The Amazing Spider-Man Review: Bringing Character to the Forefront

Before the internet sets on fire, I’ll explain my Dark Knight reference a little later on. Let me talk about something else, and I feel you need to know two important things before reading this review:

1) I’m a huge Spider-Man fan. He’s been my favorite super-hero since I was a kid and that has not changed.

2) I was unequivocally AGAINST this film when it was first announced. I hated the idea of a reboot and when Raimi’s fourth Spider-Man film was cancelled to accomodate the reboot instead, I was pissed. I was totally against it and had no interest in it for the longest time. Trailers started swaying me though.

Spiderman close up

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on. I’ve read all of the reviews so far from the film talking about how it’s light on story but the actors are great. This is pretty true, but I think if you shift your perspective a little the outcome is much more fulfilling than they make it sound.

This isn’t your typical action superhero flick. In all honesty calling is a ‘drama’ instead of an action movie might be more appropriate. That’s not to say there aren’t some incredible action pieces in the film, but that’s not the story’s focus. Amazing Spider-Man is an origin story in its purest sense of the word. You won’t see him fight a whole bunch of crime. What we get to see are the steps he takes to BECOME the crime fighter we all know and love. The events of the film shows why he dedicates himself to protecting others, and how he comes by the moral compass of his. So the action scenes that come from the story are not the focus of the film.

Lizard in Grate

The other problem I can see some people having with the film is that when you go into a film knowing it’s an origin story, you expect to see how every little thing comes into being. In this area, Spider-Man seems to gloss over some of those aspects. It won’t show you explicitly how he learns to web-swing as well as he does, or exactly how he creates his web-shooters. These are handled in a much different way and shown much quicker.

I can see how that would put some people off. Being an origin story, I’m sure many were expecting those to be more focused upon. Yet that’s the brilliance of this movie. It’s not that kind of origin story. As I said, the origin it shows audiences is the personal/character origin. It’s not so much about his powers, it’s about how Spider-Man/Peter Parker, the man grows into a person with strong morals and a hero. To that end the focus of the film is far more heavy in the character development.

Marc Webb has handled these characters with love and affection. Everyone that populates the world of Amazing Spider-Man feels very real. Even the minor characters have a sense of realism to them, and every action/line of dialogue feels natural and how people in real life would respond to the situations presented. When Peter Parker finally dons the full costume, I was left with the feeling of “this makes perfect sense”. In the way they set up his character before that moment, you can fully believe that his move into the costume is a LOGICAL progression of his character.

Doc Connors hand

It’s for this reason I make the reference the Nolan Batman films. In Batman Begins, they did the exact same thing. They used the character of Bruce Wayne to make his step into crime-fighting believable. It was a logical progression and felt like a natural move. Not every superhero movie can pull this off. A lot of times studios and filmmakers will just have the guy jump into a suit and start his crime fighting adventures and focus on how they get their powers and gadgets and what not. The get away with it, because being a comic book movie, the audience is expecting that to happen at some point, so it’s possible to make that leap and still seem okay.

Yet when it feels natural and the character is being focused upon, it takes that film to an entirely different level. Then it goes from comic book movie, to a great movie for all people and all genres. It’s a genre breaking step that only a handful of comic movies have really pulled off.

This can be a double edged sword, however. With all of the focus on the character development, the story feels almost like an afterthought. Some things just sort of happen, yet it’s fun to see how the characters react to those events. It’s in this way that Amazing Spider-Man is markedly different from The Dark Knight and Batman Begins. While it has that same deep level of character development, it lacks the compelling story of Nolan’s Batman films. That’s where my comparison comes from.

Spiderman and Gwen

To that end, I really understand why reviewers are having complaints with the story, but to be honest, I could have cared less. The most enjoyable aspects of the film for me, was watching the characters interact. Fans of the comic (as I am) understand that the story of Peter Parker is not so much about the story, as it is about the characters.

Stan Lee has said many times the genesis of Spider-Man came from his desire to craft an ordinary kid with extraordinary abilities. He wanted to showcase the more human side of superheroes and how they struggle through everyday life, rather than just focus on the crime-fighting. It’s this aspect that the film captures perfectly. I seriously felt like I was watching a comic come to life. I was watching the characters I’ve known and loved for a long time leap off of the pages.

I know that sounds kind of silly and not just a little fanboy, but that’s just how well the actors and the filmmakers did as far as bringing these characters to life. Of course there are many points in which the film will differ from the comics, but on the whole, I feel they captured the essence of what makes Spider-Man who he is, better than any of the films that have come before it. This helped me to overlook some of the things they glossed over.

Spiderman web create

For example, they did an excellent job of establishing Peter Parker as the genius kid. The Raimi films didn’t really touch on this and only told you about it, and audiences were just expected to accept it as fact. Amazing Spider-Man shows you how smart he is. So later on in the film, when they quickly show how he develops his web shooters (they spend hardly any time on this at all), it still seems entirely believable. Since they’ve already set him up as super smart, it’s not a big leap to accept that he could create those web-shooters. Thus, the film doesn’t need to spend any more time on the issue. They did this type of thing at a few points during the film, and each of them felt pretty natural. Were there times I would have loved more explanation? Absolutely, but I can’t say my experience overall was worse for not having that extra time being spent on them.

To that end, I feel I can safely say this is the best Spider-Man film so far. Don’t get me wrong here, I loved the Sam Raimi films. For the longest time, I looked to Spider-Man 2 as a shining example of how comic book films should be. Tobey Mcguire did an excellent job with his interpretation of Spider-Man/Peter Parker. However, in The Amazing Spider-Man, it doesn’t feel like an interpretation or even adaptation. This feels like Spider-Man.

So I haven’t talked about the other characters so much, but what I said earlier holds true for all. Even the minor characters are portrayed with a sense of realism. The chemistry between Stone and Garfield (Gwen and Peter) is palpable and charming. Even Flash Thompson’s character, who doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time goes through his own kind of transformation that feels natural.

The Amazing Spider-Man

There are some issues in the film (as I’ve said) with the plot. Mainly I feel those issues stem from the obvious set up for the sequel. The trailers have featured several scenes indicating this was the ‘untold’ story and that Peter Parker was going to learn something pivotal to his backstory…yet that doesn’t happen here. In fact, many of those scenes from the trailers alluding to that, aren’t even in the finished film. So there are some plot gaps in there, and one main storyline that just seems to disappear altogether midway through the film for no reason.

Okay, so let’s talk about the technical side of things for a bit. The action is good, the music works very well in the film and helps establish the proper tone in every scene. The special effects in the film are good. I know some people have complained about how the Lizard looks in the film, but I thought the final product was pretty damn impressive.

On top of that the 3D in the film is also good. Thankfully it was shot in 3D so there’s no post-conversion mess going on here. Still, I’ve never been a fan of 3D in films. I’ve still yet to see one that made me think it was absolutely necessary to making the film a better experience. That being said, I feel that spending money on a 3D ticket for Amazing Spider-Man would NOT be a waste of your money.

Amazing Spider-Man

Overall the film is mighty impressive and I can safely say that I’ll be spending some money on seeing it again in theaters. There are some faults in the overall plot of the film, but in the long run, this film is about the characters. The film focuses on the hero’s journey but they also make it far more personal than most films do with a similar story. Like I said, it has just as much, if not more, strong character development of the Nolan films, but lacked the strong story to go with it. If it had a stronger story this would undoubtedly be the best comic book movie around. As it stands now, it still shouldn’t be missed and is a highlight of comic book films.

The Amazing Spider-Man gets a 9 out of 10.