Before Sony turned to Marvel Studios to revitalize the Spider-Man franchise, the studio tried rebooting on its own. Sony was originally developing a fourth movie with Raimi, who eventually dropped out, putting an end to that version of Spider-Man.
The short-lived reboot series kicked off with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012. Right off the bat, it’s clear that this take on Spider-Man is darker, more contemporary and more realistic than Raimi’s version. The Batman Begins influence is obvious, all the way down to the extensive focus on the origin (again). While I originally wasn’t big on the idea of retelling the origin story step by step again, Amazing Spider-Man does an OK job making this version somewhat different from the 2002 film’s. That being said, I really like some of the specific differences in retelling the classic story, such as his building web shooters and learning how to swing,.
Marc Webb does a really good job directing The Amazing Spider-Man. While Raimi’s directorial style was on a large and epic scale, Webb’s is much more down-to-earth. The cinematography is beautiful, the CGI is excellent, and James Horner’s score is good, with the most memorable track being “Saving New York.”
One of the things that initially received plenty of backlash was the changed Spider-Man costume. Personally, I think the suit looks great in The Amazing Spider-Man. While Tobey Maguire’s Spidey suit was flashier and bulkier, Andrew Garfield’s costume is more realistic and thinner. I also admire the decision to create a costume that was very different from what came before. The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s suit was much closer to Maguire’s, adding new eyes and a few minor tweaks. While that costume looked pretty cool, I have to give props to its predecessor for its more original approach.
The acting in this film is really good. Andrew Garfield is phenomenal as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I still think Tobey Maguire was a terrific Peter Parker, and I even loved his Spider-Man. Here, Garfield is great in both roles. His Parker isn’t as awkward as Maguire’s; instead, there’s more of a “cool” factor to it. Nevertheless, Garfield gives it his all, especially in the suit. In fact, many scenes of his Spidey are exactly what I’d imagine a live action Spider-Man to be like (the “someone’s been a bad lizard” line was priceless).
As for the rest of the cast, Emma Stone is excellent as Gwen Stacy, and her chemistry with Garfield is the highlight of the entire series. Rhys Ifans turns in a very good performance as Dr. Curt Connors/Lizard. While his motives as a villain are rather cliche, I’ve always wanted to see Lizard on the big screen, and seeing him battle Spider-Man was pretty awesome. Dennis Leary and Martin Sheen are both great as Captain George Stacy and Uncle Ben, respectively. Sally Field is pretty good as Aunt May. And Stan “The Man” Lee delivers what is possibly his greatest Marvel cameo yet in one of the film’s most memorable scenes.
As for flaws, I’d like to mention a few in this movie. The script definitely wasn’t perfect, as it randomly dropped a crucial subplot in the form of Peter searching for his uncle’s killer. Also, why did Spider-Man leave the bridge after saving that little boy, but not anyone else who could be in those cars hanging? And let’s not forget the “Untold Story” plot about Peter’s parents. While this helped the Amazing franchise stand out from Raimi’s trilogy, its execution was underwhelming, and the series’ premature conclusion doesn’t do this particular subplot any favors.
Now for the big question: Is The Amazing Spider-Man better than the original Spider-Man? In my opinion, no. Those who have wanted to see a wise-cracking, more comic book oriented Spidey on the big screen will probably like it. However, the changes to the origin story understandably alienated many comic book fans. I still prefer the way Spider-Man told the origin story over Amazing, which goes over a lot of the themes and plot points of the first film, and that’s one of the bigger flaws here. It didn’t do a terrible job retelling the story, not at all; besides a few changes, it doesn’t really add anything fresh or unique to the Spider-Man mythos.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is a good, but not great movie. While boasting some amazing (pun intended) action/visuals and a terrific cast, the story could’ve been better. Webb’s down-to-earth approach could only do so much when rehashing one of the most iconic superhero origins. But when all is said and done, it’s still vastly superior to its 2014 sequel. While it’s a shame that the series will never get a strong conclusion, I’m hyped to see the new Spidey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.