Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man Review

The Spider-Man reboot that has had nerd panties in quite the bunch has finally arrived.  And its alright.  I use the word "alright" because it didn't quite blow my socks off like I was hoping, but it does do some pretty cool things.  I have quite a bit to say about the film and may spoil some plot points, so I've decided to split my review up - the spoiler-free section first, followed by the spoilertastic portion.  Time to swing on..(sorry, I just had to do it).

I liked quite a bit about The Amazing Spider-Man (TASM) despite some glaring flaws.  TASM's strongest aspect is the character development; Marc Webb has shown that he can handle characters quite well and does so with Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker, and the rest of the crew.  Peter and Gwen's relationship was handled with aplomb, even if it seemed a bit sped up at times (a major issue with most of the film that will arise again later).  The well-trodden territory that is the Peter/aunt May/uncle Ben triangle was enjoyable to watch yet again...mostly due to the fantastic casting of Sally Field and Martin Sheen respectively.  Even though we know the fates of these characters (well, at least most of us do) its still engrossing to watch uncle Ben give Peter "the speech" (even if its a bit modified for this reboot).

In most superhero films the villain is a big deal, and indeed a big deal was made that the Lizard was going to finally make an appearance after being teased in the Sam Raimi trilogy.  I very much enjoyed Dr. Curt Connors' arc, from a scientist looking to science to reconstruct his missing arm, to the first major test for Spider-Man as a hero.  Some of the more memorable villains/final villain battles involve devastation on a large scale; Loki bringing down the Chitauri to help take over the Earth, Dr. Jonathan Crane releasing a toxin into Gotham City.  The final confrontation between Spidey and the Lizard approaches something on a grand scale but just doesn't quite get there.  Now, this complaint is merely one of the story and my wanting something a bit bigger.  That said, the action set pieces between Spider-Man and the Lizard were quite entertaining and well-done; their interactions are some of the more memorable scenes in the film.

My main issue with TASM lies within the pacing and editing of the film.  With the "origin story" of a character there are usually two ways they're tackled: a relatively quick, opening montage (perhaps set over the credits a la The Incredible Hulk) that introduces us to the character and the basic premise as to how they became who they are (and cuts to the chase for the main thrust of the film), or the entire film bears the character's arc (Batman Begins).  The problem is that TASM tries to do both.  Rather than opt for a quick montage or condensing of Spidey's origin, a considerable portion of the film is devoted to introducing us to Peter, his parents, his aunt and uncle, his school life, his personal life, his crush (this time around its Gwen Stacy), how he becomes Spider-Man...all things that we saw a decade ago in Sam Raimi's original film.  This day-and-age most people in the general public at least have a sense as to the origins of our favorite heroes and could've followed the film's story with a 5-or 10-minute intro to catch us all up.  To reference it again, The Incredible Hulk handled this issue quite well and it allowed the rest of the story to breath and give Bruce Banner a new arc.

Because the screenwriters chose to include a substantial amount of origin story (which does allow them to take a different path with the narrative), mixed with the "meat" of the film, both parts seem rather rushed.  The rest of this discussion will have to be continued in the spoiler section.

It would be prudent of me to mention the visual effects on display in TASM.  Much of the swinging effects were done practically and they look truly fantastic.  Spidey's physics are spot-on as he swung through Manhattan.  Similarly, the action set-pieces were well-staged and looked great.  The action was relatively easy to follow, save for a fight on a subway car.  In that instance, the editing was very fast-paced and made it difficult to really discern what was happening.

Regardless of my fairly significant complaints about The Amazing Spider-Man, I had a great time with it.  Is it one of the best super-hero films of all time?  Not quite.  But its a very good jumping-off point for the inevitable sequel.  Just enough was changed from the original trilogy that will allow for enjoyable, new stories to freshen up the place.

The Amazing Spider-Man is an enjoyable summer blockbuster that doesn't quite live up to its potential.

***Full spoiler warning is in effect***

Still with me?  Good.  Okay, so much of Spider-Man's origin is rushed, which is odd because of the amount of time spent on it.  The whole costume and web-shooter bit of the film breezed by in probably fewer than 30 seconds...in the middle of a montage.  Peter does begin to swing around Manhattan, looking for uncle Ben's killer and ends up beating up quite a few thugs...and I enjoyed those bits.  The screenwriters actually took some time to develop Peter; he's out to seek vengeance against a man who hurt him.  What they didn't take much time on is the creation of the suit and his now-mechanical webshooters.  There's a funny joke thrown in about spandex, but we aren't provided really any explanation about how he really made his suit.  There is literally a 5-second shot of him pouring latex into a mold and that's all.  How did he get the latex?  Did he buy it?  Peter then uses Oscorp web fibers as the ammo for his mechanical shooters..but how exactly did he get the fiber?  There's a package from Oscorp so he clearly ordered it, but how did he pay for it?   Did Gwen get it for him?  I know this is a bit nitpicky but the overall tempo and pacing of the "origin" part of the story just felt rushed to me.  I would've preferred it to be more drawn out and to encompass the entirety of the film (or cut down considerably). 

Some of the editing of the film seemed a bit off, to me.  Or perhaps it was just poor screenwriting.  It felt at times that we jumped around from location to location or scene to scene without connecting tissue.  Example: in one scene Peter and Gwen swing off into the night.  Next we cut to Curt Connors tweaking out, determined to find Peter and beat him up.  Now we cut back to Peter and Gwen, but now they're at school in the middle of the day.  Perhaps a short, 2-minute scene between the couple, sitting on a skyscraper (after having swung away), having a romantic moment and maybe falling asleep up there.  They could've woken up (adding some comic relief), hurrying to get Gwen back before her parents knew she was gone.  Then they could've arrived at school, disheveled, and been caught off guard by the Lizard.  That's just one example of simple story beats that are sorely lacking at times throughout TASM.  I easily could've done with 20 or 30 more minutes of footage - some connective tissue to link some set-pieces together better.

I mentioned earlier about the scale of the villain's intentions.  The Lizard's ultimate goal is to spread the toxin that "cured" Connors into the entirety of Manhattan, causing millions of Lizard's to bust out.  I like that scale.  Threatening whole populations gives our hero quite the motivation.  In the end, only a few police officers are infected (due to canisters that the Lizard threw around), and Spidey saves the day by swapping the toxin for the antidote.  Now, maybe I'm spoiled by The Avengers, but the endgame that played out didn't quite reach the scale I was hoping for.  Perhaps I was hoping to see Spidey battling hordes of mutated humans in the effort to engage the cure.  Again, maybe my expectations for third-act finale battles are now set too high, but I actually did enjoy the physical fighting that played out.

I suppose I was also disappointed with how the narrative played out in general.  There was no dearth of trailers or commercials that featured more and more footage.  Yes, there are plenty of things kept out of the trailers, but TASM is one film that I pretty much predicted from the outset.  None of the film's plot beats were really all that unexpected.  All of the surprises to be had came during action scenes and some slick camera work.  I had a similar feeling with The Avengers, in that nothing came out of left-field with regards to the third-act finale.  In fact, nothing came out of left field during the entirety of the film.

As I mentioned before, I quite enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man despite its numerous flaws.  What I look for most in a film is entertainment (well, not all the time) and I was surely entertained by TASM.  It mixes action, drama, and humor together and comes out looking pretty good...but it could have been so much better.

The Bearded Bullet.


  1. Hey Kyle! Just got back from the movie, and I totally agree with you on a lot of your points. The pacing of this film was just...off. The part where Dr. Connors swears revenge on Peter, and we get a quick cut to the outside of school, led me to believe there's going to be a set-up scene inside. Instead we cut to...the Lizard coming out of a bathroom? Why the cut at all? Why not a few moments to build suspense? The movie was FILLED with moments like this for me, and I feel like it was thematically all over the place. I also found this portrayal of Peter as extremely unlikable, but now I'm almost writing a review. Nice job on the review, dude! You made quite a few excellent points.