I was excited to hate Amazing Spider-Man for the last eight or nine months. It’s not that I felt heavily attached to the Raimi films—the first one’s good, the second great, the third pretty bad—it’s just, I mean, have you seen this summer line-up? Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises? The two most ambitious, most heavily anticipated superhero movies released so far, both the culminations of everything invested in their respective franchises. And sandwiched in between them there’s this little premature reboot of the Spider-Man movies. It’s embarrassing.
By now there’s such a rote formula to the onscreen superhero origin story that getting a new one, for a character for whom it’s already been done, when Whedon and Nolan are pushing the boundaries of blockbuster filmmaking in such ambitious ways just comes off as a completely unnecessary decision motivated entirely by the need to make a quick buck off the Spider-Man license.
It was all the more annoying because the marketing campaign was pushing this “Untold Story” of Peter Parker’s beginnings as if it was something we’re all desperately interested in, when in fact the idea does nothing to grab me. And while the Lizard was easily my favorite Spider-Man villain when I was eight, he didn’t strike me as the sort of antagonist who’d be able to sustain an entire movie.
I finally saw the thing earlier this week, and I wasn’t surprised. Andrew Garfield is a good Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Emma Stone is a fantastic Gwen Stacy, and there was certainly a lot of energy on display. The movie has personality. The humor is solid, and all in all it was a fun enough time, bar a few horribly stupid moments (“Property of Peter Parker.” Really, now?), but on the whole it didn’t outdo 2002’s Spider-Man at simply telling the origin story, so it all felt a bit pointless.
My most nitpick-y issue was that the Lizard just looked awful. He’s supposed to have a snout, which they abandoned in favor of keeping him human. That might have been alright, but a better strategy would have been just keeping him in his labcoat, which was shed almost immediately every time he transformed. The contrast of this savage, reptilian beast wearing something that we associate with educated authority figures is exactly what makes the character so visually appealing, and that wasn’t utilized at all. Disappointing.
The larger concern was that apparently that whole secret history of Peter Parker’s parents was excised from the film after a bunch of Sony higher-ups saw a test screening a few months ago. There are still so many traces of it, though, that while I didn’t really like the idea in the first place, they should have just left it in for the sake of cohesiveness. Remove the new conceit they were going for and it’s just a lighter take on Spidey’s origin than we saw ten years ago.
If there is a silver lining, it’s that the sequel has a ton of potential. Redo the Green Goblin and kill Gwen Stacy. That’s a story that actually deserves to be told. For now, though, I’m just thankful there’s less than a week until Nolan blows everyone away.