/The Lizard. From the beginning, we are introduced to him as a noble scientists, one who wants to cure humanity of ills through cross-species mutations. His missing arm is more so the catalyst for his work, giving him a bit of depth and sympathy from the audience. So when he tests the serum on himself, he turns into a giant lizard and immediately becomes evil. He throws cars off a bridge, attacks anything that moves, and tries to stop some Osborne lackey from taking the serum. The latter of stopping the Osborne stooge would be compelling if it wasn’t just outright dropped from the plot line. Instead, he take the serum, gets lizardy and then wants to turn New York into a bunch of lizards. What the hell? When did this leap in logic from noble scientist to crazed villain happen? Oh right, they needed a villain for Spider-Man to fight in climatic battle where the villain will find a bit of humanity at the end.
It’s these large leaps in logic that hurt Spider-Man because they are assuming we won’t complain because it’s a new Spider-Man or something illogical. It shows in this movie when it swings from major plot beats to the next, without the need to set up anything. We are supposed to take the relationship at face value because the original had a love interest. We are supposed to understand the immediate switch on the police’s stance against Spider-Man because he shared one line of dialogue with Gwen Stacy’s Chief of Police father, played by Dennis Leary. We are supposed to understand the motive of The Lizard wanting to all of a sudden turn the people of New York into Lizards cause they are weak beings and he is evil, cause he is a lizard.
It’s a shame really that this movie limps along with such large plot leaps considering the talent that they have in this film. Ifans is wonderful as Curt Conners, Garfield is a very believable Peter Parker and I love fucking love anything Emma Stone does and she does a good job in this movie. The action scenes are interesting and engaging, but it is just a slapped together film to retain the property rights and it shows. Gone is the humor of the first film. Gone is the thrill of swinging along with Peter and discovering his powers. Gone is the compelling story that sets up conflict and pays it off over the course of the film.
Overall it is a pretty film with pretty people that doesn’t tell us an untold story of Spider-Man, just an untold, incomplete story.
Rating: 2 web shooters out of 5
*images via RottenTomatoes