I had the same doubts as everyone else regarding The Amazing Spider-Man; a reboot of a movie series still very fresh in our minds. It was a blatant cash grab move, it was disrespectful to the legitimacy the previous trilogy accomplished (even if it did devolve into jazz dancing and EVERYONE CRYING), and it was just too soon. We’d already been privy to so much onscreen Spider-Man that it was hard to imagine what else we even wanted to see. And the new film just didn’t look interesting. Why are we supposed to care about Peter’s parents? Why is Andrew Garfield playing a way-too-attractive Peter Parker? It seemed like we were just getting his usual origin story, except with new sets.
Keep these lowered expectations at the forefront of your mind when you go to see The Amazing Spider-Man, because you will be absolutely astounded as the movie exceeds them over and over.
No spoilers ahead, although I will be teasing you…
Let’s get this out of the way before anything else: The Amazing Spider-Man is really good. It’s an extremely solid, well-acted movie that earns every moment. It makes the first three Spider-Man movies feel like camp classics and, like The Avengers, it earns a comic book readers’ trust in how it handles its story and its characters, even though the circumstances are different enough that you actually don’t know what comes next.
There are certain integral moments to Spider-Man’s story that have been missing from the trailers and promotional material: his difficulty in school, his intelligence, and the importance of Uncle Ben, to name a few. These are all very much here in the film, and director Marc Webb lets these elements naturally inform each other with such ease that Peter’s life seems completely relatable. This is a huge accomplishment on the part of the film. It lets the characters and their world breathe before asking you to take on the more fantastic elements of the story.
That’s only a third of the formula that makes this movie so enjoyable, though, and it wouldn’t stand up as well if the actors weren’t so completely charming and multi-faceted in their roles. It really doesn’t seem like it from the trailers for this film, but Andrew Garfield is a perfect Peter Parker and a perfect Spider-Man. He’s a huge nerd, but in ways that are specific to him. He can fix a freezer, and he’s a burgeoning Maker, but he’s still a kid so although he can understand an equation that his father left behind, he still needs the help of others to piece it into larger theories. And he acts like a nerd acts. He has a strong sense of justice, but a healthy dose of arrogance and a desire to isolate himself from others and live in his own head. There is the obligatory Einstein poster in his room, but also a range of other interests. Garfield’s Parker is a full person.
He’s also a bit of a sweetheart and his interactions with Gwen Stacy are the textbook definition of meet-cute. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy is dryly humored, good-hearted, mature, efficient, and very aware of the world she lives in and the desires she has to juggle. Their relationship is very much like a quirky, funny young adult novel and I could watch an entire movie of just them. She’s so engaging and such a strong female character that if you know Gwen’s eventual fate in the comics, you start to get really worried as the film winds up. I dare not tell you her fate.
The final element that makes The Amazing Spider-Man really cohere is just how intelligent it is about its source material. There are a hundred instances where you can tell that the filmmakers really thought through what the characters would do in a certain situation, given what they know, how experienced they are, how old they are, and so on. At one point, Spider-Man is searching the sewers for the Lizard and sets up a web that extends through several tunnels so that vibrations along the web lines will alert him that the Lizard is near. It’s such a small moment but it makes so much sense within the context of the film. Parker combines his powers and his scientific knowledge and does something smart because that’s who the character is. And then, because he’s still essentially a teenager, he plays a cell phone game while he waits. This is how well the movie understands the material.
There are a million more things I want to talk about in regards to this movie, but really it all boils down to this: watching The Amazing Spider-Man gives you the same glorious open-aired feeling that reading a good story does. And this is why, if you’re at all interested, you should go see it.
Teasers ahead! Here are some small details I didn’t touch on:
- This movie contains between 2 and 4 major deaths. You don’t want any of them.
- Spider-Man is funny in costume. Consistently funny. So is Gwen.
- Stan Lee’s cameo is his funniest yet.
- Flash Thompson gets a small but touching moment of redemption.
- The 3-D effects aren’t worth the extra money.
- When Curt Conners’ arm grows back it is really gross/cool.
- There are two moments involving a single voicemail that will make you tear up.
- There is a scene after the main cast credits, but it’s pointless. (Unless they only showed us a bit of it in the screening.) There was nothing after the credits themselves.
- Parker finds himself in a boxing/wrestling ring at one point.
- There is a sly homage to Tobey Maguire in Gwen’s room.
- I really liked what they did with Norman Osborn.
- I also really liked how New York City and the NYPD react to Spider-Man.
- Gwen Stacy is thrown from a great height at one point in the movie.
- There is a scene on a bridge.
Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com and can’t wait for you guys to see this.