The Amazing Spider-Man-attachment0

The Amazing Spider-Man

Movie Information

The Story: The Spider-Man origin story told anew to kickstart the franchise. The Lowdown: Well-made and entertaining — and boasting improved lead actors — but rather unremarkable. It may be as good as the film it reboots, but the freshness is gone.
Genre: Comic Book Action
Director: Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan
Rated: PG-13

First of all, The Amazing Spider-Man falls a good bit short of being amazing, but then so did the movie it reboots, remakes, reworks, rehashes or re-whatevers. It has most of the same things working for it and against it. One thing very much in its favor, for me, lies in the casting of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. I find them much more compelling and appealing than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. I could go down a list of what’s better (the effects are less cartoony) and what’s not (no J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson), but really the biggest difference is that Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man managed to be an event and this doesn’t.

That’s not really the fault of the new film. We’ve simply been “evented” to death. When every movie that comes down the pike is an event, then nothing really feels like one. We’ve already had The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Men in Black III and Prometheus. The Dark Knight Rises is less than two weeks away. And this isn’t even factoring in such failed event attempts as John Carter, Battleship and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. How on earth is The Amazing Spider-Man supposed to stand out? How is anything supposed to stand out when the damned things come rolling out like oranges? The headlong rush feels less like events than a desperate attempt to manufacture excitement in the age of instant gratification.

None of this is to say that The Amazing Spider-Man is a bad movie. It has a lot going for it. As I noted, I like the leads a lot. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with the cast on any level. What the screenplay gives them to do is perhaps another matter. Denis Leary — appropriately enough — gets the funniest line in the movie. Unfortunately, it’s also about the only funny line in the movie. Rhys Ifans ought to have been terrific casting for the villain. Actually, he was — too bad the screenplay isn’t up to him. And, yes, his CGI lizard is pretty bad (though I’m not sure it’s that much sillier than Willem Daffoe’s Green Goblin mask in the original). However, it’s more a problem with the writing — not the effects — that keeps his villain strictly ordinary. Martin Sheen and Sally Field are fine as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, but where can you go with those characters? (OK, so Field could trot out her Flying Nun habit and go crime-fighting with Spidey, but I doubt that’s in the cards.)

In the end, Marc Webb and his cast and crew have made the best movie they could out of the material they had to work with. It’s good-looking. The action is coherent and doesn’t rely on quick cuts to generate “excitement” that isn’t there. The pacing is excellent. Never once did I think the film was outstaying its welcome. But apart from Garfield and Stone, what is there about the movie that is in any way special? Nothing really — and for a movie that’s meant to be an event, that’s a significant drawback. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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10 thoughts on “The Amazing Spider-Man

    • bsummers

      better than larry fine, the brilliant vaudevillian? i think not.

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    No, better than Sylvia Fine, the composer and wife of Danny Kaye.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I haven’t been gone three hours and look what you boys get up to…

  3. Jeremy Dylan

    On a more serious note, I do think Sheen’s casting was an incredibly smart move on Webb’s part. Here’s a character who’s going to die pretty early on in the film, most of the audience knows he’s going to die, yet you still have to feel cut up about it.

    I can’t think of another actor toward whom one feels so much immediate warmth. I even got a bit watery eyed at some of his line readings in this.

  4. Vince Lugo

    You hit the nail on the head. The real problem with this movie is in the writing. The whole point of Peter Parker is that he’s a dweeb who has to overcome his dweebiness to be the hero and Toby Maguire nailed that perfectly. Mark Webb said that since nerdiness is more socially acceptable nowadays, they wanted to “update the concept”, so instead of a nerd, he’s a moody, angsty, emo kid. I’m sorry, but that is NOT who Peter Parker is as a character and if they couldn’t even get that right, something is very wrong. If you’re going to do Spider-Man, DO SPIDER-MAN. If you’re not, call it something else! As a lifelong fan, I felt I was being insulted. My only consolation is that Marvel had nothing to do with this abomination other than putting their name on it. Oh well, at least the X-Men films are still good (so far).

  5. Ken Hanke

    Well, I can’t really have hit the nail on the head since I prefer Garfield to Maguire by a wide margin. (And I don’t think emo is an apt description.)

  6. Trex

    I was surprised you like this as much as you did. I thought the whole thing was a big disappointment and should have been called Spiderman Begins since it took so many cues from the Nolan movie. ( in the parents’ flashback scenes the father might as well have said “and why do we fall Peter?”) the biggest disagreement I have is about the pacing, the first half is soooooo dull. The origin was so unneeded, it should have been covered quickly in the opening credits. The best thing I can say is that it was worth seeing but not by much. Time to bring on the BAT.

  7. brebro

    I don’t want to think that just because the new Spiderman dwells more on Peter Parker’s murdered (?) parents when the original comics never much even mentioned them, might signal that the film makers are trying to Batman up the storyline. Although, if the guy who murdered uncle Ben turns out to be named Joe Chill, I’ll start to get suspicious.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Time to bring on the BAT.

    I am one of maybe three people on earth who is not swooning over the prospect.

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