The big Sony gamble of the year paid off quite well last week when they released The Amazing Spider-Man, the reboot to the Web Slinger instead of opting with a Spider-Man 4 which would have pitted Peter against the Volture. Now having seen Amazing Spider-Man a total of twice (and more to come, before The Dark Knight Rises), it's safe to say they made the right call, and I frakking loved it.
Instead of writing a long-winded review where I go nowhere, I instead decided to take a page out of a friend's book and instead write a review by a numerical pointing of what I loved from the film. Sure, I had some bits I didn't like and I, like many people, kept looking for scenes and dialogue from the trailers that never made it to the final cut, but this was a successful ride. If you wanna know why I love the film and look forward to this story continuing read on, otherwise I'd love to hear your opinions about the flick. Voice below! And enjoy!
2. On a similar path, Emma Stone's Gwen Stacey is fantastic. As a character, Gwen is intelligent and resourceful, never the damsel in distress. She has her own defined personality, her own look and style, and she's most definitely a match for Peter Parker, as Emma Stone is a perfect match for Andrew Garfield. Stone is the perfect Gwen, bringing enough of her own Emma-ness whilst servicing the character largely. This is relates to...
4. ...the big rooftop revelation scene. Garfield made me grin as Peter can't find the words to say what he needs to say to a frustrated Gwen, who begins to walk away, but in a impulsive move where actions speak larger than words, Peter uses his webbing and pulls Gwen back. In a state of shock, putting two and two together, Gwen and Peter share their first kiss. And it's one of the biggest, damnest 'awwwwww' moments of the entire trilogy, a fantastic character moment for both Gwen and Peter, a nuanced and comedic scene for Garfield and Stone, and just the right 'coming out' sequence the writers could possibly have come up with. Love, love, love it.
5. Spider-Man becomes human finally. By this, I mean in the Raimi movies, Spider-Man always felt like a hero, that there wasn't a person underneath that mask and that there was no jeopardy - Spidey would always get out of the sticky situations A-okay. Here, there was a real sense of danger and physical exertion, such as the riveting sequence as a wounded Spider-Man barely has the strength to climb a building [in Act Three] and limps into battle, unsure of victory, but damn sure gonna do whatever he can to stop the Lizard regardless....
6. Ben's death is wonderfully orchestrated. One of the big things I wasn't looking forward to with this trilogy reboot was being subjected to yet another 'poor Uncle Ben gets with the being shot and Peter gets angry and feels immensely guilty about the whole thing' beat by beat story. Instead, it's tastefully presented, and because of the manner in which it's approached, it feels brand new again.
7. After Ben's death, Flash Thompson chooses to confront Peter, and in a moment of insatiable anger, Peter pins Flash against the lockers, and in a beautiful moment that humanizes Flash instead of keeping him as a stock bully, he relates to Peter, saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." It's a beautiful moment played by both parties, and a real sign above all else that this script cares about character just as much, if not more, than the action.
8. The use of Norman Osborne, as a presence in the movie but not a physical person, was inspired. It's Osborne's persistence in gaining this formula from Conners that pretty much sets up the events of the story. Furthermore, it's just as brilliant having Osborne in the background as a dying, desperate man. It would appear that Osborne is being setup as the big villain throughout the trilogy, and this could not have been a better way to establish him in this universe.
9. Peter's a science wiz, and finally, the movies captures Peter's genius status, and it's fantastic to see that brilliance come onscreen. To him developing the all-important equation to altering Oscorp Industries technology to suit his purposes, this is a Peter Parker who is intelligent and thinks everything through. I especially love the webbing Peter constructs in the sewer during his search for The Lizard - pure brilliance. This brings us to...
11. James Horner delivers one amazing score. Ultimately, there are instances where I can't help but get a sort of Titanic vibe, but this wouldn't be the first time a veteran of the music industry tends to repeat themselves (here, I'm thinking specifically of John Williams, although I love that man, don't get me wrong, a lot of his later scores are very similar). Here Horner captures just the right amount of everything - the teen angst, the fun and dark side of discovering power, big battle scenes, and most importantly, what it means to be a hero. All of that is in the score, and I couldn't be happier.
13. The dinner scene with Peter and the Stacey family is, perhaps, the most important scene in the movie, and the one that firmly births Spider-Man, the "hero New York needs right now" [like it? I coined it from The Dark Knight ending monologue. Yep, brilliance, brilliance!]. Captain Stacey comments that Spider-Man's actions have all been directed towards a specific type of individual, that his motives aren't pure but driven by a state of revenge or desire, not justice. It's these comments that inspire Spider-Man, where everything clicks in his head and the pursuit of Ben's murderer takes the back burner and his mission as Spider-Man begins.
14. Speaking of dialogue, I have absolutely no qualms about the famous line "with great power, comes great responsibility" being dropped from the reboot, and I quite like the replacement speech Ben gives in its stead. Here it is, in full, I believe: "Your father lived by a philosophy, a principle really. He believed that if you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things. That’s what’s at stake here. Not choice, responsibility. " It says all the necessary ingredients, but what I like best is the last line, which really resonates: Peter has no choice, he must be Spider-Man, because he can do those things that others can't. I apologize for geeks who were waiting for the famous line, but it's been so overused that it's exhausted and rather, dare I say, annoying. So kudos to the writers for inventing this.
15. Amazing Spider-Man does for Peter Parker what Batman Begins did for Bruce Wayne - we came to intimately care about the character and his journey, instead of just waiting impatiently for them to don the costume and mask and get to some crime fightin' ass kickin'. When Peter becomes Spider-Man, it's spectacular cinema to watch, but those forty-minutes of establishing the character of Peter Parker - who he is, what he stands for, his personality, his loss, his brilliance, his crushes, etc. - make the rest of the movie so much more important. And this is a lesson I hope is followed in 2013's Man of Steel, I need to fall in love with Superman, because as it stands, I'd rather just rewatch an episode of Smallville instead. But enough of that, this is Character Building 101, and although all this should seem obvious, it's not followed as often as one would think.
16. Just a fun one: these 20+ year old actors were convincing high school students. Not a single second of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst had me thinking, hey, these two are high school young. Negatory to that, my friends. But this....yeah, this is how it's done. Kudos to Garfield and Stone - again.
18. Stacey's Final Words are heartbreaking - and yet, from a writing standpoint, creatively genius. Instead of Peter becoming mopey and realizing that the people he love will always be a target to those who want to destroy him, the dying man of the girl he loves and who he respects gives his (nonverbal) approval of his actions but requests the one impossible thing: leave Gwen out of this. And naturally, this leads to one hell of an emotional scene with Gwen and Peter in the rain, where every beautifully written word is fantastically delivered.
19. Spider-Man's sass is back! One of the trademark elements of Spider-Man's character is his inability to shut up in the face of bad guys and spout off hilarious wise cracks at often inappropriate times. There's tons of that, and I love the movie for that. Unfortunately, a bit of that attitude is already featured in Peter, so when Spidey gives fun commentary to, say, the car thief, it's not all too surprising because we expect it from Peter, but it's the level of fun that makes it all grin-worthy fun. Spidey's journey is that of responsibility, yeah, but at least the kid's having fun while doing it.
20. The Stan Lee cameo! Great use of a comic legend.
21. Peter saving the kid on the bridge. The mask. The relating from one person to another. The saving. The heroism. If someone watches this movie and fails to recognize their Spider-Man, there is no other scene that best captures the Web Slinger and his code and personality than this. Naysayers have my full permission (you're welcome) to diss the first forty minutes of character development, or the actors, or the special effects, or whatever you want, but this scene where Peter and the young boy talk is nothing short of perfect and inspired. This is Spider-Man, and he's here to stay.
22. The Raimi Trilogy was all about 'how do we bring this comic book to life?', and the Untold Story Trilogy is all about 'who is Peter Parker and who is he as Spider-Man?' The importance of the writers and team behind the new Spider-Man films concentrating their efforts on characters cannot be overstated. One trilogy brought a comic book to the big screen, this trilogy is bringing characters and choices to the big screen, and for that, Webb and James Vanderbilt deserve an enormous amount of handshaking and accolades. Whatever problems that come with The Amazing Spider-Man (of which there are) or whatever direction the next two movies take, this movie has so much right: it's about the characters.
Although, someone in the marketing department should be faulted for showing snippets of the (rather lameish) mid-credit sequence in the trailer. Disappointment.
I do have some problems with some parts of the movie, but my pleasure watching the movie outweighs its faults, so I won't dwell on them as much. But I do wish Sony and Webb hadn't exercised the Untold Story part of the narrative - the big selling point of this financial gamble. It's not entirely gone, there are story elements and shots that allude to the (probable) story that were left on the cutting room floor. Wherever Peter's story may go, I hope the same creative team - director, writers and all - are able to realize that singular vision. Because right now Spider-Man is in fantastic hands, and it'd be a pity for this franchise to follow the same pattern as, say, the Daniel Craig James Bond: extraordinarily brilliant first film and piece of rotten garbage second outing.
Anyway, 2014, get your ass over here pronto!