Saturday, November 3, 2012

Straight Out of an Average Cookie Cutter

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) / US / Out on DVD now / Directed by Marc Webb / Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves / Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field / 136 min. 

I do love superhero movies. I love the simplicity of them, the unbelievability of them, the taste of popcorn butter that comes with them. Most of them just feel so familiar - particularly the Marvel films leading up to The Avengers - but they've all entertained me in their own little way, because they have a whole lot of components that are unique to them and they work so well. The Amazing Spider-Man, though, is a film that feels all too familiar. And that's not because it is rebooting a franchise that is only freshly in the grave - because I haven't actually seen any of those films - but because it doesn't really feel like anyone was trying with this film. With a title like The Amazing Spider-Man, it is hard not to take advantage of all the puns tied to it. However, I'm not trying to be funny when I say that The Amazing Spider-Man should have been called "The Incredibly Average Spider-Man".

Here we have another 'origins' story, following teenager Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as he searches for answers surrounding the disappearance of his parents in his childhood. That leads him to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and his various scientific work. And then he gets bitten by some spider, which gives him the ability to shoot webs, stick to stuff, hang from things upside down...kinda like a spider. He doesn't let his skills go unnoticed, though. After beating up some bullies, he decides to make a costume and clean up some crime around the city, but perhaps his biggest test is when Dr. Curt Connors turns into "The Lizard" and wreaks havoc on everything. Oh, and he falls in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), even though she's the daughter of a police captain (Denis Leary) that doesn't really agree with Spider-Man's methods.

Most superhero films run on energy, whether it be from the adrenaline rush of action sequences or the unreal atmosphere they have going on. There's usually energy between the hero and his villain, or energy behind the hero's plight to make the world a better place. The Amazing Spider-Man's energy is a little like those moments after you've had an energy drink, you've sucked most of the caffeine out of it, and you're just about to crash. The energy is still there, but it is running thin - it can still keep going forward, but it isn't going upward. It is so frustrating watching this film being so comfortably average. There's nothing making this film bad, or making this film particularly good. In fact, most of the time, I was just waiting for something truly horrible to happen so I could have a bit of excitement. The film liked to kill people off a lot, which kinda felt like when long-running soaps kill off characters so people keep coming back. There was nothing behind those deaths. They seemed to pass by without much importance.

One thing that came close to horribleness was the choice of villain. Rhys Ifans was quite good as Dr. Curt Connors, the human version, with a dose of evil brewing underneath his skin. But once the Lizard came around, I completely lost it. For one thing, I'm a member of the Christopher Nolan generation, so I prefer for my superhero movies to come with a dose of realism. Parker's transformation came close to that, with the spider bite and all seeming perfectly at home in the real world. His reaction to his new powers seemed fitting for a teenager with a fair bit on his plate already. Once the Lizard rolled around, the film lost its sense of direction, and dripped back down into the CGI filled universe that most of the silly superhero films exist in.  The Lizard didn't have a hell of a lot to fight for. He was powerful, but absolutely everyone seemed to be able to defeat him. He just ran around, being a reptile, growling at things...he was an extremely lazy villain. And when you don't care about the villain, then what is the point of caring about the hero? They're supposed to counteract each other, creating the energy, but their counteractions are basically just an excuse for an extremely rote takedown of New York, complete with a big building toppling down. Buildings falling down just aren't exciting any more.

Luckily Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are around to make you care a little for the hero. It is a little hard to believe Andrew as a teenager, considering I've been following his career and I've actually never really seen him play one. However, he nails his character, especially making Peter Parker into a stunningly real teenager, even coming with some jerk qualities. Complimenting him is Emma Stone, and need I say more: these guys are literally the cutest couple EVER. They are cuter then snow white unicorns running around on pink candy floss clouds with gold starts bouncing around. And that's pretty damn cute. Their chemistry is beautiful, keeping me interested in the film even when my mind was numbed by the dullness. I guess, in terms of that crashing energy drink metaphor, these guys were like the healthy fruits that give you real energy. I just wish there was more of them to up the quality.

The Amazing Spider-Man is by no means a bad movie. In fact, it is quite entertaining. I didn't not enjoy myself. But when it comes down to it, Marc Webb's follow up to his breakout indie hit (500) Days of Summer isn't exactly the highest quality foray into big blockbusters that he could get. He was given such a dull, meaningless script to show everyone that he could do what countless other superhero movie directors have shown in the past. Maybe the movie could get away with being completely cookie cutter, but it had the misfortune of being released in the same year as The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Up against those, the cookie cutter just ain't good enough.

What I got:


  1. Good review.
    I absolutely loathed this film. Like I could not wait to get out of the theatre.
    The thing is I love the first Spider-man film. That was the film that kind of filled me with wonder about a place like New York and what it must feel like to get superpowers and get the person of your dreams and whatnot. And Tobey Maguire felt like a normal person. Here there is supremely gorgeous Andrew Garfield, who never feels like a smartass unpopular nerd who just gets the girl after stalking and talking to her. There's no real wonder in the film and that sucks.
    Also Emma Stone is completely wasted.
    And do not get me started on Lizard and the bad action scenes. I honestly think Michael Bay would have done a better job with them.

    My favourite part of the film however were Dennis Leary and Stan Lee's cameo.

    1. Exactly, there isn't any wonder. The whole Peter/Gwen thing was far too rushed, then it became totally cliched. Which was a great shame. At least Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are the cutest things ever.

      Denis Leary was entertaining. And that Stan Lee cameo is one of the best I've seen.

  2. It's a shame that it looks like The Lizard wasn't delt well with here because, without doubt, he is one of the best Spiderman villains, if not one of the best comic villains out there. His story is pretty tragic.

    I'm still interested to see this either way, coming from a life-long Spidey fan, I think I have to.

    Great review as always, though.

    1. Watched the Spiderman film with my boyfriend, and both he and I singularly agreed that this film was pretty bad. I think I could actually spring more dislike on this film than you.

      However, Nick (below), does make a point that Spiderman is a completely different hero to Batman. In fact, I've always thought Spiderman (and Peter Parker) were heroes in themselves, when Batman is more a detective than anything else - he doesn't have the heroic bones in him as Spidey does.

      There were A LOT of problems with this film, but I think the two worst things were A) The way The Lizard was handled and B) How Peter Parker came off as a smarmy douchebag (he's always been funny, but never smarmy).

      Don't get me started on the music and the terribly corny lines, either...

    2. Trust me, I was being pretty generous with this review. The more I look back on it, the more I dislike it.

      I didn't like Peter at all. That being said, having not seen the others, I'm not familiar with the character. But he did come off as a bit of a smarmy douchebag.

      The music was so terribly out of place, which was sad considering how great the soundtrack for (500) Days of Summer is.

  3. I've always been a Spiderman fan, but I just couldn't love this movie with Raimi's films so fresh in my mind. I thought it was really boring, and even Spiderman 3 at it's very worst was never boring.

  4. If you haven't seen Raimi's version and think this average, wait until you do see them. As I wrote in my review this one tried so much to be different from Raimi's but failed because it was basically the same story.

    Example: trying to use a different way of saying the popular catchphrase: "with great power comes great responsibilty", but using far inferior words (can be seen in the honest trailer by screen junkies)

    1. Oooh, there's an honest trailer for this? That's exciting!

      I will probably take a look at the Raimi ones. Just for reference.

  5. I'd probably watch Spider-Man 3, which I actually own, again before I'd rewatch this. It was a forgettable blockbuster, which is sad given the cast and the talent behind the scenes.

  6. I disagree. I enjoyed the hell out of this film and thought it was even better than Raimi's (and this is coming from someone who likes Raimi's). This got the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man down perfectly, and Andrew Garfield is infinitely better in the role than Tobey Maguire (And Spider-Man is funny! Like he's supposed to be!). Garfield and Stone's chemistry in this film was unbelievable, and their interactions were definitely some of the highlights. The emotional backing behind the characters, whether Peter and Gwen or Peter and Uncle Ben were just so well done. I actually felt emotional when Uncle Ben died this time, unlike the Raimi version.

    The one thing I will agree with you on is The Lizard. They really wasted the character here, and the CGI was pretty crap. But I think everything else about the film was spot-on.

    Spider-Man can't be compared to the realistic world of Nolan's Batman films. Batman is a realistic vigilante hero. He has some out-there supernatural villains in the comics, but he also has his more realistic ones. Spider-Man... he's based in science fiction himself, and all his villains are fantastical in nature. There can't be a realism-based story with this character, so comparing it to a Nolan-style film is like comparing apples and oranges. And very few superhero films could be apples.

    1. I agree with you, Nick. I really enjoyed this and thought it was better than Raimi's too. You almost took my words out of my mouth exactly. But I want to say, I understand the hate. I knew this would be a polarizing film in the midst of a superhero overload, and it being a reboot of a franchise that wasn't even 10 years old. But I feel like the sequels will prove to be a nice extension of what we received with this film.

    2. Man, sorry if I offended you with my thoughts. I feel a 2001 coming on ;)

      I never compared this film with anything Nolan has done. I just said that I was practically 'brought up' with those, so sometimes it is a little hard for me to not have that realistic spin. I wouldn't have a problem with it had the film not started off with that kind of spin, and then dissolved into...well, what it dissolved into. I just felt like it was never sure of what it wanted to be, but that's just my opinion.

      I can get why you love it and all, but I just didn't.


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