The Amazing Spider-Man—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
July 3, 2012 2:26 PM
20 Comments
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There’s nothing inherently wrong with The Amazing Spider-Man, but in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it’s déjà vu all over again. By retelling the origin story of Peter Parker so soon after Sam Raimi’s 2002 smash hit, starring Tobey Maguire, the new filmmaking team, led by director Marc Webb, not only invites direct comparison with the earlier picture and its sequels but makes it impossible to avoid.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are perfectly adequate, but the film doesn’t give them the same opportunities that Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst had to forge a heartfelt relationship as star-crossed sweethearts. Stone’s role is particularly colorless, and thankless. The ingredients for a richer dynamic seem to be there: she’s the daughter of police captain Denis Leary, who has no use for Spider-Man, and happens to work for mad scientist Rhys Ifans. The possibilities this unique setup presents are barely explored.

Martin Sheen gets the “most valuable player” award for bringing heart, and depth, to his performance as Uncle Ben, but Sally Field as Aunt May has little to do but wring her hands, and she’s made to look haggard and unkempt (unlike Rosemary Harris in the last three films). What a waste of talent.

Even that wonderful actor Rhys Ifans—whose character of Dr. Curt Connors echoes the story arc of Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2—doesn’t get to let loose until he morphs into a giant lizard. Spidey’s battle with that rampaging beast is the action highlight of the picture—and may be enough to satisfy some fans.

But Spider-Man’s first attempts to leap through the canyons of New York City had more pizzazz in the first Raimi film, and better visualization in the second. Peter Parker’s transformation is told in shorthand this time around.

The new screenplay has an impressive pedigree: it’s credited to James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Oscar-winning writer Alvin Sargent, who worked wonders in Spider-Man 2, and Steve Kloves, who wrote all but one of the Harry Potter adaptations. (Story credit goes solely to Vanderbilt). One would think that this combination of high-powered talent would have yielded a film with far more emotional depth and resonance.

If, in spite of all this, the movie makes a fortune, it will be a tribute to corporate greed and lack of respect for the audience. That will be another nail in the coffin of originality in modern-day mainstream Hollywood.

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20 Comments

  • anonymous187 | December 6, 2012 5:14 AMReply

    Thank you for a great review Leonard. It's nice to finds at least one honest and good movie critic these days, not many left. I grew up reading the comics, playing the video games, reading the novels, and watching the cartoons. This movie was horrible, unnecessary, and Hollywood greed at it's finest. I'm so tired of these watered down comic book films coming out. These movies are all about making the characters likeable for people who didn't read the books. The films don't respect the rich history, continuity chronological order, or character development. The Amazing Spider-man is nothing more that a over hyped, completely rushed CGI feast for the eyes of a generation with short attention spans. The masses need to stop spending money on this crap, do some research on the characters before you just jump on the band wagon. Most people who like these movies have no real connection with the character. Hint : Hollywood make comic book movies for comic book readers, but no you can't do that because you want to make as much money as possible. Why does the Lizard not look like a lizard ? The Lizard has to be the single most disappointing villain in a comic book movie ever ! He is not scary, the character design and CGI should have been better and his villainous plan sucked. The actor who played the Lizard should fire his agent, what a waste of talent on that part. Andrew does not come across very well as the everyday guy that the Peter Parker character always was. Tobey did a better job at this, your movie fails completely when the audience doesn't like the hero. Andrew instead comes across as a moody angst filled teenager, I just couldn't wait for him to put the mask back on. I have a feeling this new franchise is going to end up like the old Batman franchise. All the movies will suck for the most part, have a different B list actor as the hero, still make loads of money and get praise from idiots who don't know what they're talking about. I can't wait to see Leonard review the new Ironman when it comes out. Not respecting the chronological order of the continuity is written all over that one.

  • Deek | November 8, 2012 6:41 PMReply

    Couldn't agree more. This movie was a big disappointment. No heart, no charm. Peter Parker is unlikable. Gwen Stacy is an idiot. The Lizard's plan was stupid. The crane moving sequence was one of the stupidest things I've seen. Everyone is connected to Peter. Gwen, Peter's crush, works for the Lizard, who was Peter's dad's lab partner, but now works for Norman Osborn. She's also the police chief's daughter, the police chief turns out is hunting down Spider-Man, who is in turn hunting down the Lizard ... Stupid.

  • Black | September 29, 2012 7:15 PMReply

    Your last line is complete crap. Try and be unbiased next time and try to go into the film open minded.

  • Jessy | September 28, 2012 4:15 PMReply

    Does anyone know which story arc, if any, The Amazing Spider Man is based on?

  • fatpie42 | August 7, 2012 9:35 AMReply

    1) I'm glad we are comparing it to Sam Raimi's film, because Raimi's film was AWFUL.
    2) Emma Stone is not only brilliant as ever, but for once we have a love interest in a superhero movie who is actually able to stand up for herself. This is light years ahead of the damsel in distress role given to Kirsten Dunst and far better performed too.
    3) Oh yeah, heaven forbid a character look haggard and unkempt when her nephew she is looking after is getting violent and moody and her husband dies.
    4) "Peter Parker's tranformation is told in short hand." Have you completely forgotten Sam Raimi's movie? This is first time Peter Parker has seemed genuinely freaked out by his new powers. In Raimi's film he seems to take it all in his stride. If telling it in long hand means having Peter Parker shouting "Go Web!" then thank goodness they shortened it. However, as you noticed they spent a lot longer building up the characters before bringing in the baddie.
    5) This film respected me a great deal more than Raimi's horrible trilogy did. It's good to finally have a Spider-Man movie which respects its subject matter. While Raimi's movies kept building up the music to crescendo in the hopes of triggering an emotional reaction the content was too crass and cheesy it to succeed in stirring anything in me as an audience member. This film, however, had me outwardly laughing more than Avengers Assemble and deeply concerned for the hero more than The Dark Knight Rises. If you felt this was emotionally empty, I don't think it's the film that was at fault but rather a closed perspective on the film due to misplaced nostalgia.

    It's not too soon. I've been waiting 10 years for them to fulfil their promise of bringing Spider-Man to the big screen. This is first time I think they've succeeded.

  • Cler Atkins | July 13, 2012 7:35 AMReply

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  • Ben | July 13, 2012 3:03 AMReply

    Reasons I am going against you completely on this one Leonard.
    1) It's nothing like the Raimi films, and that's absolutely a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
    2) The director tried to AVOID cheesy dialogue and stock cliches, as opposed to pialing them on to no end via Mother effing Raimi.
    3) All the charecters are extremely likeable and in many casses, gasp, sensible. As opposed to all the charecters being cardboard jackasses (Raimi again)
    4)Peter Parker looks moderately age appropriate, as opposed to looking like a thirty five year old spazmat corpse.
    5) C.G.I. action that looks borrowed from Pixar is at least at a minnimum.
    6) I gave a crap about what happened for once in a Spiderman movie.
    7) They didn't completely and one hundred percent frick up on the bad guy (Doc Oc was alright, I give you that Raimi)
    8) The female lead is not a complete deadweight, she's actually smart and can defend herself.
    9) A Hollywood blockbuster that actually has a nice story that it takes the liberty to develop along with charecters you can relate to, what a revolutionary concept.

    One final note to Leonard: This is just a superhero movie buddy, not Lawrence of Arabia. You can retell the story soon after the facts. And just because Hollywood has done something before doesn't mean it can't be done again, and better. Something Spidey was in desperate need of. Bring on your hate Raimi fans/Webb haters.

  • Fred Penner | July 12, 2012 12:47 PMReply

    Many comments are possible but how about..."Holywood is not a vehicle for originality, it is an instrument of corporate America and is therefore inherently greedy".

  • Alec McMullen | July 9, 2012 10:51 AMReply

    Well said as always, Leonard, especially the last part about lack of respect for the audience. Everything I've read about this movie in magazines and the internet had corporate greed written all over it; that the articles in those are meant to generate massive publicity speaks for itself. Why make a new Spider-Man film when the first two were so good? Why relaunch any franchise after only five years? When a film is made under those circumstances the only possible explanation can be that audiences are careless when deciding what they watch, careless enough that this movie grossed 65 million last weekend)

  • Donald Spiderman Thomas | July 4, 2012 6:51 AMReply

    Aloha,
    Saw it tonight with the missus in 3D. Totally enjoyed it. My biggest
    complaint with some of the reviewers is that they can't get over the
    fact that's it's a reboot.Obviously not Leonard but most reviewers acknowledge the very good chemistry of
    the two main characters as well as all of the top notch supporting
    cast.They just can't get over the reboot aspect. So what? Judge this
    movie on it's own weight and merits and you have to give it 2 thumbs
    up.The Lizard CGI was ten times better than the Green Goblin Power
    Ranger suit.Not as good as Doc Ock though. The Spider-Man stunts were outstanding.Remember, in the comics, villains would always say to themselves"I've never seen anybody move that fast".That can only improve
    in the sequels to come.Had to lose the With great power comes great responsibility so we could get WEB SHOOTERS That's very unfortunate
    because it is just as central to Spidey as the web shooters. Too bad.And
    just as I suspected, they took ideas from Untold Tales of Spider-Man,
    Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man.9/10
    Spidey rules with 8 legs throughout the entire summer

  • Jason | July 3, 2012 9:27 PMReply

    considering how much I hated the original three films (and actually LIKE the talent involved in this picture) it's going to be an opening day picture for me. Too bad Leonard didn't like it but as I said, could hardly be worse than the original three films.

  • Chai | July 4, 2012 6:43 AM

    Sam Raimy rocks, even though he is occasionally offpoint, I can't imagine how this film will live up to the first two Spiderman movies especially with the inimitable Harris as May. I've never read the comics but casting that englishwoman was a stroke of genius and turned what might otherwise have been a vacuous action pic into one with some semblance of depth. Of course the third film sucks. The other two were ok, I liked them a lot but mainly on casting. Franco is always a delight. What they did with him in 3 was a shame. Finally Maguire IS Spiderman just like Reeve IS Superman. Nobody else can bring that kind of playfulness and nerdyness to the character. Still, regardless I'm going to go and watch this new one this afternoon. I'm sure it will be at least bearable like the first two Raimy attempts.

  • Norm | July 3, 2012 6:14 PMReply

    Where there is Spider-man, there is contoversy. The debate continued for many years over the creation of this character between Stan Lee(editor) and Steve Ditko(Artist). In my own personal opinion it would be extremely difficult to belive Stan Lee capable of creating anything more meaningful than a cup of joe, his ideas are somewhat skewed in the comic book world, while Ditko's artwork and story telling are legendary. He has this unique ability of capturing the abstract and putting in down in art form, that is Amazing. The first 18 Spider-Man comic book stories are some of the greatest in comic book history. Certainly the most original.Someone should do a movie about that !
    While the reboot of Spider-man is pretty much about corporate greed it isn't the first time that Spider-man has been riddled with controversy. It must be in the bite...

  • Norm | July 7, 2012 4:33 AM

    When I contacted Steve Ditko through his intermediaries, he did reply to certain items or points He found to be in his comfort level. He doesn't like to talk about himself. For whatever reason he shuns the "public" spotlight" , but will converse with people under certain conditions. I suppose coming from Johnstown, PA. comes with a price. Having a debilitating illness in the 1950's didn't help. Jack Kirby could embrace the Public venue, Ditko doesn't seem to hold the same belief. Which is kinda strange since he did a special add-on in the Spider-Man Annual # 1, and showed us into a little piece of his world. Some people just want to be remembered for their work, LM is more receptive, and replies personally to almost any query...I always enjoyed a Ditko work, very well thought out, and layered ,even if the author chooses to remain somwhat reclusive...too bad for us...

  • mike schlesinger | July 6, 2012 6:31 PM

    Well, much of the problem is that Ditko is a notorious recluse who has turned down countless invitations to set the record straight; even Mark Evanier has given up trying. If a man isn't willing to stand up for his own legacy, why should anyone else?

  • Rick Goldschmidt | July 3, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    Perfect last line in your review! My feelings exactly! SPIDER-MAN 2 was the BEST Super hero film out of the bunch!

  • Chai | July 4, 2012 6:44 AM

    word! (I watched 2.0 last night - it's a better cut apart from maybe the 'therapy' line, and the conversation with the doctor, and the elevator scene.

  • thewanderer | July 3, 2012 4:45 PMReply

    Obviously, this movie is based on the amazing spider-man cartoon that's new and that's why we won't see Mary Jane until the next movie; when aunt May thinks Peter needs a girl and so the neighbor happens to have a daughter [Mary Jane] and Aunt May introduces her to Peter. But I wonder how they are gonna do with the other girl [Stacy] that happens to fall in love with Peter after she failed a test and Peter becomes her tutor. Man, spidey is surrounded by too many girls now. Lets see, Gwen, Mary Jane, Stacey, and of course our favorite super hero that happens to have the same powers captain America has BlackCat.

    The amazing spider-man is an amazing movie with lots of action. I really like it. Although, Peter Parker seems to be revealing too much of his powers during this movie. If I had seen what happened in real life I would say, "he is definitely not human.' I mean seriously, the train, the basketball, will someone in the movie say, "oh this guy I met the other day is definitely Spider-man. But the way he was web swinging was awesome because I felt it was more than just swinging. There was jumping from wall to wall, there was spinning on the wall while a bunch of birds flew behind him (that was cool). And of course Lizards mouth could had been a lot bigger, like a crocodile's mouth. It would had been amazing to have seen spidey trying to keep the mouth open as his head is so close to it. The thing I love about spider-man the most is that he is the most fun super-hero to watch. Although some people say a giant or Hulk can kill spider-man and that he is really not that powerful. I think he is awesome because his powers are very limited. That's exactly what they did in this movie. They didn't make spider-man so powerful, otherwise he wouldn't be fun to watch. And even though people say hulk or a giant , that's not true. Why? Because spider-man is smart. I think something they should do in a next movie is make a stronger villain for the web-head. In the movie I would like to see spider-man play a dragon ball z video game so that he can learn a really good lesson I learned from that game: "When you depend too much on your strength, you leave yourself wide open.' And lets also include Black Cat so that we can have two super-heroes fighting side by side. I always love to have movie ideas because when I really enjoyed the movie I spend some time imagining the characters in my head and interacting with them. I've imagine myself with powers and creating funny moments in my head too.

  • Brian | July 3, 2012 3:59 PMReply

    Your last comment, Leonard, hit the nail right on the head and your review pinpointed the major reason why I will not waste my money to go see this film. It was already done in 2002 and while I didn't care much for Raimi's first "Spider Man" (I could tell they went overboard with the CGI), there's no reason for a reboot this soon. This was only made for the purposes of greed, not to make any improvements. It's only to make money and I have no doubt that it will. So I guess you better get those nails ready. The coffin of originality in Hollywood is really reeking by now.

  • Chai | July 4, 2012 6:47 AM

    Maybe. They need to get Ang Lee to direct some more Marvel movies haha, spice things up a bit.

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