The Amazing Spider-Man the 2012 movie (SPOILERS!)
I went to see The Amazing Spider-man tonight, and it made me cry. Several times. I can’t remember the last movie that touched me so emotionally, and I’m glad I watched it. If that’s all the endorsement you need to check it out, then you’re welcome.
I have a long history with Spider-man, all the way back to the late 80s when I collected issues of a comic called “Edderkoppen” (direct translation: The Spider) which was the Norwegian title (mostly filled with translated Amazing Spider-man issues) before they some time in the 90s decided to stop translating names when localising comics. So perhaps my sentimentality played into my enjoyment of this movie.
Now be warned that after the break I’m going into MASSIVE SPOILERS. I’ll hold nothing sacred from beginning to end. So if you haven’t yet seen it, I recommend you stop reading here.
Now I will state first off that anyone saying this thing is closer to the comics is talking out of their arse. Closer to certain comics perhaps, but definitely not the old Amazing Spider-man issues. It does share some similarities with Ultimate Spider-man in how Peter (Andrew Garfield) just can’t seem to keep his mask on, so everyone who is anyone discovers his secret identity.
A quick note on the 3D. It didn’t give me a headache for once, and was better implemented than in many other films, but I can’t say you’d be missing out by skipping it.
Now then, the plot. This is a pretty major reboot, and focuses more on Peter’s parents than anything I’ve seen before. His parents are very one-note though. They’re on-screen for like 5 mins, and all that’s established is his dad (Campbell Scott) is A SCIENTIST WORKING ON SPIDERS and his mum (Embeth Davidtz) is A WOMAN. After someone breaks into their home to get daddy’s research, dad and mum (Richard and Mary) drop Peter off at his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and aunt May (Sally Field) before leaving and dying in a plane crash. Fast-forward till when Peter is 17 and we see him in school quarreling with Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) and pining over Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). He finds out his father used to work with Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) at Oscorp (Norman Osborn is mentioned, but not seen), so he seeks out the good doctor in the hopes of learning more about his father. He discovers Gwen is Connors’s assistant, gets bitten by a spider, goes crazy for a bit as his powers manifest, then heads over and provides Connors with a formula from his dad’s research that allows him to complete the lizard serum, and things go pretty much as expected from there.
Peter is a bit of an oddball here. Already before he gets his powers he stands up to Flash and gets beaten up for it, earning some brownie points from Gwen for his nobility. Getting his powers doesn’t really change him much beyond the physical, but uncle Ben’s death does propel him into a vendetta to find the man responsible (he never finds him, and that plot points just kinda vanishes halfway through the movie). Since there’s no “With great power comes great responsibility” here, he needs a stern talking-to from Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) to get him to become a hero and not just be revenge-driven. They try the smart-talking during fighting for a bit, but kinda just drop that eventually, which is probably for the best as it works better on paper than on film. He does construct web shooters, but the actual web fluid I think he just stole from Oscorp. I didn’t really have anything against him, though I didn’t really find him all that amazing either. He has some good scenes, like I quite enjoyed the one where he set up a spiderweb to try to track the Lizard. And the web swinging itself looks pretty spectacular. He just doesn’t really grow much through the movie.
Gwen doesn’t really have that much to her. She’s the love interest, falls for the mysterious Peter with little explanation (not a huge crime since they’re supposed to be 17) and serves as a plot device as Connors’s assistant, Captain Stacy’s daughter and later on as confidant and helper to a degree. Peter reveals who he is to her pretty early on (in a very corny way), and she just thinks it’s cool (with the exception of one scene where she says she worries about whether he’ll come back when he goes out, just like she worries about her dad).
Flash Thompson is pretty much there just to be the only other named student, and initial antagonist turned friend off-screen.
Captain Stacy pretty much takes the role of J. Jonah Jameson in this movie, with the obsession of capturing Spider-man for being dangerous, and is the one who gives Peter the speech about responsibility (though he never uses that word). Once he discovers it’s Peter he warms up to him, I assume because he dates Gwen, and they fight together for a bit at the end before Lizard kills him and he has Peter promise something that he vows to break before the movie is even over.
I do think Martin Sheen did a good job as Uncle Ben, and actually does feel pretty close to the impression I got of him from the comics. He is a stern, but caring father figure who just wants the best for Peter. He plays a pretty big role in the movie (he stayed alive for so long I kinda hoped they wouldn’t kill him), and his death was so powerful to me that I couldn’t hold the tears back. It’s changed, but I still thought it was really sad, okay? He showed how important he feels doing the right thing is, and it got him killed. Just thinking about it is making me tear up again.
Peter’s relationship with Aunt May felt a little more off. I’m so used to her being the most important thing in Peter’s life even back in his teens, that it felt weird to me to see a different interpretation. Also, like the other women in the movie she doesn’t receive much characterisation. What little we did see of their relationship developing, especially towards the end as they’re both working through Ben’s death did touch me though. I just wish there was more. (And the movie isn’t always that good about remembering that Peter should be affected by the loss of his uncle.)
And then we’re on the final character of the movie, Doctor Curtis Connors. A little strangely his family is never brought up, though we do see him wearing a wedding ring. He’s really just established as SCIENTIST THAT WORKED WITH PETER’S DAD AND KNOWS MORE THAN HE’S SAYING OH AND HE MISSES HIS ARM. He talks about wanting to create a world without weakness, but it feels more selfish than altruistic. Which isn’t necessarily wrong, and it does make it easier to understand why he kinda tips over from genius to madman once the Lizard concoction gets into his blood and he starts changing. (Though then it doesn’t really make sense that being cured of Lizard-ness also fixes his mind.)
As for the Lizard itself it lacks the symbolism of the original Lizard. Connors still talks pretty smart when he’s the Lizard (who looks rather Voldemort-ish, which can’t have been a coincidence) which kinda ruins the whole Jekyll and Hyde thing where Connors is the small and weak, but smart one who wants to do good (even if he’s tipped over into madness and his idea of good doesn’t match with most people) while the Lizard is the big, strong, dumb one just out to destroy. The CGI isn’t amazing, the way he figures out Peter’s identity is kinda daft and the movie has trouble deciding exactly how to portray him (and Connors), but I’ve seen worse villains.
Other issues: The whole thing about the parents kinda falls into a ditch halfway through the movie, though it’s kinda brought up again in an after-credits scene where I at first thought Willem Dafoe was making an appearance, but I was sadly disappointed. The movie also kinda seems to forget about Spidey’s Spider-sense towards the end, or just when it suits the plot. Also Spidey saves some kid, and his dad just happens to have contacts among crane operators down the street Spidey is heading to Oscorp when injured, and gets all the cranes lined up to make an easier route for Spider-man. It’s a bit daft, and just makes the world seem rather small. And there’s another subplot about how Norman Osborn is dying and one of his envoys is pressuring Connors to do human testing to get a cure for Osborn, which is also dropped the instant the Lizard shows up, and never mentioned again. And the police are perhaps a bit quick to start firing their guns.
What I think the movie gets right is how Spider-man is built on grief, loss and taking responsibility for anything and everything he’s tangentially connected to, no matter how there’s no way he could have predicted any of it. Okay, they’re not always good at showing it, but they do a decent enough job that I felt it. There are also several funny scenes involving Peter adjusting to his powers.
All in all, I liked the film. It’s nowhere near as good as The Avengers, and despite my low expectations for Dark Knight Rises I still expect that too to be better than ASM. We’ll see when we get there I suppose. It’s an interesting, if somewhat bland, modernised reboot of Spider-man and you might find it enjoyable.
That’s really all I can think of right now, but I’m happy to keep discussing if anyone is interested.