Directed by Marc Webb
Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves
I was initially wary about Amazing Spider-Man. I loved the first trilogy (even the third one, although the second remains my favorite), but I was more just scared that the movie would tread over the same origins and end up doing the same thing. I should’ve known that there was something more here.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) loses his parents at a young age and ends up living with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). In search of information about his father’s death, he ends up getting bitten by a genetically-altered spider and becoming Spider-Man. And of course, he also has to pursue his uncle’s killer, fight The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), and fall in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) while avoiding her police captain father (Denis Leary).
The thing that this film does really well is stretching things out. It’s well-paced, but it also knows how to take its time. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first Spider-Man movie, but I remember it being very rapid fire. He gets bitten, Ben dies, Peter gets out of high school. It’s always trying to move on. Here, Uncle Ben doesn’t die until a good half hour in, and I don’t even know how much longer it is after that until Peter puts on the suit for the first time. You don’t feel it, though. What the movie is really doing is giving you more time to get to know the characters and gives a better feel of Peter adjusting to his powers. When he suddenly starts getting literal sticky fingers, it’s not just “Oh cool, I can do this now” and then moving on. It’s several mishaps of accidental destruction until he figures it out.
The tone has also shifted significantly along the way. While the trilogy had its darker moments, they were fairly light. Amazing is closer to the dark side. Peter doesn’t come home after fighting villains with just a scratch he can hide, his entire face is bruised, even if he won. There’s that constant element of the tragedy that always seems to loom over Peter. He doesn’t just hide his identity so villains don’t find out about him; he doesn’t want people worrying about him. The police mark him as a vigilante and pursue him throughout the movie, especially since some of his initially heroic-seeming actions quickly prove to have consequences. And for its darker tone, it doesn’t forget its comedy. Along with the standard slapstick, they gave Spider-Man some actual lines during several of the fights. The wisecracks are here in full force.
The choice of the Lizard as the villain had me worried initially. I’ll admit this is mainly because his head looks like the Goombas from the Super Mario Bros movie. But he works. The best villains are always the dark reflection of the hero, which is exactly what the Lizard is. Not only are they both marked by genetic changes, but their goals are similar. They both feel they have a responsibility to do what they do. It’s the simple fact that the Lizard’s responsibility becomes twisted along the way that makes him the villain.
Amazing Spider-Man is the Batman Begins to the franchise. For all the similarities to the first movie, it separates itself with a different tone and style. If the new franchise can continue on this path, it could easily eclipse the original series. And that would be really…incredible.