I haven’t done an “official” movie review for about five years. I made a conscious decision never to attack (that’s what most reviews do – they stopped being constructive about two hundred years ago) any filmmaker because I know how difficult making a movie can be. People don’t set out to make a bad movie and film making presents many hurdles – some foreseeable and others about as obvious as getting t-boned by a tractor trailer while sitting in your living room.
Bearing the previous paragraph in mind, after seeing The Amazing Spider-Man I had to speak on it. This movie is not for the comic book faithful. It’s for Twilight-tweens and little kids.
I have no problem with any movie retelling the origin story as long as it’s done well. In the case of Amazing they don’t horribly botch the origin but they drag it out with such a plodding pace that it weighs down the entire first half of the picture. To make matters worse, the first half of the picture has five awkward/romantic scenes of Peter and Gwen. FIVE! None of which have the two leads kiss or progress their relationship at all! There is little-to-no chemistry between them throughout and Webb’s directing or the movies editing finds ways to drag these encounters out to enhance the awkward-hipster-twilight-intimate-but-not-500-days-of-spideyness.
The most important aspect of the Spider-Man origin is the ever quotable “with great power comes great responsibility”. I wasn’t looking for that exact quote but what was missing from the movie was the subtext surrounding it. This is prevalent in the relationship between Uncle Ben and Peter. In comic book continuity the death of Uncle Ben is a turning point for both Peter and his alter ego, Spider-Man. It’s the moment when icarus flies too close to the sun and it’s a moment Peter will always remember as his greatest failure as a human being and a hero. In Amazing, without spoiling the plot, the order of events are changed and the impact of Uncle Ben’s death isn’t nearly as powerful.
Uncle Ben comes off as a simpleton and a dolt. He also makes very little effort to understand Peter’s scientific acumen. One scene in particular he scolds Peter for forgetting to pick up Aunt May but the reason Peter was forgot was because he was splicing two different species DNA! I’d say that’s an acceptable reason to forget picking up your more-than-capable-to-walk-herself aunt.
Some claim (like the way-off-the-mark-iIGN review) that Amazing tried to redefine Spidey a la Batman Begins with a darker more real world approach. Wrong! Nothing about this movie feels grounded in any type of reality. From the over the top Oscorp building, sets, and visual effects to the no-fuckin-way-that’s-New York Midtown Science High. The script is amateurish at best, there are plot and logic holes, and all of the science in the movie can be boiled down to green and blue liquids – so easy to synthesize that a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR CAN MAKE THEM!!!!!!!! The high school kids i know can’t synthesize a grilled cheese sandwich. One thing this movie did happen to borrow from Batman Begins was probably the worst element of the movie “airborne chemical agent” – dumb.
And that brings me to my biggest complaint of the movie: the scope. Never does the movie feel bigger than its 5-10 primary sets/locations. This is not New York. There is no bustle. No Traffic. No people milling around. Most of the movie is shot in such close-up that the majority of scenes lack any visual perspective. The cast of the movie, save for Denis Leary, barely seem like they’ve visited New York let alone grew up there. The giant CG Oscorp building sticks out like a sore thumb. The high school looks like it was shot in Calabasas. The Bridge scene looks to be primarily green screen with few actual extras.
The only time you get any sense of that New York energy is in the last fifteen minutes of the movie and they also happen to be the movie’s only saving grace. Carried by the amazing visual effects, strong character performances (the scene between Capt. Stacy and Peter is good), and the inevitable end of the movie, the last 15 minutes are enjoyable. The VFX director and team are to be commended. The action was fluid and exciting.
What disappointed me most about this movie was that it had so much potential. The actors respected the roles and brought it on screen. Andrew Garfield had the perfect physique for Spider-Man and the Spidey animations looked great the few scenes they were used. The script was just so bad and the execution by Mark Webb didn’t help it. The pace was outright boring and I was trying to like it. Jon and I kept our mouths shut for nearly three quarters of the movie both hoping it would get better. It did get better but it was too little too late. This movie cost $215 million to make. The production had the time, talent, and property to really knock it out of the park but instead they delivered a forgettable and disappointing experience.
But this movie isn’t for me. This movie is for the younger generations who see the original Spider-Man trilogy as some old timey classic. Amazing is for the Twilight-tweens, skaters, and Disney channel faithful. This movie is for the little kid that can see way more on screen than I ever will, whose imagination transforms this movie into their wildest dreams rather than what it actually is. So maybe, just maybe, I’m getting too old for Spider-Man.
A side note: I saw this movie with Jonathan at 10:00 am in 3D. There is absolutely no reason to see this picture in 3D. This was my last attempt at viewing a movie this way. Nothing was added visually and it obscured the quality of the 4K projector we saw the movie on. The glasses are tinted darker and the 3D effect tends to come out blurry.