“The Amazing Spider-Man” is such a deceitful title. There is nothing amazing about the film, and there isn’t even that much “Spider-Man.” Even when Spider-Man is there, he doesn’t do anything particularly spectacular. Ultimately, the only part that’s true is the use of the word “the,” but because it’s prefacing such a big lie, you can’t give it a ton of credit. Basically what I’m saying is that if you need a Spider-Man movie, you’re much better off watching Sam Raimi‘s trilogy again. Yes, even the much-maligned third installment.
The issues started when Sony decided that Sam Raimi was too creative a person to be allowed to helm a fourth Spider-Man film. There was notorious studio interference with Spider-Man 3, and since the studio wasn’t going to let him off the leash, Raimi was done with the franchise. Instead of a fourth movie set in the same universe, a reboot was planned, in large part because if a Spider-Man film wasn’t made in short order, Sony would lose the rights to the property. That explains why we have a reboot and a rushed product.
Why, though, is the finished product as bad as it is? Part of the blame has to fall to new director Marc Webb, whose only feature-length directorial outing prior to The Amazing Spider-Man was (500) Days of Summer, which struck a chord with audiences for reasons I’ll probably never understand. Prior to that film, Webb had worked almost exclusively in music videos. Sony apparently trusted him to helm this film, although there’s a good chance he was chosen because he doesn’t have any creativity that needs to be stifled; in other words, he can be controlled (due to a lack of desire to possess artistic freedom).
Webb’s specialty, based solely on his two features, is in relationships. He likes the awkward romance that comes from being a young adult or teenager, and he feels that this resonates with audiences. Everyone can remember awkwardly trying to gather the courage to ask out a crush or, at least, he assumes so. As a result, what feels like half of The Amazing Spider-Man is devoted to Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) being awkward around high school classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
How about that Spider-Man guy? Well, as most of you will know, he’s Peter Parker’s alter-ego. Depending on the origin story, Parker gets spider-like powers in any number of different ways. However, he always gets them. He then dons the famous red costume and goes off to fight crime. The initial target in Raimi’s first film was the man who (unnecessary spoiler alert) kills Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen in this film), the only true father-figure in Peter’s life, after he inadvertently sends the murderer Ben’s way.
The Amazing Spider-Man is an awful film. It’s far worse than Spider-Man 3.
That’s true in this film, too, until the half-way point. Well, it’s not exactly true, as the man who kills Uncle Ben is handled so poorly that you can pretty much absolve Peter of all blame, but the personal vendetta remains. And then it gets dropped, seemingly for no reason. Up until this point, the only thing Spider-Man had done was hunt down bad guys hoping to find the man who killed his uncle, and then it’s forgotten about at the drop of a hat.
The reason it’s dropped is that a newer, bigger bad guy has shown up, and Spider-Man feels that it’s his duty to stop him. The villain comes in the form of Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans), who transforms himself into a giant lizard while attempting to figure out a way for cross-species gene splicing to allow humans to regrow cells on their own. He, missing an arm for the longest time, has a personal investment in the project. Why he suddenly becomes evil and determined to turn everyone into a giant lizard is beyond comprehension; the film doesn’t care, as all it needed was someone to root against.
I already had that character—the one I wanted to root against—although calling the entire film a “character” might be a bit too kind, considering it’s so tonally inconsistent, poorly made and just plain dull that it’s not really fitting of the title. It’s not worthy of anything, really, except dismissal. Even Spider-Man/Parker, our central character, has no idea what he’s doing. In some scenes, he’s awkward, while in most others, he’s a cocky punk. His personality is in favor of whatever the script requires from him at any given moment.
You feel bad for the actors having to slog their way through this awful screenplay. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have such little chemistry that it’s a wonder they managed to make it through the production without both dying of boredom. They don’t get to do anything exciting—either alone or together. Even the action scenes, most of which involve Spider-Man fighting one of the worst CGI monstrosities in recent film history, are so uninspired that it quickly becomes clear that Marc Webb is either terrible at action or overwhelmed by the production (or both).
The Amazing Spider-Man is an awful film. It’s far worse than Spider-Man 3, if that’s the bar we’re using to determine a Spider-Man film’s (lack of) quality. Any good it does is ruined by the tedium and boredom, the lack of any originality, the terrible chemistry between the love interests who get far too much time attempting to get us to believe that they’ve got a budding relationship, the CGI lizard, or the script that drops potentially interesting or important plot points without any reason. This is a terrible movie—about Spider-Man or otherwise.
Conclusion: The Amazing Spider-Man is a really bad movie.
Recommendation: Just go re-watch the Raimi movies.