I literally just saw Amazing Spider-Man. Now, before I get into this, I must admit my bias. I am a HUGE Spider-Man geek. I grew up on He-Man, Spider-Man and Transformers, in that order, but only Spidey continued to entertain me through the ages. Seriously, I have Spider-Man shower curtains, a Spider-Man soap dish, bath mat, liquid soap dispenser, and a lot of comics. Also, I adored the various TV series and the live action movies. Yes, I even thought Spider-Man 3 was good. But what about this one?
For starters, I have to agree with the casting choices. Sally Field as Aunt May is the weakest link, but even she does alright (though to be fair, the only really off-putting thing about her is that Aunt May HAS to have white hair, damn it!) Rhys Ifans is sublime as Dr Curt Conners, Emma Stone is great as always, and Denis Leary’s Captain George Stacy is infinitely less annoying than normal (almost likable, even). As for the other re-cast roles, Andrew Garfield is a moody yet funny and likable Peter Parker and Martin Sheen is the definitive Uncle Ben Parker. Oh, and Flash Thompson is a much more real character this time, becoming sympathetic at the end, rather than being the stereotypical pure evil bully he is in most Spider-Man adaptations. So, all of the recast actors except maybe Sally Fields did better than their predecessors.
There are other changes to the origin from the first movie, almost all for the better. The return to web shooters is done believably (he didn’t design the webbing, but rather reproduced something that OsCorp designed and made launchers for the webbing, which is infinitely more believable than “high school student creates super strong webbing” and is cooler than “organic webshooters”). We see a lot more “awkwardness” related to Peter’s new powers, which was a great touch. There is no utterance of the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” but something similar is said by Uncle Ben, and that lesson is simply told much better here. In fact, I prefer this version of Uncle Ben’s death to any other. Here, Peter leaves after an argument, tries to buy something from a store clerk who’s a real asshole, and lets the guy get robbed. Then, the robber runs into Uncle Ben (who was out looking for Peter) and when Uncle Ben tries to stop him, he gets shot. In Spidey’s original origin, Peter was plainly a dick, but here, he acts more sympathetically and it works more for the central theme of responsibility as Peter was more directly responsible for Ben’s death and Ben died trying to uphold his ideals. I almost wish this was retconned as the official story, since not only is it awesome but it eliminates the “pro-wrestling is actually real” aspect of the origin story. Furthermore, Spidey’s vigilantism is directly started by a search for this robber, and Peter’s work on with Dr. Conners ends up creating the Lizard, so almost every heroic act from Spidey comes from a sense of responsibility. It all flows perfectly.
However, there are a few, well, plot issues. For one, Peter Parker in this movie is the single worst person when it comes to hiding his identity. This actually would have been somewhat excusable if they actually set this in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as they almost did. After all, in a universe where Captain America is a celebrity, Iron Man regularly flies around New York, Thor battles giant mechas and the Hulk goes on semi-regular rampages, seeing some kid crawl on a subway compartment roof, dent a football goalpost by throwing a football at it or making a backboard-shattering slam dunk from the three point line would be less memorable. Also, in such a universe, any witnesses would just assume it was yet another superhero, but who knows which one? In a universe with only one super-hero, any of the many super-human things Peter does out of costume and in front of a crowd would give him away. Now, I could almost let that one go if a) he kept his damn mask on more often when he was in costume and b) that was the only plot issue. Another one is that Peter and Gwen kiss just after Spidey swam through sewage, and another is that he stupidly puts “Property of Peter Parker” on all his cameras, leading to his school being trashed by the Lizard. But perhaps the worst one is in this scene. Yes, it’s a brilliant scene and all, but how the fuck did Spider-Man get into the car? We see a completely unrelated scene, then the driver parks the car, the thief breaks into it, and BOOM! Spidey’s in the backseat. Did he know a guy would try to steal that exact car? Did he try this before? And what was with the jump cut in the scene? GAH!
Aside from that, there’s the fact that this movie is, essentially, a remake with some changed details. It does cover why Peter is living with his aunt and uncle, yes, and there’s another love interest and a different villain, but listen to my reasoning. Aside from the things I pointed out already, the origin story is identical to the first Raimi movie. An OsCorp genetically enhanced spider bites Peter, he finds out he has powers, he uses those powers to dick around in New York and get revenge on Flash Thompson. Then his uncle dies and he goes around fighting crime. Then, there’s the fact that the villain, while being different, is actually exactly the same as the Green Goblin. He’s a scientist who has mental issues (obsession with regaining his arm and wiping out weakness in this movie, megalomania in the first) who is a mentor to Peter. He is partly responsible for the spider bite that gives Peter his powers (Connors helped design the spider in this movie, Osborne did in the first). He takes an experimental serum because his project is about to be shut down (Connors’ project was shut down by Osborn’s assistant when he refused to test on humans, OsCorp’s board of directors shut down Osborn) and becomes a super powered monster with a green colour scheme and voices in his head (there’s a scene in the sewer with Connors talking to the Lizard that’s eerily reminiscent of the scenes where Norman Osborn talks to himself). Eventually, they discover Spider-Man’s secret identity (the Lizard via a camera that was labeled “Property of Peter Parker”, the Green Goblin via an injury he gave Spidey that was also on Peter) and threaten the lives of Peter’s best friend and love interest (Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson in the first movie, in this one, they were the same person, Gwen Stacy). The movie ends with a Peter’s best friend’s father’s funeral (Captain George Stacy here, Norman Osborn in the first) and with Peter breaking up with his love interest for her safety (Gwen Stacy in this one, Mary Jane Watson in the first). The only difference is a scene at the end of this one that hints at Peter and Gwen getting back together. Of course, this in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but some people are opposed to remakes, especially so soon after the original, so I had to point it out.
All told, this movie’s quality makes it better than any other Spider-Man movie, barely. There are flaws, but literally everything else is perfect. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the various plot issues, this would get a 10/10, but as it is, it’s an 8/10.
Oh, if you do go see it, stick around after the credits. If you also saw this on opening night and missed the after credits scene, here you go.