I’ve been a huge Spider-Man fan my entire life. As a kid, my brother and I watched the cartoons every chance we had. Spider-Man always resonated with me more than Batman or Superman. I never knew why, and honestly I didn’t really care. When the first Spider-Man movie came out I felt like I was on the moon. I’ll assume teenage Sean anticipated the release as much as college Sean longed to see Black Swan and post-grad Sean is dying to see Gravity. I loved the first film, and loved the second one even more. The third one left a bad taste in my mouth (I haven’t even watched it since it’s initial release). But there are a lot of stories behind that third film. The studios forced Sam Raimi to include Venom and created a situation where the were three separate bad guys. The film was a mess and Raimi hated the experience so much he gave Sony an ultimatum, “Let me make Spider-Man my way or I’m out.” Raimi knew Sony had to make a new Spider-Man film soon or they’d lose the rights. But Sony didn’t blink. “Fine” they said, “We’ll reboot it.” So a couple years after Spider-Man 3 came out Sony was starting the story over, from the beginning, and they asked Marc Webb, the director of (500) Days of Summer, to make the film. I truly disliked (500) Days of Summer, and hated the idea of rebooting the series, but guess what? I love Spider-Man, and I saw the film anyways. And I liked it.
The Amazing Spider-Man should fall apart. Ten minutes into the movie I was sure I wouldn’t like it. The pacing is and story progression is just… off. One second Peter can’t open his bedroom door without it flying off the hinges. The next he has absolute control over every aspect his powers and can humiliate the school bully (quick side not: this movie involves some of the worst basketball scenes I have ever seen, something that really bothers me). Whole story arcs are dropped out of thin air, never to be heard from again. Even incredibly important story arcs, like Peter Parker finding the man that killed his uncle. Almost every action or piece of dialogue was over the top and cheesy. Especially the scenes that involved bullying. It felt forced and artificial. It was some vague idea of what Hollywood thinks bullying is, not reality. Even the acting felt like a joke, but I blame Marc Webb because I know Garfield is a good actor. I keep imagining the following exchange:
Webb: Peter’s sad.
Garfield: Okay (Garfield gives a subtle, honest performance).
Webb: CUT! No no. What was that? You didn’t do anything!
Garfield: Actually I–
Webb: The audience needs to know you’re sad… (Thinks, strokes chin) Just cry. They’ll get it.
Crying should be reserved for specific situations because it loses its power when it happens over and over again, but despite this (and many many problems Film Crit Hulk address here) I felt something when Uncle Ben dies, and this just the first of many moments were I felt a pretty intense emotional connection. I walked out the theater on a sort of emotional high. I tweeted, “The Amazing Spider-Man is bursting at the seems with flaws, but I believe it kind of transcends them. I actually really liked it, A-” As I’ve thought more and more about the film I’ve desperately tried to figure out how it hit me the way it did. Was there something about the filmmaking? Was it Andrew Garfield? Emma Stone? Specific scenes? There’s some specific moments in the film I can point to and say, “Yes, this really worked for me.” (SPOILERS) Including: the scene the sewer where Spider-Man shoots webs all over the place so they will vibrate when someone approaches, when he uses his web to stop every car the lizard throws off a bridge from falling into the water, when he saves a child in one of those cars by taking off his mask (revealing he’s just a normal guy), and some others. (END SPOILERS) But these aren’t enough…
Then I thought back to when I was a kid. There’s just something about Spider-Man that resonates with me. He’s just this nerdy kid, like me, but he’s capable of so much. He put other people’s interests before his own, and learns: With great power comes great responsibility (I hate how The Amazing Spider-Man tried to awkwardly say the same thing in a different way) This personal connection is probably the main reason I liked the film so much. This is why I can look past the bad screenwriting and filmmaking choices that would normally ruin a film for me (just look at Prometheus). It’s a reminder. Watching a film is an incredibly subjective experience. You never know when or why something will or will not make an impact on you. That said, a well made film certainly has a better chance of resonating than a poorly made film. And I can’t help but wonder… How much more would it resonate if a better filmmaker had the opportunity to make a Spider-Man movie? Oh wait, Sam Raimi already has, twice.
Current Grade: B+ (the film has actively jumped between A-, B+, and B the past week, so I split the difference)
P.S. I know I was pretty negative here, but seriously… I liked it.