By Chris Campo
"Oh my God! Holy shit! We are mere months away from finally seeing the brand new Spider-Man". You may think that is somebody anticipating Spider-Man's appearance in Captain America: Civil War later this year, but no, while I am losing my mind over Tom Holland's eventual Spidey debut, this was what was going through my mind nearly 5 years ago when The Amazing Spider-Man was almost upon us. While I absolutely loved *most of* the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, I was insanely excited to witness a new Peter Parker, a new villain, a new love interest, a new Spider-man and, most importantly, a new story. Words could not truly express my excitement. While the film got haters from its initial announcement, I knew we were going to get an exciting, well made and totally original film... I was partially right.
The Amazing Spider-Man tells the "untold" story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield). After being abandoned by his parents to live with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), Peter is determined to find the truth about his parents and their work, and is also determined to find his place in this world. Things start to change when he gains the friendship of his high school crush, Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), and the help of his parent's former co-worker, Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans). Fueled by his newly discovered powers, the death of his uncle, the ill intentions of Dr. Connors and the safety of his loved ones, Peter makes a choice to dawn a red and blue costume to become the vigilante known as Spider-Man.
I like The Amazing Spider-Man. I may even be confident enough to say that I love it. But there's a catch... This film hits a lot of high notes, but its voice tends to crack under the pressure of trying to stand out from the Spider-Man origin story that came before it. There's times where the story, especially in the first act, hits the same exact beats as the original film. Maybe its played out a little differently, but its too similar. The film tries to stand confidently as "The Untold Story" of Spider-Man, but the "untold" portion of this story, Parker's parents, just seems like a crutch to get the story past the same-ness as the original film. This is a shame because the rest of the film swings fairly high, but it's impossible to fairly critique this film without pointing out the elephant in the room. This film feels largely unnecessary, when it really shouldn't be.
Now that that is said, what about the actual film on it's own, disregarding the fact that it's a reboot or remake or whatever Hollywood wants to call it, is it any good? Yes. I think it is. There are flaws, some big, but I think this is a fun and, at times, exciting film with a huge heart that often takes centre stage. The film treats the character with love and respect, the action is exhilarating, the dialogue is quriky and memorable, Mark Webb directs this film with the confidence and personality he brought to the spunky and brilliant (500) Days of Summer and it translates very well to the summer blockbuster formula. If this film doesn't please Spider-Man fans in some way, shape or form, I don't think they're really Spider-man fans. Oh, and it has the best Stan Lee cameo to date.
Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter/Spidey, is sensational, completely different to the other films. He's a tad bit too cool for my taste, but he feels real, relatable and damaged, although the real magic comes when he puts on the mask. While I really hate the mask and the stupid yellow eyes, Garfield gives us the most convincing and well realised Spider-Man to date. Balancing Garfield is one hell of an amazing supporting cast. Emma Stone is pitch perfect as Gwen Stacey and her relationship with Peter is a highlight of the film. She's a strong, intelligent and necessary character to the story that never feels as lazy or as helpless as Mary Jane in the originals. While I have problems with the villain, the Lizard, which I'll get to soon, Rhys Ifans' performance is nothing to overlook, he did the absolute best with what he was given. Both Sally Field and Martin Sheen are great as May and Ben, although nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever top Uncle Ben's "with great power comes great responsibility" speech from the original. I'm also a big fan of Captain Stacey in this film, Dennis Leary plays him perfectly and his dynamic between both his daughter Gwen and Peter is fun and just really works well.
The best part of this film is the amount of heart in it. It's a bit darker than previous films, but manages to be emotionally charged, ready to warm your heart and prepared to break it. Most of the action is emotionally charged as well, which is something I really appreciate. The final set piece is big and blockbuster-esque, but its biggest moments are the human moments, particularly some in the final act. The crane scene is among my favorite moments in all 5 Spider-Man films, it's a crowd pleasing sequence that I absolutely adore. The death of Uncle Ben is beautifully handled, and you're lying if you didn't get at least one tear in your eye when Peter listens to his voicemail at the end of the film, it's powerful stuff. Spider-Man is known to be one of the most emotionally charged characters in comic books and this film captured that perfectly. Also, the score by the late James Horner only adds to the emotion, as his work in this film is simply beautiful.
You cant have rainbows without a storm, however, as this film has a lot of problems. As mentioned before, the first act is sloppy and not that justified, the untold story portion of this movie goes absolutely nowhere and there's a sub plot involving Uncle Ben that the screenwriters literally didn't bother finishing. The pacing is also not the best, as there's a lot of slow downtime. If I'm being completely honest, I hate the Lizard. His setup is initially interesting and you start to feel for him, then at the drop of a hat he suddenly becomes a mad scientist, with no good explanation. He's not the worst villain ever, but he just does not do it for me. The CGI on his character is only passable at best. As mentioned before, I am not the biggest fan of the new Spider-Man costume, I hate the yellow eyes and the overall design just doesn't pop like a Spider-Man costume should. Here and there are tone-breaking moments or gags that feel like they'd be in the original 2002 film, and none of them quite work, like when Peter is sitting on the bleachers and catches a football only to through it as hard as you can bending the post you hit. Yeah, if I saw that, I would go ahead and assume you're Spider-Man.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun film with great characters and a huge heart. I can confidently say I love it, but can not confidently say its a great movie. It can be a mixed bag at times, with not everything flowing as smoothly as one may hope, especially in its underwhelming and copy-cat first act. It also had potential to spawn a truly special franchise... then the sequel happened.