The Amazing Spider-Man (Movie Review)

I just returned from The Amazing Spider-Man this evening, and I have to say that most of my fears about the reboot were allayed. Most.

I have to admit, it is very difficult to watch this movie and not compare it to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, especially with the last installment being released a mere 5 years ago (yep. to me that is mere). But I have been attempting to allow the film to stand on its own all evening, and I think I can finally give it a fair shake. The story picks up on some of the untouched threads that we have not seen in a Spider-Man movie before (at least to my knowledge), Peter Parker’s childhood trauma of being abandoned by his parents. It leaves him a sarcastic, withdrawn individual, seeking to simply slide through life unnoticed. He has arguments with his surrogate father (Uncle Ben) about being fatherless, he uses his powers to exact revenge on the school bully, and has a sharp, quick wit that often features him allowing his mouth to engage before his head has thought things through. Peter meets Gwen Stacy after standing up for a classmate who is being bullied, and the two engage in a romantic relationship before the movie is halfway over. Over the course of the film Peter finds another father figure in Captain Stacy (Gwen’s father), and finds a mentor of sorts in his father’s former lab partner at Oscorp. After Uncle Ben is killed (in a sequence of events that is set up by Peter himself), Peter engages in a one-man vendetta searching for the killer. He thinks he is doing good, providing a public service until he has it pointed out to him that all he is doing is carrying out a war on one man. The good deeds are merely a side-product of this vendetta. Peter’s clash with the Lizard (the film’s villain) becomes the focal point of the last third (or so) of the film.

On a technical level, the film is a solid achievement. It was a nice relief to see that the filmmakers wanted to feature so much practical action rather than rely upon CGI. Spider-Man’s swinging is very believable, and the action sequence where he begins to discover his powers is quite engaging. I especially loved the following morning as he destroys his bathroom because he has not figured out how to manage his strength. The movie manages to move along at a good pace, but makes time for quieter, emotional moments. Andrew Garfield manages to inject believable nervous energy into Peter and carries a lot of the movie on his shoulders. Emma Stone is believable as Gwen Stacy. Her comedic moments were her best parts of the movie. But there are some drawbacks in the film.

There are parts of the movie that feel rushed, or that they are missing portions. (Check out this article detailing 6 plot holes that are worth discussing). The deep mystery of Peter’s parents is not anywhere near the prominent feature of the story that we viewers were promised through the ad campaign. And the score for the movie was a dramatic disappointment for me. I expected a lot more from James Horner. At times the music doesn’t fit the film at all, even to the point of being distracting. And from the comic book nerd in me, I miss the quotable line of “with great power comes great responsibility.” Here it is replaced with a very unremarkable and forgettable line that Uncle Ben feeds to Peter.It also feels like Webb was given freedom to ignore a lot of the history the comics set up, which at times is a tad bit frustrating, and at other times actually serves to make the film feel more realistic at times. In the end, I am able to look past the negative things and I did enjoy the film. It is a well-told story with decent directing, solid acting and great effects. I only paid $5 for my ticket and I would be willing to see it again.

Some of the themes that I really seemed to latch onto throughout the film are still rattling around in my head. It makes sense that since Peter is in high school that he is searching for his identity and trying to figure out who he is. His search to fill the hole that his departed parents left is heart-wrenching at times. Curt Connors’ drive to regain his lost arm and improve all of humanity is an admirable plot piece, and shows what can happen when good intentions are twisted. But I think the hardest theme to swallow is that of honesty. Throughout the movie Peter hides his identity and his activities from his parental figures (specifically, the world in a general sense). This is normal in all superhero fiction, as the hero must hide his identity lest the people he love be hurt. But at the end of the film after Peter has shown remarkable growth the story sets him up to go back on a promise he made to a dying man. He even remarks in a whisper to another character that the promises that one cannot keep are the best ones (implying to the character and all those in the audience that he fully intends to break his word). I understand that he is in the early stages of his development as a hero and that he has much growing to do, but this break from being honest and truthful is a big problem for me. He doesn’t come off as a hero, but instead as a selfish jerk.

From a Christian worldview there is a lot here that can teach on a Sunday morning or at a midweek gathering. I and another leader took 7 teens to see the movie today and had a really good time discussing it afterward in the mall food court. That one line about the promise itself let to a good chuck of chatting. All in all, I would rate the movie as a solid B+. It is a good story, and can open up many doors for discussion, especially from a Spiritual viewpoint.

What are your thoughts?