Ah, the superhero movie. In comic book form, superhero stories are great vehicles to convey the writers’ messages and morals; they are modern day myths. Myths have been retold and changed since the beginning of time, and that is why I am okay with the concept of The Amazing Spider-Man: revamp the myth, take the characters in new and interesting directions and grab a hold of a new generation. The movie certainly did that, but it set a lot of goals for itself and didn’t really fully achieve any particular one.
We begin the film with the mysterious disappearance of a young Peter Parker’s parents, who leave him with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field.) We flash-forward to the present and see a more hipster-fied Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) who is not so much of a quiet nerd but more of a nerd outsider. Then as it has been since time immemorial, the spider bites him; he learns to deal with his powers, loses his Uncle Ben tragically and dons the Spider-Man costume. The film then does the juggling act of developing villain Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), as well as a love interest in Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a police antagonist in Gwen’s father Captain George Stacy (Dennis Leary) and Peter simultaneously searching for answers about his parents as well as his Uncle Ben’s killer. The film’s end reaches its usual finale battle as well as set up future Spidey-sequels.
One positive thing I can say about The Amazing Spider-Man is it maintains a solid cast that leaves little to be desired. Andrew Garfield is certainly a likeable Peter/Spider-Man, injecting a little more humor than we’ve seen in past films. Emma Stone plays an intellectual equal and far less predictable damsel-in-distress than other Hollywood actresses. Sally Field didn’t spend the whole film crying, so I was happy with that. The weakest link was probably Rhys Ifans, whose character motivations certainly didn’t help his believability. A very large complaint of mine has to do with the core concept of Spider-Man, which is Uncle Ben. Martin Sheen is a great actor but really underused in this instance. Uncle Ben is supposed to be Peter’s moral compass; his death and Peter’s personal guilt over it galvanize and shape his journey as Spider-Man. The golden rule of Spider-Man comes from Uncle Ben: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Sony must’ve been scared of rehashing that tagline from the Tobey Maguire franchise, which was a huge mistake. I mentioned earlier the juggling act that the film does with its various plot points. There are a lot of great ideas presented with each, but the film doesn’t allow itself enough time or space to fairly cover each of them. If they dropped at least one of these issues, I am confident the finished product would’ve felt more cohesive and focused. Sadly, this rebooted franchise is off to a less-than-perfect start.
Final Grade: B-