As I expected from reviews, I thought the performances in The Amazing Spider-Man were better than the material. I was a bit burned out on the story after recently rewatching the first three movies on Blu-ray, but I was sucked back in to this reboot due to the casting. The acting keep me involved even when the jumpy script and too many unresolved plot points were annoying me.
The high school life Peter (Andrew Garfield) has to put up with feels a lot more modern, young, and real than in the previous films. It’s disturbingly uncomfortable, but since I prefer seeing teen superheroes to adults, it helps the setting and plausibility for me. I adore Emma Stone, and I was glad to see her as Gwen Stacy. Sally Field seems too young to me to be Aunt May (I know it probably works chronologically, but I always think of a near-invalid aunt), but Martin Sheen is perfect as Uncle Ben.
Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May
Unfortunately, I had to sit through the prologue establishing Peter’s parents as some kind of secret agent scientists. It’s natural that an abandoned kid would wonder about his family, but it’s out of keeping with the motivation and appeal of the character I know. On the other hand, the spider bite scene is much creepier and disturbing than previously, with multiple creatures involved and the lighting of a horror movie.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) discovers his abilities
Mostly, I liked the way that so many of Peter’s discoveries happened around other people, from the fight on the subway car to his return home to him teasing former tormentor Flash with the basketball. There’s also an enjoyable sense of playfulness, carried by Sheen and Garfield’s good humor, charm, and way with a joke. Garfield’s also much more naturally physical, it seems, as when he skips down the hall after a positive conversation with Stone.
Typical of modern blockbusters, this movie’s too long. It runs over two hours and fifteen minutes, and we don’t see a costume until almost an hour in. When we get there, though, we have the classic, wisecracking Spider-Man that’s my favorite part of the character. And I appreciated the more frequent use of practical effects over the artificial-looking, overly slick CGI of the previous films when it came to Spider-Man-ing. This movie is grungier, which makes it more faithful to the original urban lower-class superhero. (Also honored in the help he gets from a construction worker; great to see C. Thomas Howell again.)
Then there’s the Lizard (Dr. Connors, played by Rhys Ifans). I like the idea of the character, since he’s a villain with more depth than usual, and a good deal of angst (much like Man-Bat), but the portrayal is underserved here. There’s too much going on in the movie to give the character the depth or screentime needed. Also, I would prefer a more reptilian face on the monster, less “Creature from the Black Lagoon” amphibian. Bless Denis Leary, though, for his wry performance as Captain Stacy, police leader and Gwen’s dad. The scene where he’s coping with reports of a “dinosaur” in the city streets is hilarious.
Denis Leary as Captain Stacy
It’s clear that those behind the film are fans, with key moments, such as Spidey’s upside-down, bent-leg descent into the sewer tunnels, paying homage to the source comics. Yet while there were entertaining bits, it never all comes together into a cohesive single movie. As the start of a franchise, though, well, that’s likely closer to what’s intended. There are too many neat concepts that aren’t given enough space — or simply forgotten, such as the mystery of Peter’s parents that starts the movie. I expect to see them revisited in the upcoming second film.
It’s because of Andrew Garfield’s performance — alternately tortured, cute, and playful — and his interaction with Gwen that I’m glad I got a chance to see this movie. Scenes focusing on them were by far my favorite. I even had a “clapping and cheering” moment when she got to show how feisty she could be when it came to the Lizard. It’s due to them that I’m glad I have a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man.
The Blu-ray combo pack comes with two Blu-ray discs — one for the movie and commentary, one for special features — a DVD, a code for an UltraViolet copy, a code for a video game extra, and my favorite, a recipe for Skippy spidery peanut butter cookies. (You make the legs out of pretzel pieces, although I would think chow mein noodles would work just as well.) More movies should come with recipe tie-ins.
There’s a nifty-sounding Second Screen app that you can use with your iPad or Sony tablet. Unfortunately, after a half-hour of finding the app, downloading it, resetting the Blu-ray, and then trying to convince the app that there really was a Blu-ray player on the same network with it, I could never get it to work. If it does decide to play nice and sync, though, it’s supposedly got a “sling” function that lets you move the content back and forth between the tablet and TV. For me, it was useless.
Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield
The commentary, which I did not have a chance to listen to, is by director Marc Webb and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach. It’s also available on the DVD. The second special feature Blu-ray disc contains the following:
- Rise of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn — This is the major featurette, a behind-the-scenes piece broken into seven segments covering such subjects as development, casting, costumes, and production locations. They can be played in chapters or all at once, for a total of an hour and fifty minutes of material. (It’s a whole ‘nother movie about the movie!) I liked that they started with the big question: why restart the movie series? My favorite bits were the small inconsistencies, such as hearing Andrew Garfield talking in his real English accent or seeing Rhys Ifans with a green sock over his arm so it’ll disappear from view in post-processing. It’s a lot of material — you may want to use the chapter breaks to avoid being overwhelmed.
- 11 deleted scenes, almost 17 minutes’ worth
- Pre-Visualization — short animatic sequences, 16 total, showing the CGI models
- The Oscorp Archives Production Art Gallery, divided into three categories: Spider-Man, the Lizard, and Environments
- Four Image Progression Reels, with commentary by the animation or effects creators
- Stunt Rehearsals, showing the stunt crew working out eight of the action sequences
- Developing the Amazing Spider-Man Video Game, a three-and-a-half-minute ad
While many of the extras didn’t interest me — I’m not that interested in the production art or CGI — the lengthy documentary is definitely a bonus. The DVD has the deleted scenes, the stunt rehearsals, and the art gallery. (Disclaimer: This movie was released by Sony, and they provided a review copy. I work for another, unrelated division of Sony.)