The Not-Amazing-but-Still-Pretty-Good Spider-Man

While watching this film, I was stung by a bee. So far, no bee-related powers have emerged, sadly. Just an uncomfortably stiff right pinkie.

Anyway, I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man, the third of 2012’s five superhero films (the others being The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Dredd). To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about this film. The trailers didn’t impress, and made the film look like it would be corny and lame:

Then one of my favorite film critics gave this film a scathing review. Not looking good.

Not to mention the fact that this was a movie made in haste by Sony in order to keep the movie rights to Spider-Man, lest they return to growing movie powerhouse Marvel. Not the best circumstances for a film to be born from.

But I went anyway, and I’ve got to tell you, I was pleasantly surprised.

Now, to be clear: The Amazing Spider-Man is no Avengers. It is no The Dark Knight, no True Grit, no Inception, and certainly no Citizen Kane. It will not go down as one of the great films of our age. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. Far from it, I found this movie rather enjoyable. The Amazing Spider-Man is, at the end of the day, a movie with awkward flaws and weaknesses but also some redeeming qualities. Kind of like the titular hero, actually.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.

Flaw: Spider-Man’s new origin story involves an undertone of destiny – his father had disappeared after working on a formula for “cross-species genetics” alongside the man who would be the film’s main villain, Dr. Curt Connors. This version of Peter Parker is apparently brilliant enough to figure out what his father was working on. This is what leads to his becoming Spider-Man and the villain becoming The Lizard. I’m sorry, but a large part of what makes Spider-Man, you know, Spider-Man, is that he’s supposed to be just some ordinary guy who gains his powers by accident and has to figure out what to do with them. Forcing a “destiny” angle into the story just doesn’t work.

Redeeming Quality: That issue aside, though, the rest of the origin story is actually pretty good. I know not everybody is into high school teen drama antics in their movies – I am certainly not a fan – but the film’s first act actually is one of its strongest points. The characters feel real, their actions believable, and their relationships to each other are complex and tangible. There is one sequence where our hero goes to ask his crush out, and the whole conversation is nothing but awkward body language and unfinished sentences, because both boy and girl are just too nervous and excited. Seems about right.

Flaw: The editing of the film is sometimes baffling. For example, you know how sometimes movies like to flash back and forth between two different sequences? Usually they want to show how these two events are tied together, or they want to create some sort of ironic tonal contrast. In this case, though, the two scenes had nothing to do with each other. Each scene would have been strong enough on its own, but by shuffling them together it just made everything confusing. This is just one example of this film feeling like nobody was sure what the pacing should be, and the editors and director just made things up as they went along.

Redeeming Quality: However, the director and post-production team did make a very good decision. You know how Spidey has a long-standing trope of swinging from place to place? And how sometimes that mode of locomotion seems physically impossible?

Just what is he swinging from in this picture? The air?

Well, this movie makes a point of showing us where, exactly, Spidey’s web is sticking. It sounds lame, but trust me, they make it work: the very best scene in the movie is based around this concept. (Sorry, I’m not going to spoil it, you’ll just have to trust me here.)

Flaw: This movie is way too long. When I got out of the theater, I was shocked at just how late it was. I’m sorry, but if your running time is 136 minutes, you had better be engaging and entertaining for all of those minutes. I saw somebody actually fall asleep in the theater. Not a good sign for an action movie.

Redeeming Quality: But if you can get past the boring bits, things really start to get exciting as the climax approaches. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the characters we’ve come to know from the “teen drama” first act are put in danger, and start to show another, very interesting, side to them as a result.

Flaws: The final boss fight is pretty cliché and lame, the transition between scenes is often clunky, and the film periodically introduces something that could make for some interesting stuff only to apparently forget about it.

Redeeming Qualities: But the acting is great, the dialogue is great, and at the end of the day, I left the theater with a smile on my face.

This movie ranks about the same to me as the Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies. Not my favorite, nor exceptional in any way, but still enjoyable and something I’d be willing to watch over and over again when there is nothing good on TV. A solid 3 out of 5.

4 Responses to The Not-Amazing-but-Still-Pretty-Good Spider-Man

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