The Amazing Spider-man

Rating: 3.25 of 5 ★★★¼☆ 

History Lesson: Spider-man was the first superhero I ever knew. Of course he had his amazing friends who I liked a lot and sometimes the X-Men who were interesting. But Spider-man was the central figure in my superhero world and even back then I knew the difference between the lead and the supporting players.

I didn’t realize back then, however, exactly what I liked about Spider-man. It wasn’t until Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire tried to capture my beloved superhero on film that I articulated that Spider-man was strong and smart and deeply good and funny in a goofy kind of way. What Raimi and Maguire did was campy and Tobey Maguire was always too soft to play him and I didn’t like any of it, not for a moment. I don’t fault Raimi or Maguire really, because that’s what Sam Raimi does and as much as X-Men began to legitimize superhero movies, it was still a different scene early in the 00’s when people expected a certain degree of camp – before Batman Begins convinced the audience they could take superheroes seriously. I do blame the audience who gave Spider-man the biggest opening weekend for four years and raved about how much they loved it. Spider-man was not a good movie.

The Amazing Spider-man, however is good. Because this is the Spider-man I know. The writing captures how glib he is, how seemingly unperturbed in a fight even when he’s losing; and how smart he is, how strategic and intelligent; and it captures his pathos, the pain and the grief and guilt. It’s an incredibly complex concoction and this movie gets it right, even if it doesn’t get everything right.

Because I didn’t love the score, at all. It was so obvious with piano bashes and “this is how a dramatic moment sounds” concussions. And I didn’t love the first person point of view at all. I’m glad it was very sparingly done, but I would have been perfectly happy if it was a gimmick in the trailer that never made its way into the movie.

And I didn’t love the stunts. By and large they were good, but I wanted more. This is Spider-man! I want to see the acrobatics of the fight and, especially in the subway scene, Marc Webb cut away too often. I get that he’s trying to wrangle the footage of Andrew Garfield and his stunt double doing things no human being can actually do (because that’s part of the fun of watching Spider-man). But you know he had a Cirque du Soleil stunt double who could do a lot more of the acrobatics than we got to see.

But the costume was gorgeous. And Andrew Garfield did an amazing job. Emma Stone I generally like and she was definitely ok, but nothing especially remarkable. Except, I will grant that she has good chemistry with Garfield. That totally worked and it doesn’t always (see Green Lantern). I especially liked the scene where

tiny spoiler »
she was fixing him up after his first real fight with the Lizard. Because it this simple, intimate, romantic scene that was just really well done.

And I loved the Uncle Ben scene. I’ve known the Uncle Ben story since I was a kid and so knew it was inevitable. But it still hurt so desperately. It captured all the elements it needed to and made the weight of Peter’s guilt something palpable.

I also might have cried at the crane scene because I love that sort of finding nobility in yourself and doing something even a little bit extraordinary.

And Flash was actually kind of fantastic.

character spoiler »
I loved the scene after Ben dies where Flash is totally humanized. That line about it feeling better and him understanding – there’s so much depth in that moment; about his own past and what he knows of anger and violence but still reaching out to Peter in compassion to comfort him. It was really interesting.

Unfortunately, Andrew Garfield couldn’t save the first third of the movie from how choppy it is (and I kind of kept wanting him to). The writers did such a great job with so many other elements of the story I’m laying that on Marc Webb. It was really hard to get into the story because there were no transitions between the scenes and they didn’t always line up. It wasn’t as jarring as Twilight, but it was far from seamless until probably part way through the second act.

Like most movie, there were things I loved and things I didn’t love. But I wasn’t especially looking forward to seeing this movie and now I’m definitely interested in the sequel.

Writing:★★★★☆ 
Characters:★★★☆☆ 
Performances:★★★½☆ 
Directing:★★★☆☆ 
Production:★★★¼☆ 
Overall:★★★¼☆ 

ETA: I can’t entirely disagree with HULK’s review. (except the original Spider-man movies well acted? are you sure?) The tone he acknowledges as even-handed which was what I liked. But he’s not wrong about Garfield’s character or even Garfield being a good casting choice. Except that I despise Tobey Maguire as Spider-man so faced with two evils, Garfield is the lesser for me. by a long shot.

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