Amazing Spider-Man: Not the Movie We Need, but the One We Deserve

In case the title didn’t clue you in, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fairly unnecessary reboot. Five years is just too soon, although expect it to be the norm going forward. After all, Batman is getting rebooted right after TDKR comes out. Presumably something about keeping the rights or some corporate BS. That being said, Amazing Spider-Man is pretty good.

So, overall, you know most of where the movie is going. Peter is a nerd, his parents are out of the picture, raised by an aunt and uncle, science lab, spider bite, dead uncle boom. But, there is enough change thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. Firstly, there’s the mystery of what really happened with Peter’s parents. The movie manages to build a fair bit of momentum early on by focusing on this. Peter’s dad is a scientist, whose mysterious work is obviously highly sought after. They get spooked and hide Peter with relatives while they disappear to deal with whatever is going on, never to return. This is quite intriguing, although that’s about as far as it goes, which is disappointing.

Also keeping things fresh are the new (and improved) Aunt May and Uncle Ben. And while Martin Sheen has reached Shatnerian levels of bloatedness, he brings new depth to the character. Sally Field does a great job as an Aunt May that isn’t 6,000 years old, which is nice. I was just always so afraid the old Aunt May would spontaneously keel over. And what’s an 18-year old doing with an aunt that’s 80?? So anyway, the characters are younger, which makes them seem more real, more married, and more parental than ever. These are all good things. Plus, no Mary Jane!

Now, sidebar, I love Mary Jane Watson. In the comics. She’s a super model. She’s a party girl. She’s sassy and vibrant and sarcastic. She’s the definition of the Fiery Red Head. She’s the ultimate Veronica (from Archie [Yes, Veronica is ALSO the ultimate Veronica, shut up]). She’s fun, which is nice to play off of Peter, whose life is consistently awful. BUT, Kirsten Dunst played her like Human Valium. She mumbled through all her lines with half-closed eyes like she mistook her Ambien for breath mints. Gross.

In her place is Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s first True Love. She’s beautiful, and every bit his mental equal. This is more interesting to watch, because the characters have more levels on which to connect. It also enables her to participate in the action of the movie more, and feel less like A) a distraction, B) a side-plot, or C) a victim. In fact, Gwen is integral to the resolution of the plot in a way Mary Jane never was. So, in conclusion: Team Gwen. (PS, EMMA STONE, DUH)

The main weakness of the film is the villain. Not only is it painfully obvious where everything is going, he just seems really one-dimensional. He’s interesting as a scientist – there’s the connection to Peter’s parents, the pressure from the enigmatic and ominous Norman Osborn, and his mentorship of Peter. And then with almost no prodding, he takes the serum and goes completely bonkers. There’s no “What have I become?!?” afterwards, no wrestling between Jekyll and Hyde, no real emotional sense of loss when he wakes up without an arm again. Just a switch that flipped from Sane to Bat-S#!t. Also less successful: the mystery of Peter’s parents. While theoretically intriguing, there isn’t enough resolution to keep me interested. I know this is something that will be addressed in sequels, but I just needed a little more… something to go on.

But back to strengths. The biggest, by far, is Peter. Not just as Spider-Man, but as Peter Parker. First and foremost, we get to see him be intelligent, rather than just being told. He solves equations, thinks through problems, and designs web-shooters. Personally, I think web-shooters are stupid. I mean, if you’re going to make a hero with spider powers, shouldn’t he be able to make webs? I mean come on! That being said, web-shooters do make him seem smarter, so OK. Some critics have whined about him being too angsty. I really disagree. I mean, yes, he sits alone in his room, he beats up villains unnecessarily, he picks a fight with a police chief, but the dude DID just lose a second father figure and get superpowers. So, I give him a pass. PLUS, he makes jokes when he fights! Which is like… Spidey’s THING! Which you would never know from the old movies. And he’s super nervous and adorably awkward with Gwen.

In conclusion, this isn’t a perfect movie. The plot is only so-so, the villain is weak sauce, and the mystery is a bit of a wet fart so far. But we have a Peter Parker that is smart and nerdy, a Spidey that makes jokes, a love interest that participates in the plot, an aunt and uncle that feel realistic and less cheese-spouty, and a more emotionally complex, nuanced movie. It was by far the most fun I’ve had watching a Spider-Man movie, and I definitely can’t wait for the sequels.


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