The Amazing Spider-Man - (500) Days of Gwen
I can’t wait for the day that superhero movies are treated more like James Bond movies. I’m crossing my fingers that Batman will be the first one to get this treatment after Dark Knight Rises. No reboot, no new origin, just a new story in a stylistically different movie. We all know the key points of who most of these characters are, already, so no matter how many fresh takes you do on it, it’s still just a kid who’s parents got shot or a baby getting sent to Earth by his parents because their planet is exploding or a kid getting bit by a radioactive spider. We’ve seen it. We know it. Let’s just get on with it.
Having said that, I was actually glad when I heard there was a Spider-Man reboot because I was never really a big fan of the previous movies. Toby Maguire was never right, the CG didn’t work at all for me, and the whole thing played too much like Power Rangers in the end. The trailers for the reboot gave me hope that at least the tone would be different, but I did worry it might be too dark and that it would essentially be Spider-Man Begins. While I wasn’t too far off on that, I did actually enjoy the movie. It was way better than the Raimi movies.
What did I love? For starters, the cast was perfect. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker was exactly right. He was awkward in all the right ways that you expect a high school kid in this situation to be and it never felt like it was over the top. As a matter of fact, well before he becomes Spider-Man, he already demonstrates a willingness to step up and do the right thing, even if he isn’t entirely sure how. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy is almost even better. Her performance and the way the character is written suggests more than just a pretty girl, but she’s not the troubled teen cliche either. On the contrary, you get the sense that this is a strong, intelligent, and confident (at times) young girl who has as much to offer to the plot as the hero.
The relationship between Peter and Gwen is the heart of this movie, really and it’s played really well. Their awkward flirting is in line with them being high school kids. It’s what you expect from Mark Web who gave us (500) Days of Summer and it’s a good thing to see done well in a superhero movie. Too often, the love story in these movies is either treated as and afterthought y or completely lost in cliche. While this kind of thing may not be necessary to every superhero movie, here it is and it’s good that it received the care and attention that it did.
Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May could not be better choices. What these two bring just based just on who they are and roles they’ve played in the past is exactly what I imagine the characters to be. Uncle Ben’s caring wisdom is really an aspect of West Wing’s Jed Bartlett. Aunt May’s almost over protective nurturing ways are an element of Forrest Gump’s mom. So right off, the moment you see them on screen, you get a sense of the characters. This is a good way to use big name, recognizable actors to bring depth to characters.
While the basic plot of the movie, involving Curt Connors turning into the Lizard and trying to turn the whole city into lizards, is pretty basic, the action sequences keep you entertained and invested throughout. A big reason for this is the fact that they didn’t just rely on CG like the Raimi films did. Instead, we get an actual guy in a suit for a lot of it and it pays off. When this Spider-Man jumps around or swings, it’s much more believable and doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb. Which is ironic, considering the fact that CG is now at a point where they probably could have had it all be CG and made it work. It all feels very grounded. And Spider-Man is actually funny when he’s supposed to be, without being cheesy.
I guess my only real problem with the movie was the origins. Right off, I am not sure I like the idea of tying in his parents to the spider that bites him. I think one of the things that always distinguished Spidey from Batman and Superman was the fact that his origin was somehow much more innocent. Here, when he gets bit, it’s while investigating his father’s past which is tied to the genetic experiments that wind up making it possible for the spider bite to have the result it has. So, in a way, Peter is responsible for his own transformation. The fact that this is the first movie in a trilogy that looks like it will further explore these ties to his parents, I think will further distance the character from the random innocence of his original origin.
The other thing that bothered me was that the bite not only gave him spider abilities, but apparently also fighting skills. Instead of watching him figure out how to best use his powers, much of it becomes instinctual in this version. While this may be an easy way to move the plot forward without having to spend a whole lot of time on a training montage, I think it comes off a little cheap and easy here. But even with this issues, the performances and action scenes are so good that the movie is still very enjoyable. I can overlook any problems I had and just have fun with it. I do look forward to the rest of this trilogy, but again, no more reboots once it’s done. It’s Spider-Man. We get it. Just tell me stories.