I’ll never forget when, ten years ago, the very first Spider-Man movie hit the big screens. Back then, good superhero flicks were the Holy Grail of fanboys everywhere. We all wanted to believe it was possible to make a decent live-action comic book, but had yet to really see it. The original Batman films were good for their day, but even as a kid I was keenly aware of just how corny they were. But then, just when all hope seemed lost, the X-Men movie debuted and was a surprising hit. Not long after, the ads started to roll for a Spider-Man film and instantly I was hooked. My best friend bought me the movie poster to which I immediately hung on the bedroom wall. Teaser trailers appeared online depicting a helicopter caught in a giant web between the World Trade Center towers. (The ad was later pulled after 9/11.) You couldn’t read a Marvel issue without a full page ad of Spidey swinging right at you and seemingly off the page. When the day finally arrived I bolted from school, piled into the car of my only friend with a license, and made haste for the nearest theater.
Now, a decade later, we’re blessed to live in an age where superhero movies have become their own genre. Not a year goes by without at least two or three, and for the most part, they’ve all been very successful. With the exception of the Hulk, that is. Oh well. At least he was badass in the Avengers. Even Batman managed to turn it around with their reboot of the franchise. Yet, of all the great movies we’ve been given over the years, I still feel that the original Spider-Man was my favorite experience. Not just because it revolutionized the industry, but also because it was the first film that truly made me feel like I could be a hero too. So the question is: does the Amazing Spider-Man hold up to the original?
The short answer is yes, absolutely. As comic book movies go, it’s everything you could hope for and more. Although don’t be too surprised if you wind up comparing it to the original every step of the way. Yes, it’s true that the story feels awfully familiar right from the start, and not just because Spider-Man’s origin is common knowledge. It’s mainly in part because the previews didn’t do a great job of portraying it as a complete reboot. The tagline: “The Untold Story” led me to believe that Amazing was going to be a prequel of sorts, touching only briefly on his origins. I mean, we’ve seen that part already, right? With that in mind, I certainly wasn’t expecting his origin to be drawn out through the entire first half of the movie. To me, this is an overused device in filmmaking. When Stan Lee first created these characters, their origin was summed up in the first page of the issue and then hit the ground running. If only that were the case at the box office. At a certain point I always find myself getting impatient. It’s like: “C’mon already, get bit by the spider. Is Uncle Ben dead yet? Let’s get this show on the road.”
That being said, I have to admit that everything else was a pure delight. Andrew Garfield’s performance is spot on for both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. As Peter, he’s the lovable misfit we all felt like in our younger years. Yet as Spider-Man, he’s as confident and compassionate as well all strive to be. Not to mention that unlike Tobey Maguire, this Spidey is downright funny, just the way he should be. Hell, Amazing Spider-Man has more jokes in the trailer than the original three films combined. With the addition of web-shooters this time around, we actually get to see Peter’s scientific mind in action; a refreshing change of pace.
Additionally, the inclusion of Gwen Stacy as the love interest was not only more accurate to the original story, but also a nice reward for those of us who’ve followed the comics long enough to know who the Stacys are, and let’s face it, Emma Stone isn’t hard to look at for two hours either. But I think my favorite concept was the relationship between Peter and Captain Stacy. There’s nothing worse than the anxiety of meeting your girlfriend’s dad for the first time. Now imagine being the masked vigilante her detective father is publicly trying to apprehend on top of that. As if first impressions aren't hard enough. There's a dinner table scene in particular where the tension between the two gave me horrible flashbacks of my own adolecent dating experiences. Trust me. You've all been there before.
Lastly, I'd like to make mention of how great a choice the Lizard was as the villain. He's a scientist who turns into a giant raging reptile. Our hero is a student with the powers of an arachnid. The symmetry of the two has such a natural flow, and I love the friends/enemies dynamic. Plus, the special effects really bring the Lizard to life in a believable way, and even Dr. Connors' missing limb is convincing rather than a cheap camera trick or an actor with his arm so obviously tucked into his shirt. With Spider-Man, my favorite villains were always the animal themed ones. I know Norman Osborn is the main event, but personally, I'll take the Vulture or Doc Ock any day.
So there it is. If you've found yourself asking: "is it as good as the original?" the answer is yes. As for: "did it need to be rebooted?," well, probably not, but it is a solid film with something for everyone. I won't give anything away, but I will tell you the movie even has some genuine heart. There's a scene towards the end that's particularly touching where some New Yorkers rally to help everyone's favorite wallcrawler in his darkest hour. I'm sure all you True Believers know to stay put during the end credits because, as always, there's a teaser. A brief one at that, but check it out anyway.
To those of you who have already seen the Amazing Spider-Man I hope you liked it as much as I did. Those of you who haven't: what are you still doing reading this? Get to the box office, you slackers!
Jack of all Trade Paperbacks
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