Film Review: The Amazing Spiderman
The Amazing Spiderman
Director: Marc Webb
And so it was written, unto each generation, a Spiderman would be marketed……..
For a while it looked like the indisputably cool, original 151 Pokemon collectors of my generation had cracked the Spidey code. We discovered the trick was pretending Tobey Maguire is cool, works too; in a single film we resurrected William Defoe from bit parts to lead villain, recognised the need to use James Franco sparingly, elevated Kirsten Dunst’s career, and patented the upside down kiss. Alas, our hubris got the better of us, soon interminable sequels with overly elaborate, difficult to follow fight scenes were the order of the day. Eventually we’d pretty much fucked up every bankable villain the franchise could put into a film, and The Sandman. Things had become so bad by the end, we were misguided enough to cast a dude from That 70’s Show not called Ashton Kutcher. Sad, dark days.
Then Batman changed everything.
And so we come to the new Generation’s crack at the web-slinger, an attempt that gets off to a flying start with the re-addition of ‘amazing’ to the title. By flying, I of course mean brown-nosing. Oh look at us Marvel, we’re your true sons, we respect the original source material, not like that old generation, ohhhhhhhhhhh. Creeps!
STOP………………………… PLOT SUMMARY TIME!
‘Amazing’ generation differentiates itself by opening ‘Amazing’ Spiderman with a look at Peter Parker’s childhood. Actually hang on.
Peter Parker is Spiderman
SPOILER ALERT ENDS
Here’s the thing, my generation, we didn’t need all that kiddy nonsense, no sir, in those days we were men, we were all Spider bite, wrestling match with Randy Savage, death of a Family member Bamb! Spiderman, send in Defoe. Not like these ‘Amazing’ punks, with their neat hairstyles and their Justin Biebers, and who the fuck is One Direction and why should I care!?!
Sorry where was I, oh yeah, plot summary. Right, so ‘Amazing’ begins with young Peter Parker playing hide and seek with his Dad. He finds some shoes under a curtain, and then goes into the study where his father keeps all his invaluable, cutting edge research into genetics, and the door unlocked. The office is a wreck, so father Parker, and Mother Parker (who perennially have the expression of a rabbit in headlights) flee from the house, dropping Peter off with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, then are never seen again. That or they were so ashamed to have raised a son who fell for the shoes under the curtain trick they decided to abandon Peter and start again. There’s no explanation given, not really a demonstration of amazing parenting there is it ‘Amazing’ generation.
Peter’s aunt (Sally Field, miscast) and uncle (Martin Sheen who deserves better), are basically an example of stoicism that hasn’t been seen since Steinbeck stopped writing novels. It’s just that instead of starvation, they deal with leaking water pipes, and permanently live in a small house rather than taking an odyssey to the west coast. Luckily, they also live in a world that can only accurately be described in Avril Lavigne songs, so Peter (played with gurning gusto by Andrew Garfield), has grown up safely into a skater boy, she said see you later boy. The girl saying ‘see you later boy’, being high school blond (seriously, that’s about all the characterisation she’s given until pretty far in) Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone who’s surely too old to play a high schooler by now), though eventually of course her pretty face will see what he’s worth.
There’s also Flash Thompson, who starts as the resident bully until Peter shows him up at basketball, (slightly unfair as only one of them has a radioactive spider bite), and then transitions immediately to sympathetic friend when Peter shoves him against a locker after uncle George Milton dies. I guess this ‘amazing’ lot don’t really need logical character progression and all that jazz. Incidentally, it should be noted that the basketball incident gets Peter into trouble after he performs a slam dunk hard enough to break the glass above the basket, a harsh anti-basketball rule that probably explains the incredible lack of black students. That and the fact that Marvel’s always been a little racist, bigoted, xenophobic and uh, fucking money driven. Hey guys, here’s a civil war, it’ll only cost you a few hundred dollars and then everything will be as if it never happened within two years!
Sorry tangent, tangent, right ok, so Peter finds a suitcase in the basement of the Joad household that has some of his father’s things in, including a link to Curt Connors. (Rhys Ifans) Connors is a super scientist whose every word sounds like it’s been done in a sound studio. He finds out where Connors works by looking up some stories about him, then for no reason looks up the fact his parents died in a plane crash, guessing if it could be found on google then Peter already knew that ‘Amazing’, but thanks for telling us anyway, got to admit it makes your Peter Parker look a little morbid though.
Overly Long Plot summary continues……….Peter ‘sneaks’ into Connor’s lab by pretending to be a prospective graduate student. He does this by walking in, pointing to a ‘pass card’, and saying the name he very obviously reads on the card is his, the receptionist responds by handing him a pass without asking for ID, then as Peter walks away, we see the real guy who should have had the card being dragged away. Uh, ignoring the fact your Peter Parker may have just ruined someone’s career, receptionists at leading weapons/genetics/Chemistry firms weren’t quite so unbelievably lackadaisical in my day ‘Amazing’ generation, might want to sort that out.
Connors is doing some genetic experiments, trying to regrow an arm he’s missing, and for no conceivable reason he keeps an invention that he himself declares ‘useless’. An invention that Peter’s father made, so it has to be at least 15 years old, in the corner of his lab, an invention that can dispense a cure, or maybe even a disease across a city, hmmmm, can’t see where that might be leading. Anyway, Connors meets Peter, Peter gets bitten, starts using his Spider powers to run, climb, show-up bullies at basketball and #shudders# skateboard, then his uncle gets murdered and Connors tries an experiment that goes wrong, turning himself into a giant Lizard. Oh, and at one point they make a nod to my generation by having Peter get the idea for a mask by falling into a wrestling ring, so thanks for that ‘Amazing’ ones, glad we agreed there! There’s also what should have been a nice touch where Spiderman doesn’t produce webbing, instead he steals the design of it from a company called OSCORP, which is closer to the original story I guess, but doesn’t really make sense, how did he get the formula, did OSCORP not care? How does he keep making it and if it’s that easy to make, why hasn’t anyone else? Etc etc blah blah blah.
Finally, there’s Gwen Stacy’s father, Captain of Police George Stacy (Bill Hicks-LITE Dennis Leary), who is the same character he always plays, only this time it leads to the stupidest moment in the entire film. Peter meets a clearly odd acting Connors in his lab, Connors leaves quickly, Peter finds a giant mutated rat. Going to the police (good practice ‘Amazing’ generation and something heroes never do enough), Captain Stacy asks if Peter has any evidence that Connors is a giant mutated Lizard, Peter shakes his head and walks away. Not sure, but I reckon a giant mutated rat, in the lab of the guy you think may be a giant mutated Lizard may well count as evidence ‘Amazing’ generation, even if it does complicate the plot somewhat.
Right Plot Summary finally FINSHES!
So what do the ‘Amazing’ ones do right, well a fair amount actually, they’re much more loyal to the franchise’s established cannon, they have a much richer villain, and The Lizard’s motivation, (even if it is pretty much just take over the world) is much clearer than my generations was (Dr Octopus’s arms talking to him anyone? Or how about The Green Goblin, original or son, what did they want?). Importantly, the action scenes are much more followable. There’s something sincere about most of the film, even if they do seem to have been desperate to throw in as many potential sequel storylines as possible.
So what did the ‘Amazing’ ones fuck up? Well there’s a few plot holes, some mutated Lizard people who can only have laid about, despite being conscious in the exact same position for twenty minutes between the moment of mutating and the final showdown. The previously mention giant mutated rat-gate, and also, there are way too many climbing, leaping about and skating scenes, Peter Parker isn’t Wolverine, when he gets hurt, he should show it, not just limp for a second then move freely again. The biggest gripe though, is the ‘Amazing’ Spiderman is just way too inconsistent. One minute, his Spidey sense renders him pretty much invincible, he dodges every attack an entire train load of commuters throw at him (unnecessarily sexually harassing a girl in the process but I’ve heard the ‘Amazing’ generation are into that), the next minute he can’t even see a very obviously telegraphed punch coming towards him. His webbing can stop cars, but then it can barely hold The Lizard. Finally, for a guy with a secret identity, he pretty much reveals it to everyone, by the end I honestly think it’s only his Aunt May that he hasn’t shown his face to, and even then she may well have seen it if she happened to be watching the news.
For all that though, I give the ‘amazing’ ones credit, they understood where we failed, Peter Parker. In our time, Peter Parker was always second fiddle to his Spiderman alter ego. Our Peter was too shy to talk to girls, was overshadowed constantly by his best friend, he wore giant geeky glasses, hell, when he did get confident (Venom suite, Spiderman 3) all he did was dance and twirl with a dodgy haircut. He wasn’t that cool a guy, no matter how much we pretended he was, most of the time when he was on screen, we weren’t looking at Peter Parker, we were looking at Spiderman in disguise. The ‘Amazing’ ones reverse that, for all the jokes, Andrew Garfield is a charming Peter Parker, he’s awkward sure, but he’s also incredibly natural and interesting. I enjoyed his scenes, enjoyed seeing his life, and when I saw Spiderman I felt I was watching Peter Parker, they merged the characters into one, and that gives their film a much nicer pace.
There’s some nonsensical plotting, some poor, one dimensional support characters and some odd casting choices, but, at the end of the day, this is a good Spiderman story, it’s the closest a film has come to the comic and the animated series (Which for the record was just called Spider-Man), and for what it is, is pretty damn enjoyable.
That’s why, much as it pains me, I find myself forced to say, despite everything………………. The Amazing Spiderman, is the best Spiderman film yet, I’m actually looking forward to the sequel.
Written By Sam ‘Yeah baby you make my Spidey Sense tingle’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
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