The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Same shit, different cast.
The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of one Peter Parker: a New York City high schooler with a big brain, little game, and a slight chip on his shoulder from all the crap that life’s thrown his way, like dead parents and stuff. But then one day life throws him a wild card in the form of a genetically-altered spider bite. He wakes up the next morning, discovers he’s superhuman, and gets to humiliating bullies and mackin’ it with the ladies. Life is good for Peter Parker, that is until his punk-ass behavior inadvertently leads to his uncle’s death, and then his mentor turns into a giant lizard that’s hell-bent on turning everyone else into giant lizards. Since the NYPD isn’t exactly equipped to deal with these kinds of problems, Peter steps up to save the world while juggling all those great responsibilities that come with his great powers.
I’m sure someone can explain it to me since I don’t know a thing about the studio politics behind this, but what the hell? Yes, Spider-Man 3 was bad, and nothing can ever erase that God-forsaken jazz club scene from our collective consciousness. But for all its emo haircuts and random acts of patriotism, was it really that bad? Bad enough to nix the idea of Spider-Man 4 and reboot the franchise entirely just five years after the last entry came out? Hell-to-the-no it wasn’t, Howard the Duck didn’t even deserve that fate. ‘Cause, folks, you’ve gotta be a grade-A idiot to reinvent the recipe after one bad batch, especially if the first two were certified crowd-pleasers. But alas, there’s a first time for everything in a world where anything can be rebooted, remade, and “sequeled” at any time if the dollar sign’s big enough.
So, being a first-time offender in this sad, sad moviegoing world that we live in, the optimal question isn’t so much whether The Amazing Spider-Man is better than Spidey 3, but rather does justify its own existence?
In short: no, it doesn’t. But for the sake of long answers, let’s start with what’s new.
Well, there’s the obvious. Mary Jane Watson’s been replaced by Gwen Stacy as Spidey’s main squeeze, which means Kirsten Dunst is out of work and Emma Stone continues her deserved reign as the hottest commodity since sliced lava. And not counting Martin Sheen’s awesome turn as our new Uncle Ben, Emma Stone’s involvement is the best casting call of the lot. Not that I ever had an issue with Dunst to begin with, but as long as Stone keeps doing what comes natural, that girl will keep putting my ass in seats. She’s also the one reason I’m even remotely interested to see the inevitable sequel to this that they’re gonna make, and considering what’s ahead in the rest of this review, that says a lot.
It also means that Andrew Garfield’s in for Tobey Maguire. From what I’ve been hearing, the general consensus seems to consider this is an upgrade. And not that I disagree, but I never thought there was anything wrong with Maguire. Word on the street is that he came off as a whiny bastard. I never got that. I actually thought he was kinda fantastic, at least way better than I thought he would be back when I first heard he’d been cast for the part. I mean, he obviously did something right, ’cause this whole superhero jones we’re on wouldn’t even be happening if Spider-Man hadn’t taken off the way it did. Oh, how quickly we forget…
But anyway, Garfield is good as Parker. I’d like to give him some higher praise than that since he seems like a great guy off-camera and he’s been great in other movies, but for some reason, his endearing, subtle mannerisms felt like they were dialed up to 11 here. Constantly stumbling over his words, constantly tilting and shaking his head like a nervous junkie, generally doing anything to make Peter seem edgier and angstier than the mild-mannered, picked-upon Peter that we’re used to. He even gets a warehouse dance/skateboard montage just like the one Kevin Bacon got in Footloose! Yay? Jury’s still out on that one. Ultimately, the only things you could really call “new” about this Peter Parker is that he’s way bigger into parkour and he does a crap job of keeping his identity under wraps. If anything, his new identity crisis is probably the most significant and intriguing change to the Spider-Man formula that we’ve got, but much like Tobey Maguire, I didn’t really think there was anything wrong with how his identity crisis was handled in the first place.
And as far as what’s new is concerned, that’s about it.
The story, the plot, the characters, the nick-of-time New Yorkers that keep coming to Spidey’s rescue: it’s all right here, it’s all the same, only it’s way cornier than you ever remembered it. This was like déjà vu all over again, and it has been a long, long time since I last say the original Spider-Man.
Just look at Rhys Ifans as The Lizard. The only difference between him and Willem Dafoe is that Norman Osborn wore a mask and Curt Connors turns into a goomba. From their good intentions, to their human testing conundrums, to their unfortunate turns to madness that only Spider-Man can put an end to, everything that happened in the Green Goblin’s storyline is exactly what happens in The Lizard’s storyline. Not an exaggeration, and, honestly, why even bother changing villains?
As you can probably tell, this whole it-doesn’t-work-because-it-was-already-done-better-ten-years-ago problem is of seriously high occurrence here. Part of my feels like I should apologize or something for bringing up the same complaint for every aspect of this movie, but then again, why would they do that? Why would the team behind this say, “Let’s just make Spider-Man again and hope the 3-D glasses’ll make the Kool-Aid taste better,” then expect it to work?
You wanna know what they should have done instead of making the same goddamn movie we saw ten years ago? They should have listened to the fans, cast Donald Glover as Spidey, and had the balls to go with Miles Morales’ storyline. Kill off Peter Parker, start anew, and at the very, very least, give us a non-white superhero to root for aside from War Machine and Nick Fury. Probably too late to set any of these wheels in motion right now, but hey, a lot can happen in a decade.
Oh, and it’s got a shit sense of humor to boot. When it’s not taking cringe-worthy stabs at one-liners by having Peter yell “AYY! I’M SWINGIN’ ‘ERE!” over rush-hour traffic in his worst Brooklyn/Fonzie accent, every other “laugh” revolves around one thing: that Peter keeps forgetting he’s Spider-Man. It’s just one super-forced, eye-roller of a scene after another where Peter forgets his own strength, forgets his Spidey sense, and forgets shit sticks to him whenever he touches it. It gets older than dirt before it can even get new, and before you say it, yes, that’s exactly what they did in the original Spider-Man. But the difference is that it worked in Spider-Man because it was new…and because Sam Raimi is hilarious.
And J. Jonah Jameson is also nowhere to be found, which sucks big time.
For the past couple weeks whenever anyone has asked me what I thought about this movie, I’ve always added, “…but it’s fun,” at the end of each conversation in some vain attempt to not step on the toes of those who liked it. Well, I’m done with that. It’s certainly not the worst superhero movie I’ve seen, but the more time that’s passed and the more I keep thinking about it, the more I realize how totally un-fun it was and how utterly unjustified its existence is. Ultimately, my experience watching The Amazing Spider-Man was pretty similar to how Jacobim Mugatu felt about Blue Steel. This right here is a carbon. effing. copy. of the Spider-Man we’ve already seen, only with a new coat of paint to throw off the masses. Frustrating as sin, especially when I can’t even see the new paint because the camera’s moving too fast for me to make out what I’m watching. Everyone seriously needs to stop doing that during action scenes.
Although if there was an upside to sitting through all 136 minutes of this shameless cash whore of a movie, it was the newfound appreciation I gained for what Sam Raimi did with this franchise. While Spider-Man 2 is one of the best superhero movies ever made, I always thought the original Spider-Man was good and that was about it. Now, it borders greatness thanks to the faults of one, and to tell you the truth, that’s alright with me.
All the same, paying 28 bucks to feel duped is one seriously horseshit date night.