Let’s start off by saying that when I first heard about this movie, I was all against the idea. To me, it was a wholly unnecessary reboot of a franchise that was still relatively fresh in our memories, and it was probably a knee-jerk attempt by a movie studio to retain the movie rights before they reverted to Marvel.
Now that I’ve seen the movie, I loved it. Loved it.
Why? Because it answered the one nagging question I had going into it:
Q: Why was it necessary to reboot the series and do another origin story so soon after the popular Tobey Maguire films?
A: Because this is how it should’ve been done the first time.
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker
The biggest difference between the movies would have to be the stars – Tobey Maguire vs Andrew Garfield. Now I never really liked Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man/Peter Parker. His Peter Parker always came across as a whiny scared little wimp who only showed any kind of inner strength when he pulled on the mask and was replaced by a computer-generated digital double. Thus, Spider-Man was cool and exciting, but Peter Parker was annoying and boring.
What Andrew Garfield did with the character was similar to what Christian Bale did with Batman in the Chris Nolan movies – he concentrated on making a believable Peter Parker, so that the eventual transition into Spider-Man was seamless. Yes, Garfield’s Peter Parker was also a loser in school, and got bullied a lot. But he wasn’t just a spineless wimpy kid; he was a kid with a good heart, except he lacked the confidence in himself to really stand up and shine. From the opening scenes in high school, you could see that he had so much more potential inside because there were little moments where he forgets his nervousness and starts to act the way he wants to act – though he quickly catches himself and regresses to being a shy awkward kid.
That’s a much more three-dimensional interpretation of Peter Parker than Maguire’s, because not a single kid in the world makes a conscious decision to go to school and be a wimpy loser. Maguire’s Peter Parker felt like that, and that’s why I never liked his mumbling “aww shucks, Aunt May” version Peter Parker. I mean, his character in Pleasantville had more guts and strength than his Peter Parker.
So when Peter Parker eventually becomes Spider-Man, you still recognize Peter Parker underneath the costume and it doesn’t feel like he suddenly became a different character altogether. That said, Garfield’s Spider-Man is also very cool and has a lot of screen presence, because his smart-ass quips and remarks come out loudly and clearly and you can actually hear what he’s saying, unlike Tobey “Mumbles” Maguire.
That all said, was it necessary to retell the Spider-Man origin story? There’s really no difference here – he’s a bullied kid, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and develops super powers. But even though you’ve seen all this already, it’s just so much more interesting to see it happen to a guy you actually enjoy watching.
Oh, and that sequence where he uses his new-found powers to skateboard is just amazing!
Awesome 3D action
I cannot deny how much Sam Raimi brought to the plate when he made Spider-Man. Those shots of Spider-Man hurtling through the air were just breath-taking, and it was great to see those fast-mo POV shots from The Evil Dead graduate into Spider-Man’s signature action shots. Raimi’s shots showed you just how awesome it could be to swing around like Spider-Man.
For this new movie, director Marc Webb has actually gone ahead and developed Raimi’s ideas even more, resulting in a whole lot of shots that just look great, with an immense sense of speed and an intense feeling of immersion. There are POV shots intercut into the swinging sequences that really puts you right into the action, and you can really imagine what it would be like to swing around New York City like Spider-Man. These shots are used sparingly and never become cheesy, and when viewed in 3D, it’s just amazing.
The fight choreography has also improved quite a bit. Spider-Man’s fights with thugs, cops, and the Lizard involve a lot of swinging, shooting, running and jumping off walls… and it’s just so much kinetic energy! The camera is also always in the right place despite the speed of the fights, so you never get confused and feel that you’re one step behind the action.
What I especially liked was the charisma and fun that comes across from Spider-Man. There are poses and quips that really sells the idea that underneath the superhumanly fast costume is a kid who is really enjoying his new powers. And that is when you totally forget that you’re watching advanced CGI because you’re so engrossed in the character.
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
Another big plus that The Amazing Spider-Man has going for it is the casting of Emma Stone as Peter Parker’s love interest. For starters, she’s hot. When the credits started rolling, the first thing my friend said to me was: “Emma Stone is so hot!” It’s pretty shallow, but I guess you can’t really blame him as the filmmakers milked her hotness for all its worth by dressing her in really short miniskirts and either long-socks or boots in just about every scene.
Once you get past her hotness, you’ll also realize that her portrayal of Gwen Stacy is also much stronger than Kirsten Dunst’s Mary-Jane Watson. MJ was a damsel in distress. Gwen Stacy is a character that actually helps define Peter Parker. There’s a difference there!
Also, Garfield and Stone have tons more chemistry than Maguire and Dunst. Watching them together is really like reliving old high school memories of first crushes and first kisses. The emotional sensations in these scenes can almost rival the excitement in the fight scenes!
I’ve probably mentioned it already, but I’ll say it again: Maguire and Dunst were just badly miscast in those previous movies, and this movie earns its place in Spider-Man history by correcting that mistake in a major way.
The movie was amazing, but it wasn’t a perfect movie though. For starters, at 136 mins, it was pretty long. I know it’s an origin story and all, but you can’t help but feel that there were scenes that could’ve been cut. In particular, there was a scene involving cranes towards the end that makes you go all gooey and mushy inside when you watch it, but in hindsight you’ll think “that could’ve been easily cut out, actually.”
The Lizard was also… well… I like Rhys Ifan’s portrayal of Dr Connors, and he really does seem quite menacing when he becomes the Lizard, but the design of the Lizard is kind of weird. I don’t know… the face just didn’t seem right and makes him look a bit funny. His intentions and evil plans also don’t really make that much sense to be honest, and I’m still not sure what motivates him to become evil in the first place. But that said, I really liked the scenes of Dr Connors, which give him much more depth than just a guy that becomes a giant green monster.
Sally Field also just doesn’t really look like an Aunt May. She’s good in the role, but she just doesn’t look like Aunt May.
Go watch it. You might already know the Spider-Man story and all, but this is just a much better expression of it. It’s like the difference between viewing a thumbnail of the Mona Lisa on your computer monitor, and seeing it in the Louvre – the texture and details make all the difference.
The Amazing Spider-Man hits Singapore’s screens 29th June, 2012.
Random Trivia: I managed to only use the word “amazing” five times in this review.