The Amazing Spider-Man film fails on nearly every level (Full spoilers, be warned)
The problem with The Amazing Spider-Man is that we know this story. It’s been told in comic books, movies, and television shows. The spider that bit Peter Parker is a part of pop culture, whether it was radioactive or featured manipulated genetics. Spider-Man gains his powers, becomes cocky, decides to let a bad guy go, and that bad guy kills his Uncle Ben. With great power comes great responsibility. There is an enemy who is narrowly defeated. Roll credits. Origin stories make for tedious films, as they feel the need to repeat things most of us take for granted. We don't love Spider-Man because of how he became a hero, we love him because of his struggles and what he does with those powers. How he got there isn't a story, it's window dressing. There are a few new wrinkles in this retelling, including scattered details about Peter’s parents, although what happened to them is vaguely alluded to but never made explicit. There was foul play of some kind, but maybe it will be explained in the sequel? Peter goes to Midtown Science High School, and Gwen Stacy works as Dr. Connor's assistant in a lab that's trying to meld human and animal genetic material. I assume that everyone who goes to this school is a scientist. So Flash, the jock who lives up to the bullying stereotype, also does experiments in his free time? The entire plot is painfully obvious, with every “twist” and reveal telegraphed so far ahead of time that it becomes comical. There is a super-weapon in mothballs that just sits in a lab. Man, I wonder if that is going to come into play at some point! Even casual Spider-Man fans know that Curt Connors turns into the Lizard, and the scene where he decides to inject himself with the lizard serum and the subsequent act of talking to himself as both a scientist and an evil monster mirrors the original Spider-Man’s Green Goblin, who was played with much more depth by Willem Dafoe. Rhys Ifans as both Dr. Connors and the Lizard is limp. His actions are based on the fact that if he doesn't act in a specific way, the movie wouldn't exist. He's a plot point, not a character.Peter Parker used to be portrayed as a brilliant scientist—he goes to Midtown Science High School, after all—but pay attention to the things we see him do. He impressed Dr. Connors by answering a question with the answers he read in his father’s files. In fact, the equation Parker gave to Connors that led to the creation of the Lizard serum was also his father's work. Parker passes it off as his own. He doesn’t learn how to create the webbing fluid, he merely sees that Oscorp makes the webbing itself, and he orders some. Let’s hope that product is never taken off the market, because Spider-Man would be kind of a silly hero if he couldn't swing. Parker does create the mechanical web shooters, but for some reason he adds red LEDs to the design so they glow whenever he shoots webbing. Perhaps my favorite moment of the movie happens when Spider-Man and the Lizard brawl inside the Midtown Science High School, and the Lizard picks up the two beakers on a table in the lab, notes their color, mixes them, and throws it at Spider-Man. The mixture explodes, because apparently Midtown Science High School students were learning about binary explosives before they were interrupted by the rampaging monster. How does the Lizard enter the school? Through the pipes under the toilets. That seems legit. There are other things that make next to no sense. Parker asks Dr. Connors if you could attack a lizard by changing the temperature of his surroundings, since lizards are cold-blooded. “You have to catch him first,” Connors says. For the rest of the movie, characters try to attack the giant lizard with cold, and it does next to nothing. After Gwen Stacy evacuates a building by hitting the alarm, she also activates the lab’s chemical fire extinguisher system. It does nothing. The Lizard is finally defeated when he’s hit by the anti-Lizard serum that Gwen Stacy creates in the lab. How does she create it? Spider-Man tells her that you have to go to the serum machine and type in “12386,” or similar numbers, which is the code for anti-Lizard serum. It takes exactly 8 minutes for the machine to create the serum, which is the second attempt at drama via countdown in the film's climax. Remember that Peter Parker is also a photographer, and this character trait is used to its fullest when the Lizard figures out Parker is Spider-Man because he finds the camera with “PROPERTY OF PETER PARKER” written on the back via a label maker after a scuffle in the sewer. It couldn’t have been hard to figure this out anyway, since Parker never seems to need an excuse to take his mask off. He tells Gwen he’s Spider-Man like he's confessing something embarrassing, and she tries to pull away in shock. “Shut up,” he says, and they kiss. It’s the Edward Cullen school of romance. Andrew Garfield does his best as Peter Parker, but he’s struggling with an inane script and stock characters. It’s also hard to imagine that any school would find the brooding, skateboarding, exquisitely handsome photographer with a dark past nerdy. At the end of the movie, he promises Gwen’s father that he will stay away from her in order to keep her safe. A scene or two later he says that the best promises are the ones you can’t keep. Fuck the dying wish of the man who saved you, Emma Stone is hot, and Spider-Man needs to get him some. I went back to watch Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man just to see if I was seeing things through rose-colored glasses, and the original remains a great superhero movie. The characters make sense, they learn and grow, and there is an actual heart beating in each scene. The reboot exists because the studio knows it will make money, and that seems to be the extent of the thought that went into the script. Most characters do things because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a movie. Sub-plots are introduced and go nowhere. Peter Parker acts like a pushy frat boy during scenes that are supposed to be romantic. The movie trades on nostalgia and our love for the character, but it forgot to say something about these people. Instead it just told us a story we already knew, while removing everything that makes the tale so affecting. It’s disappointing, but not surprising.