Unreal Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

2.5 out of 5 stars

“With great power comes great responsibility. ” It’s the most memorable line from 2002’s Spider-Man, and a thought that can shed some light on the central mystery of the new film. Why exactly would you reboot a series that just concluded a mere five years ago? Even for remake-happy Hollywood, it seems a bit excessive.

The answer is that Sony has the power of the Spider-Man license, and has deemed that it is in fact a responsibility to crank out more Spider-Man films until they’re forced to give it up, and hope the updated series is a box office hit.

It’s a fair gamble, as it’s been proven time and again that household name superheroes make for big bucks in sales, and so long as you put someone somewhat competent at the helm, it’s hard to screw up a good old fashioned origin story.

“Nope, no secrets about your father in there.”

Replacing Sam Raimi in the director’s chair is Marc Webb (I’ll pass on the joke) who was responsible for the rather fabulous 500 Days of Summer that was my favorite film of that year. Rather than enlist old friend (the too old) Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the Parker role, he mercifully snagged another up and comer, Andrew Garfield, most commonly known as the guy who got shafted in the Facebook movie, and the only actor who remotely resembles yours truly. Seriously, if you stretched me out four more inches, he’s me.

The Amazing Spider-Man is not a remake, as we have different players and villains making it an official “reboot.” Mary Jane Watson is replaced by Gwen Stacy, ironically played by notorious redhead Emma Stone gone platinum blonde. Norman Osbourne is a mere specter, and one of his employees, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) has the villainous lead this time around.

It’s an origin story we’ve heard a dozen times, and seen unfold on a handful of occasions between TV shows and films. Parker is a nerdy lad with dead parents and an insatiable interest in science. It leads him to get bitten by a radioactive spider (in this film, the creature was created by his father’s research), and it grants him spider-like abilities that include heightened strength, agility and the ability to see danger before it happens.

Oh, and being sticky.

Comic book devotees will be happy to know that unlike in the previous three films, Parker makes his own web rather than having it sprout naturally from his wrists. It may stay true to the comics, but it doesn’t really come up at all during the film, save for one final scene in which he could really use a few more feet of string at his disposal.

Past the origin story we’ve seen, this film brings in Connors as Parker’s father’s former research partner as Oscorp. The scientist is missing an arm, and in an effort to regrow it using a serum of reptile DNA, transforms himself into a wolfman of sorts, although one with scales instead of fur. The Lizard, he’s called soon enough as he rampages through town, and the newly born Spider-Man must stop him at all costs.

The Lizard is woven into the story smoothly enough, and the mirror to how Parker got his own animal inspired powers is a cool link. That said, the character design on the creature is…troubling. The CGI is fine for battle sequences, but the Lizard’s face is so bizarre it’s distracting. He’s like a cross between a cast reject from Disney’s Dinosaurs and a live-action Goomba from the abominable Super Mario movie. The villain hits the right notes most of the time, but when his face is shown, it’s hard to stifle your laughter.

“Heeeeere’s Lizzy!”

Gwen Stacy subbing in for Mary Jane does little to change the love story we’ve seen in these films. It’s almost annoying how much she’s forced into the plot in an effort to make SURE she’s relevant. She’s “lead intern” at Oscorp who apparently has access to every file and top secret machine despite being in high school. And her father is a police captain (Dennis Leary, who would have been better served in Raimi’s universe) who is determined to hunt Spidey down for “vigilantism.”

It’s sad that director Webb can’t orchestrate as charming a romance here as he did in 500 Days of Summer. I can’t remember a superhero film that had a truly terrific love story to go along with it, and here, Stacy is just falling all over Parker while Parker falls all over her. The resulting conversations aren’t banal, they’re practically non-existent as the two rarely form complete sentences around each other.

I know I always want to make out when mortally wounded. Though it is Emma Stone. I probably would.

I have mixed feelings about Andrew Garfield’s performance here. He’s a more troubled version of Parker than we’ve ever seen, but almost annoyingly so. His mood swings are massive, but most of the time he’s busy being so shy and bumbling that if the two of you were in an empty room, you probably wouldn’t notice him. Only briefly does he really mouth off as Spider-Man the way he’s supposed to, but it’s so jarring compared to his usual demeanor it feels almost schizophrenic. Though I suppose we are talking about someone who uses dual identities to fight crime.

There are some very cool moments, both action-wise (Spidey using his powers to spin elaborate webs like an actual spider is fantastic) and dramatically (Martin Sheen is one hell of a likable Uncle Ben), but the overwhelmingly dark tone doesn’t quite feel right here. Raimi’s first two films (we’ll forget about the the third forever) were bright and fun, which suited the hero. Here, with character death upon character death and endless amounts of brooding and angst, it’s not as enjoyable as the first.

It’s hard to live up to a series that produced some of the best films of the superhero genre. Though The Amazing Spider-Man has its moments, it doesn’t prove it needed to exist, or that it can do much of anything better than the initial origin story.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. I thought the scene with the car thief was textbook spidey. same with him mouthing off at dinner with the Capt. Everything was so predictable but in the end, Emma Stone > Kirsten Dunst.

  2. … Usually you wait for other people to notice that you look like someone famous , then have them point it out. It comes across a little vain that you made sure we all had to notice that this guy looks a tiny bit like you.

    Other than that, great review and I agree with most of the points you made. Even though I liked the film, I still can’t get over that the last Spider-Man franchise was prevalent the 00’s, and it’s only 2012 right now.

  3. 2.5 stars? Really? The movie without Tobey Maguire already is a 3 star gem. Actually putting Gwen Stacy in the first movie instead of the third was a fantastic point, along with making her actually relevant and not just eye candy. The movie takes a lot from the Ultimate storyline, such as Peter being in high school and his dad working on some biological project. This movie blows away Raimi’s. The scene when Goblin has the tram and MJ and Peter has to chose? Yeah that wasn’t MJ in the comic. That was Gwen and she died. How was Peter to react with Uncle Ben, his parents, and Captain Stacy dying? He wasn’t supposed to brood?? There was no need for a love story. Not all movies need one. This was a perfect balance of darkness and excitement and is way better than the original trilogy.

  4. @GrandWazoo

    I don’t exactly think Andrew Garfield is some sort of superhottie as far as actors go, and additionally this comparison was suggested to me, I didn’t invent it.


    This movie in no way blows away Raimi’s. It just doesn’t. And the point is they TRIED a love story, it just fell flat when it’s supposed to be Webb’s specialty.

  5. You know how you screw up an old-fashioned origin story? You cram it down our throats every few years in multiple forms. Comics, cartoon shows that get canceled and redone every few years (I don’t think I’ll ever get over them cancelling the perfect Spectacular Spider-Man in favor of the so-so Ultimate Spider-Man), and now movies that won’t carry on past the third installment. I know why they did it in the film’s case. because you simply cannot carry on after this:


    That version of that character could never be taken seriously again. I get that. But they need to blow this shit out of the water if they are going to redo the origin yet again, or just skip it and pretend 3 never happened. I can’t believe I am not seeing this film in theaters. Spidey is my favorite superhero. Always has been. But I just do not like anything I’ve seen or heard about this. They crapped it out just to keep Marvel from regaining the movie rights to their own character and giving us the Spider-Man series we really want to see and that just pisses me off.

  6. Disagree with most of this. I thought it completely blew away the old films and I think most people seem to be discounting this quite a bit just because it was rebooted so close to the other films.

  7. Yeah, I also disagree with most points (except for creepy-looking Lizard). I will admit that this film did many things that were similar to the first film, but it did all of them better. In my opinion, it was improved in every way and there is no way anyone can argue that the first one is better (the second one might be a different story).

    I actually really found myself caring about Peter and Gwen’s relationship in the film, but that may just be because it was Emma Stone. I also thought that Andrew Garfield was perfect as Spider-Man and behaved naturally. The tone was not too dark for me either. I thought it was darker than the first but it didn’t feel unnatural.

    You aren’t alone in your opinion, Paul, and it was a well-written review, but I personally really enjoyed it. To each his own, though.

    Oh, and I totes see the resemblance between you and Garfield.

  8. I’ve not yet seen the movie, so I’m not the best judge, but a clunky romance seems like it would be appropriate. Remember high school? Ever seen one teenager attempting to woo another? It’s clumsy as hell. They are too many hormones and too little experience for it to look like like anything but a terribly written romance!

  9. Sorry, but I have to say I really liked this movie and prefer it to any of the 3 Spider-Man movies to date. Garfield is a much better Spidey and Parker and I loved his relationship with Gwen. Fight scenes could be better, but that’s what sequels are for. All in all, I’m a happy camper. Although, on that bridge scene, he really should have told that Dad “I’m your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”. 🙂

  10. I loved the original Raimi spiderman, but this is a way better start to a trilogy. Mary Jane falling for Peter seemed obvious (she gets a crush on spiderman, finds out peter is spiderman) where the love story here is Gwen thinking Peter is a good, interesting guy, even before he becomes spiderman. Plus I thought the awkward-flirting-“asking-on-a-date” conversation was real cute and real.

    I agree that the face of the lizard looks a bit stupid, but I thought the rest of the movie was really strong. The subtle spider-like movements Andrew displayed when fighting were fantastic.

    Andrew is a much more likeable Peter Parker and believable too. Although shy, you can see why he becomes funnier as Spiderman. Tobey just came across as nerdy and awkward. Spiderman 2 is one of my all time favourite films, but I was more impressed with the charactisation in this film.

    This is not the first time I have disagreed with the reviews on this site, which is a shame as other parts of the site are spot on with my opinions. I guess I am looking for something different in films than yourself (and it seems several other people here disagree with your views, which is fair enough).

    Hope you (Paul) find a modern blockbuster you really enjoy, as you appear to keep being disappointed. Maybe Dark Knight Rises will be everything you want in a film this year.

  11. I pretty much disagree with almost every reason you’ve said this reboot is bad…what it sounds like to me is you disliked it because it was a lot more true to the original story. Raimi took the story, raped it, stabbed it, and left it in a gutter. Webb took a bunch of different parts of the original story and tweaked them in a bunch of different ways to make a new, but same story that connects in a whole bunch of different places.

    Gwen isn’t “subbing for” or “replacing” Mary Jane. Gwen was Peter’s first true love. Maybe the love story might not have been as believable, but it’s a lot more true to the original story. Gwen liked Peter first, but he was oblivious at first. Every last bit of the love story in the Raimi’s trilogy was absolutely completely made up and destroyed the original story and a TON of Spidey’s evolution as a character.

    Also, Tobey Maguire is absolutely not Peter Parker…Raimi completely killed every part of his character except for the photography part. He wasn’t funny like Pete/Spidey is supposed to be, he was just angsty and whiny all the time. Andrew Garfield pulled it off. Whatever Tobey Maguire was doing wasn’t Spider-man or Peter Parker’s character at all.

  12. @Ablatrous

    Hey, I five-starred The Avengers, as that was pretty much the perfect summer blockbuster in every way.

    And I respect all dissent from everyone, but I just don’t think this was a better telling of the story than Raimi’s original, nor am I completely sold on Garfield, as much as I like him. Maybe I should go watch the 2002 one again for a more recent comparison, but I’ve seen it a few times and it always holds up.

  13. Although I have all the same interests as you do Paul, I often find myself disagreeing with the way you feel toward the subject matter…ah well. Cheers to being a dork! And I would say that you and Andrew Garfield share similar hair style/color. Take care

  14. I’m kind of surprised that no one else has brought this up but I pretty much got hung up on the actual way he became spiderman in this version. From what I can tell we have hundreds or more likely thousands of genetically mutated spiders making this webbing and the creators never once tested the venom or had an accidental bite victims. It seems like there could easily be an army of spidermen out there at some point. I spent a good portion of the film waiting for them to address that issue, like maybe he had some special genes or whatever but no luck. The 3rd act was ridiculously melodramatic as well.

    Other than that I thought most of the performances were really good. Except for that Indian guy, I swear he looked right at the camera a couple times and it sounded like he was reading his lines from a teleprompter.

  15. Here’s the thing Paul, “Average” movies usually round at the 3.0 score, so you can see the amount of flak you’re getting from the comments your getting.

    Emma Stone’s and Garfield’s acting far beat Kirsten Dunst and Tobey’s wooden acting from the Raimi movies, despite how unnecessarily lovey-dovey the characters are portrayed in this movie. Peter may be a bit a jerk here, but it’s the most accurate portrayal of Spider-Man yet. Reading from the comics and watching the shows, there is little denying that….

    Most of the problems can be taken from the script itself, with Raimi being able to handle the balance of drama and stakes better, but I had more fun watching Amazing, though.

    But it’s really a toss-up, and given to preference, to which you might prefer…

    I might get lynched to say that I don’t hold the Avengers to same regard as everyone else…. I give it 4 of 5. Since the movie seemed merely fan service to my eyes, though an utter good one.

    I already seen a better presentation and fan service of the Avengers in its recently cancelled cartoon, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”. Which might be the reason to my perception and review of the movie.

    You really owe it to watch the cartoon yourself, Paul. That, along with Spectacular Spider-Man, are the greatest action-superhero cartoon ever conceived, and few comic nerds would disagree to that statement.

    Of course, if you want the greatest good superhero suspense/dramas. You can just watch about nearly any DC cartoon aired over the past decade and a half…

  16. I also give it 4 out of 5. or a B+

    I am a long time web head fan and I thought it was all around pretty damn good.

    Anyone that gives this movie a rating like a 2.5 doesn’t know what a Spider-Man film should be like. nuff said.

  17. Go watch the old one, then this one again. Then imagine the sequels to this one.

    Amazing deserves the Amazing in the title, the others ones don’t.

  18. Every emotional scene is mumbled through and every plot point comes about by happenstance. There isn’t a single action, turning point, emotion, etc. that is earned through character development. Plot holes galore. Sad old Martin Sheen and Sally Field with nothing to do is enough to make you take razorblades to your eyeballs. Is Peter Parker a skateboarding emo kid, a photographer, or some scientific genius…I mean seriously a fifty year old scientist at a place like Oscorp is taking lab advice from an 18 year-old?! Oh and he can just lie and sneak his way through all that security (pre-spidy bite) when technology like that would be sought out by every government on the planet…

    2.5 is more than generous JQ for the 250 million dollars it took to make those action sequences look slick enough for people to forget about story.

  19. @Paul Tassi: You liked the Avengers, but every other recent review on this site has been very negative.
    Also, my name is Albatraous, not “Ablatrous”. I know it’s a weird spelt name, but would be grateful if you could be spelt right.

  20. I’ll like to hear an opinion of someone who didn’t watch the Raimi films, since I think critics don’t adress how this movie stands on it’s own, even though it took most of the “beats” of the other one.

    In my opinion I like it, I thought it could have been worse, it developed more the character of Peter Parker, and it gave an update in terms of visuals.

    The two things I think it lacked was how they didn’t adress the struggle of Dr. Connors (he’s more of a tragic villain), they didn’t even show his family. The other thing is how the film tries very hard to be like Batman Begins in terms of gritty take on the superhero (IMO).

  21. @Cornelius

    My opinion (that I hope is backed up by the sequels) is that Peter had a genetic pre-disposition (perhaps engineered by Richard) that allowed his body to react in the manner that it did. Even with the zero decay rate algorithm, Conners (and Fred the rat) still mutated out of control in a pretty short period of time.

    I agree that there would have been tests or accidental bites, but I would imagine that there was a 100% mortality rate that never yielding any ‘amazing’ results until Peter came along.

  22. I actually agree wholeheartedly with this one, which is surprising as I’m normally at odds with Paul’s reviews. This movie just failed to impress me. It did a lot of things “ok” but nothing well.

  23. Wow I am completey in disagreement. I barely like Raimi’s first spider-man and detested the sequels. I think it was due to the portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Maguire’s Parker was just too goofy to the point he was a dorky nerd. Peter Parker in college wasn’t a dork, sure he was nerdy but he had friends and had a hot girlfriend! Maguire’s Spidey was just too serious for me. He never bantered with his foes. I mean that is the biggest trait of spidey. He is the banter king! I aree that the new movie had its issues, but I appreciate how they made the cliche jock bully human with his empathetic attempts to console Peter after Ben’s death. I also liked that the lizard wasn’t killed. The one thing I hate about many of these comic book movies is the death of the villain and Raimi’s Spider-Man was no different. So far Batman has succeeded in integrating villains across its sequel. Its a shame that the Joker wont have any physical presence in TDKR. So I like that Doc Conner’s is alive and Im interested in seeing if they will rehabilitate him and turn him into Spidey’s science consultant like in the comics.

  24. the best thing any movie producer can do is follow the original comic book story and design of the characters. The new spider man is probably the best adaptation to the real comic book story line. the first 3 spider man movies were horrible and deviated away from the original comics that the “REAL” adult fans that kept comics in business should have their advice followed and not children who know nothing about the original comic book stories. Comics were originally for adults do to the anti government persuasion of the story lines. Comics were a way to inform adults of the different issues and lies the government would keep from the people. (stick with the original, anything else is an agenda)

  25. The difference in demeanor when he is wearing the mask, versus when he isn’t, is shown throughout the movie. He explained it to the little kid in the car when he was giving him the mask. It’s just like the internet. A mask makes the timid become fierce. It’s actually textbook Spidey, and reflects every single culture that had masks to serve in cultural or religious ceremonies.

  26. @ Nova Monett: What are you smoking? Go to Cracked.com for a ton of examples where comic book stories were incredibly inane (I think only children under age ten back in the day would be able to think they were exciting and good stories). The main reason there are adults that love comics today are because they were originally kids who loved comics (same with the average age of the USA gamer).

    On topic: I haven’t seen the film yet, so I can’t pass any judgement. He thought it was the pretty great film, but he said the beginning was completely retarded and should have been cut.

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