The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Marc Webb

Andrew Garfield - Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Emma Stone - Gwen Stacy
Rhys Ifans - Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard
Denis Leary - Captain George Stacy
Martin Sheen - Ben Parker
Sally Field - May Parker
Irrfan Khan - Rajit Ratha
Chris Zylka - Eugene 'Flash' Thompson
Campbell Scott - Richard Parker
Embeth Davidtz - Mary Parker
C. Thomas Howell - Jack's Father

Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Comic Books

Running Time - 133 Minutes

At a young age, Peter Parker's parents leave him in the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) after someone breaks into Peter's dad's office. Years later, Peter (Andrew Garfield) is in high school and his parents are believed to be dead. This creates angst and bitterness to boil within Peter, as he doesn't understand why his parents would abandon him. He also has to deal with being called a nerd [due to his high level of intelligence, especially in math and science] and is constantly bullied in school by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka), one of the school's popular jocks. However, Peter has an admirer in fellow classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who Peter has feelings for as well.

One day after school, Peter finds a satchel that belonged to his father with secret documents hidden inside a compartment. The documents reveal a special equation for an unfinished formula that Peter's father was working on with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), an one-armed scientist at Oscorp who is an expert on cross-species genetics. Connors also happens to be Gwen's boss as well. Wanting to know more about the documents, Peter sneaks into Connor's lab during an internship orientation. He finds a chamber of genetically-engineered spiders, with one biting him on the back of his neck.

Peter soon discovers that the spider has given him superhuman abilities, like heightened senses, better agility, and super strength. Struggling with his powers and feeling his personal life is crashing around him, he gets into it with Uncle Ben and runs away. As Uncle Ben searches for him, a robber that Peter encountered at a corner store fatally shoots him. Feeling guilty, Peter creates a disguise and begins hunting down the robber. Never finding him, Peter decides to teach all criminals a lesson, gaining notoriety in the press which catches the attention of Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary). Feeling he can do what the police could not, Peter creates a costume resembling a spider, along with wristbands that will shoot synthetic webs - becoming Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Peter gains the respect of Dr. Connors by finishing the formula Connors had started with Peter's father - a formula that would regenerate cells like those of a lizard. Feeling pressure from Oscorp, Connors decides to inject the formula into his amputated arm. While the arm regenerates to his delight, Connors also becomes a lizard-like monster. Realizing that Peter is Spider-Man, The Lizard attempts to stop him before he could turn the entire city of New York into a lizard lounge.



- The retelling of the origin. It took me a while to review THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for a number of reasons. One, plans to watch it sometime during the week fell through. Two, so many other people were talking and reviewing it - so I wanted to stay quiet until talk died down a bit. And three, I just wasn't all that excited about it. After all, this franchise started quite strongly in 2002 due to Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire giving life to the character, followed by two sequels that ended up at the opposite ends of the quality spectrum [2 was fantastic, 3 was meh]. SPIDER-MAN 3 was released in 2007, so I felt it was too soon for a reboot five years later. But after watching the Raimi films, I realized that the story told in those films was pretty much done, so Sony Pictures and Marvel had no choice but to restart the franchise. Plus, the trailers looked pretty good and I decided to give the film a shot. After all, Warner Brothers and DC Comics rebooted Batman brilliantly with BATMAN BEGINS [eight years after 1997's BATMAN & ROBIN]. So why couldn't Marvel do that with Spider-Man?

And while the origin story being redone didn't really engage me into watching this new version of Spider-Man on the big screen, at least THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN presents it well. Sure, it's a bit of 'been there-done that' [BATMAN BEGINS was praised because Batman never really had a full origin story done on film], but it accomplishes what it needs to do and sets up what's coming in the next two sequels well. Everything that needs to be in a Spider-Man origin story is in place - Uncle Ben getting killed due to Peter's carelessness, Peter getting bit by a genetically engineered spider, Peter trying out his powers for the first time, the making of the costume, dealing with Flash Thompson and high school, and falling for Gwen Stacy [and vice versa]. But in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the origin is done in a more realistic, and darker way. And I liked that, to be honest, as it's a different interpretation and gives the characters and the story an edge that separates it from the original trilogy.

I felt the origin here was definitely more faithful to the comics than the Raimi origin was. We finally get web-shooters. Gwen Stacy is the first love interest, not Mary Jane Watson. And The Lizard was one of Spider-Man's earlier villains, even before Green Goblin. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN explores the origin in more detail, which probably wasn't needed but I didn't mind it too much. I especially liked the Uncle Ben/Peter dynamic [an improvement over the original films, which made Ben's death more powerful here]. Peter's need for vengeance against Uncle Ben's killer felt more real to me because the two characters spend a lot of time together before the incident happens. I also liked the mystery as to what happened to Peter's parents, which has been touched upon in the comics [especially during the 1990s]. This sets up the entire trilogy, which is great because at least there's a foundation for what's to come. The love story had proper build [even if there wasn't enough drama to it] and Peter's guilt about Connors turning into The Lizard made sense, due to Peter constantly feeling guilt about his parents leaving him and his Uncle Ben getting killed.

Honestly, I liked the origin retelling more than I thought I would. Was it necessary? No. I'm sure you could have started this film with Spider-Man already in costume in the first shot and people wouldn't have cared, since the origin has long been established. But the screenwriters turn it into an interesting character study of Peter Parker in a way, letting the audience sympathetic with him during his trials and missteps as a costumed crime-fighter. Peter matures from a conflicted young man into a strong and confident hero, which is the right way to go. I felt everything before Peter actually becomes Spider-Man was very strong and more interesting than what came after it, even though the last half of the film wasn't terrible.

- The acting. The best part about THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, without a doubt, is the acting by a very good cast. Andrew Garfield, who's probably best known to many for his portrayal of Eduardo Saverin in 2010's THE SOCIAL NETWORK, does a fantastic job as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Without Garfield, this film would collapse on its own ambition. While Tobey Maguire played the character very nerdy and sensitive, Garfield gives the character an edge. Garfield handles the dramatic moments more believably than Maguire ever did, making me feel for his pain and frustration more than the Raimi films ever could. His one-liners are delivered well [I wish they were funnier though]. He also has great chemistry with everyone in the cast, as he's charismatic and a presence on screen. He may be a bit too handsome to play the role, but Garfield takes it and never looks back. I really liked him more than I thought I would in the role. I look forward to seeing him grow more confident as Parker/Spider-Man in the sequel.

Emma Stone is also fantastic as Gwen Stacy. She plays the girl-next-door quite nicely, while maintaining a strong sense of independence that makes her character likeable. Stone never plays Gwen for weak, displaying a lot of depth for the stereotypical superhero's girlfriend role by giving Gwen spunk and intelligence. Stone also has explosive chemistry with Garfield, which doesn't surprise me since they're dating in real life, helping their love story angle a whole lot. Stone is a great actress and really erases any memory of how Gwen Stacy was portrayed in SPIDER-MAN 3 by doing the character justice. It's nice to see a female love interest portrayed as a human being rather than an object.

Rhys Ifans does well as Curt Connors. He brought a bit of class to the film and did what he could to flesh out an underwritten character. The split personality deal was a bit too 'Green Goblin' for my tastes at times, which reminded me how much better that villain was, but Ifans did his best with what he was given. Martin Sheen plays a better Uncle Ben than Cliff Robertson, only for the simple fact that he gets more screen time. Sally Field is a feistier Aunt May, but is underutilized unfortunately. Rosemary Harris is still Aunt May to me, though. Denis Leary is great as Captain George Stacy, bringing some dry humor and snarkiness that was much needed in the film. The other actors fit their roles well. I liked the cast a lot here, as you can tell they genuinely cared about the story they were trying to tell.

- The direction. Marc Webb's first foray into a big budget motion picture, after directing a few musical videos and the great 2009's (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, is pretty much a success visually. I didn't see this in 3D, as I heard it wasn't all that great [surprisingly since this film was actually filmed with 3D cameras], but I liked the tone and look of the film. While Raimi had a much brighter and more energetic film, Webb is much bleaker and subtle. Webb's best moments come from the quieter, human moments where the characters are able to explore their relationships with each other, themselves, and the world around them. The first hour definitely defines that, as I felt it was the stronger half of the film.

That's not to say that Webb has no grasp on the action sequences. As a matter of fact, I'm surprised as to how well he managed them. When Spider-Man swings and moves, it's exactly how I feel Spider-Man should swing and move. I thought Webb did the costumed character more justice than what Raimi had managed to do in three films. I also loved the first-person POV shots as Spider-Man swung through the city, plus some vertigo shots that are great during the final act. The highlight of the action happens when The Lizard invades Peter's school to attack him when he's least expecting it. It felt like it came out right from the comics, truly feeling like a real Spider-Man moment. I also loved the scene where Gwen is hiding from The Lizard in Oscorp, actually managing tension.

The picture looks nice and the pacing is pretty good as well. The editing had its off moments, especially when the CGI effects would lead into real-life action, but it was fine. Webb did a good job on his first blockbuster film and I hope he continues with the second film. I'm sure it'll be better now that he's more comfortable directing a film of this stature.

- The chemistry between Garfield and Stone. Let me just get it out of the way: the way Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy get together for their love story is pretty weak. They're already attracted to each other, with barely any drama. Not even being together for much time, Peter easily tells Gwen that he's Spider-Man. Gwen, surprisingly, takes it really well and actually doesn't find it strange. At least it took two films in the original Raimi films for Mary Jane to sort of realize that Peter was Spider-Man, although she pretty much figures it out by the end of the first one without saying so. The whole thing just felt way too easy and way too convenient, now that I think about it.

However, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have such powerful chemistry with each other that you don't really care about the flaws in the love story. You want these two to be together because they heat up the screen with their cute interactions and magnetic appeal for each other. You can just tell the two actors really like each other just through their body language and the way they interact. I never really felt that with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst [especially in SPIDER-MAN 2 and definitely in SPIDER-MAN 3]. Garfield and Stone's attraction for each other gives their love story depth and bite. Plus they both played characters I could imagine meeting in real life, as they were three-dimensional. You believe these two kids want to be together, so you don't really care how they get there. That's some great acting because if the two actors had forced this angle, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN would have been a total failure.

- CGI for Spider-Man. I thought the CGI was a mixed bag. But when Spider-Man was involved, I liked it. With Garfield actually doing mannerisms that resembled how a spider would move, the CGI helped it along during the action sequences. I thought the CGI for the character resembled the effects from SPIDER-MAN 3, looking pretty realistic and not so much as a cartoon like 2002's SPIDER-MAN. Practical effects are a hard sell for a film like this, so I'm glad the computer generated effects did the character justice.

- Stan Lee cameo. Probably his best one and pretty damn funny to boot. 'Nuff said.

- The Lizard in general. I really hate putting The Lizard on the negative side of the review, because he's one of my favorite Spider-Man villains. The Lizard is one of Spider-Man's most classic foes and has a pretty simple backstory. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN gives him a good backstory and how Curt Connors evolves into The Lizard is more than fine. Connors never comes across as evil until his metamorphosis takes shape. He also has lizards helping him, which is also a great nod to the comics and the 90s FOX cartoon [The Lizard was actually the villain in the pilot episode]. I thought The Lizard would be the perfect first villain for a new SPIDER-MAN franchise.

Unfortunately, I ended up being disappointed with how he was portrayed. Not that The Lizard was a terrible villain. He was alright. But he's just not that interesting and doesn't really add a whole lot to the main story other than being a typical villain for a superhero movie. The Lizard has a split personality with Curt Connors, which reminded me of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin [couldn't help but compare the two], but you never really saw it enough to become invested. Also, I like the idea of The Lizard wanting to create an army of mutated lizard-men like himself. But the angle never goes anywhere and I forgot about it until I saw the resolution for it. Plus, he doesn't get a whole lot of screen time to be honest. I felt more tension between Spidey and Captain Stacy more than I did between Spidey and The Lizard.

Plus, the CGI was okay at best for the character. I understand that practical effects would have looked worse, most likely, but The Lizard looked like he could have been in a SyFy Channel movie and not look out of place. It wasn't all that special really.

Like I said, I liked the choice of the villain. But I think more focus on The Lizard would have benefited the film greatly.

- The score. James Horner is a great film composer. He's done so much great stuff on TITANIC, ALIENS, FIELD OF DREAMS, and a couple of the earlier STAR TREK films. The man has a great body of work. Unfortunately, he's no Danny Elfman.

I think a lot of the reason why I felt a disconnect with THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is due to Horner's score on the film. For a film that demanded dramatic cues and an edgier soundtrack, Horner's score was too subtle and quiet. And in a lot of scenes, I felt like the music didn't really match up to what I was watching, making me feel as if something was off. When I watch an action scene, I expect music that will be dramatic and energetic to enhance the visuals. Instead, all I got was muted music that belonged to some scene where a character would feel some sort of emotional connection to something or someone. How do those two things match? It was so odd. It was too soothing to get anyone into the scene. This isn't a romance movie like TITANIC. This if freakin' THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. This film needed some strong composition to match up with the strong visuals.

It also didn't help that I heard cues from STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN without a single note being changed. That's just lazy, dude. It also made me wish I was watching that movie instead of this one on the big screen. James Horner has natural talent for this and should have done a better job than he did. I think his soundtrack ruined any feelings of excitement that I had for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I just couldn't get into it and I believe this is why.

- Certain subplots. I thought the screenplay handled well what it needed to accomplish. However, I felt certain subplots were either rushed, or just ignored without any sort of resolution. While the mystery of Peter Parker's parents is the foundation of this new trilogy, it seems, I felt the film could have used more moments between the three of them. We don't really know the extent of their relationship or how close they were. They are glimpses shown, but I felt more could have been done. I hear a lot of those scenes were actually cut from the film, making me wonder how much of a focus Peter's parents had in earlier plans of the movie. I guess we'll find out more in later sequels.

The issue with the robber who murdered Uncle Ben also was a bit off to me. Peter was so hell bent on capturing this guy and beating the crap out of him, that he interrupted any crime that was occurring, just to see if this specific robber was involved. And while this subplot lasted a little over ten minutes, there really was no resolution for it. The guy never gets caught and Peter never gets justice for what this man did to his beloved uncle. I guess one could say that Peter realized that this sort of vengeance was wrong and needed to use his powers in a much better way, which is why he adopts the Spider-Man identity full time. But part of the Spider-Man mythos is Peter finding his uncle's murderer and realizing what his careless and selfish actions had led to. "With great power comes great responsibility." By the way, that very quote is never used in the film [it's said in a much different way with less impact] and the robber gets away with his crime. Huh?

I also had issues with how Aunt May was used. Instead of being Peter's moral compass, she didn't do much of anything once Uncle Ben was murdered. She scolded Peter and watched the news, worried about things. That's it. Even when Peter would come home every time with bruises and cuts, she looked concerned but didn't really dwell on it. Maybe in this trilogy, she realizes that Peter may be Spider-Man. I don't know. But it just seemed weird. At least have Aunt May offer to take Peter to the hospital or something.

Also, what happened to Rajit Ratha, one of Norman Osborn's suits? He had the regenerative serum [which was meant to cure Norman Osborn of some illness supposedly], planning to go to a Veteran's Hospital to test it out on amputees. But The Lizard stops him before he could do that. However, Ratha is never seen again. Obviously, he didn't go to the hospital since no one else turned into giant lizards. Maybe he gave the dose to Norman Osborn? It wasn't really clear.

Also, The Lizard's plan to turn people into lizards like him went absolutely nowhere. He turns several cops into lizards, and I'm thinking they'll be his army or something. But it never happens and only appear again when the effects where off. So what's the point then? It's cool that The Lizard's plan would have worked if Spider-Man and the Stacys didn't stop him. But why tease us like that and not go anywhere with it? It felt like an afterthought.

Obviously, there were a lot of ideas in the script that never got fleshed out for whatever reason.


Man, I really wanted to like THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN more than I did. Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero since I can remember and I will watch, read, and support anything related to the character. And while THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was a big improvement over SPIDER-MAN 3, it lacked the fun factor of SPIDER-MAN and the overall epicness of SPIDER-MAN 2. The score, the unfinished story arcs, and a generic villain let this film down. But with great acting [and chemistry between Garfield and Stone], a capable director in Marc Webb, and an origin story that keeps it closer to the source material while giving it a modern touch, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is still a good start and a decent enough foundation for a much better second installment and hopefully a worthy conclusion.

For those who are still against the existence of this film, I do believe a reboot was needed. Did it have to be this soon? That's debatable. The film wasn't as unnecessary than I thought it would be, but it didn't blow me away either. Stuck in between THE AVENGERS and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN got the short straw. Still, I have a feeling it'll lead to some good things in the franchise's future. We'll find out in 2014.

2.5 Howls Outta 4


  1. Good review! For a re-boot, this wasn't that bad...liked the C. Thomas Howell bit.

    1. Yeah I liked the C. Thomas Howell bit with the son as well. That felt like a true Spider-Man moment. And yeah, this film was better than I was expecting. Thanks!

  2. Solid review, Fred. You've tipped me over to watching this on Blu-Ray.

    1. Yeah, this is pretty much a solid rental. Unless you're a big fan, then I'd watch this in theaters. Thanks.

  3. Glad you liked it, we had the same problems with it, The Lizard wasnt memorable enough. That whole thing with the gas that turns people into lizards reminded me too much of the same technique that the Scarecrow uses in Batman Begins with his nightmare gas; another obvious influence over this film.

    1. You know something? I didn't really think about the gas thing resembling BATMAN BEGINS, but you're absolutely right. Unlike BATMAN BEGINS though, the gas subplot in this film went absolutely nowhere. And yeah, I wish more was done with The Lizard. He seemed like an afterthought in this film. It was as if the filmmakers were so concerned with Peter Parker's story and his relationship with Gwen Stacy, that it forgot that it needed a villain to complete the hero arc. It was very odd. As much as I dislike SPIDER-MAN 3, at least the villains had a presence in that film. It's totally missing here. Glad we could agree on this one.

  4. Think you are spot on with your review. I really wanted to like this film a lot more than I did but it didn't hit the sweet spot for me, you pointed out some of the issues I had with the film. The plot seemed kind of scattered, too many thing brought up and never resoloved.

    Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were the best thing about the film, really enjoyed them both and thought Garfield was a better fit. Stone was a tad under used for my taste.


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