THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) MOVIE REVIEW

Title:The Amazing Spider-Man
Year: 2012
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Play time: 
Director: Marc Webb
Screenwriters: James Vanderbilt , Alvin Sargent
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

It’s not that The Amazing Spider-Man is “unnecessary,” it’s that it sucks — a pale, hollow imitation of a transcendent superhero trilogy.  Marc Webb’s 3-D remake plays like someone took those films and surgically removed the core of emotion and meaning that Sam Raimi and his screenwriters slaved to put behind every character, every relationship, every goddamn edit and line of dialogue. What’s left is a sulky superhero with daddy issues, who kicks off a dalliance with a brainy classmate because why the hell not, and who briefly becomes a vigilante crimefighter because of his anger at being abandoned by his parents a decade previous. And a mad scientist villain who (only half-wittingly, like Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2) transforms himself into a CGI lizard-thing as part of his quest to “rid the world of weakness.”

It’s not like the remake doesn’t have anything going for it. Andrew Garfield can act circles around Tobey Maguire, and he duly disappears into his role, but all of his conviction ends up poured into nothing in particular: the one thing that seems to be important to this version of Peter Parker — why did his father leave? — is the one thing the film studiously ignores, presumably so that it can start answering that question in the sequel.* (There’s a brief scene in a classroom, where a teacher suggests that all of fiction can be boiled down to a single plot: “Who am I?” It feels like a bit from a different, better film; one actually concerned about that question vis-a-vis Spider-Man.) Webb, whose only prior feature is the far more sedate (500) Days of Summer, turns out to be far from hapless in the action department: the web-slinging and fighting feels solid and tactile, the editing is uncommonly lucid, and the climax, backed by James Horner’s swooping, lovely score, actually had me for a second.

But none of that matters, because The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t seem to want it to matter. And that also goes for just about everything else. The romance between Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is barely there, almost incidental. Parker’s newfound powers don’t do much for him, since he’s already attractive and cool at the start of the film; he does humiliate the school bully, with the effect that the bully befriends him, which is a fucked up sort of message to be sending. And while the weight of responsibility conferred by his talents weighed heavily on Raimi’s version of our hero, forming the heart of that trilogy, here it’s worth nothing: Parker keeps saying that the “has to” do X or Y, but it’s a front that’s ultimately betrayed by a heinous last line of dialogue that would have made Raimi spray his coffee in Marc Webb’s face. I have nothing in particular against a renewed Spider-Man, but I have plenty against this one.

*Here’s an excellent piece about all that was apparently cut from The Amazing Spider-Man, apparently to enable sequels.

Eugene Novikov

Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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