Whether or not rebooting a franchise barely a decade old was a good idea is inconsequential to the merits of the resulting film. And it isn’t as if the original web-slinging trilogy is some sacred cow. Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man has its moments but doesn’t ever reconcile the origin story with the business at hand. Also, Macy Gray. I’m willing to let some silliness slide, but a man has his limits. Raimi’s second try is possibly the best superhero movie ever made. Sure, some things remain goofy, but the narrative thrust of the film pushes it through deftly. Also, the climactic train sequence is legend. As for Spider-Man 3 well, I remember thinking it was bad, but I can’t remember anything about it. And that’s precisely how I feel about The Amazing Spider-Man, except I saw it less than 12 hours ago.
Director Marc Webb’s version begins with a younger Peter Parker and some mysterious business involving his parents, specifically his geneticist father (Campbell Scott). The opening scene is pretty laughable. It begins with Peter counting down for a game of hide and seek, then wandering about for eternity before the scene finally turns sinister. Watch out Peter, it’s an open window! And some drapes! Peter is then entrusted with his Aunt and Uncle, Skywalker-style, until his father can… what’s that?… Oh, well I guess we don’t find out much about this. Let’s move on.
Flash-forward to teenage Peter (Andrew Garfield) dealing with high school and, you know, feelings of abandonment. Then through some perfect convenience… or contrivance… one of those words… Peter finds himself in a lab with both his father’s former partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), and the girl he’s crushing on, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Oh, and in the very same lab, super spiders! The lab has some terrible security by the way. Peter gets bit, then yada yada yada the end.
Now, the problem isn’t that the “yada yada yada” felt vaguely familiar (the retread elements certainly didn’t help), but that all of it and everything before it was so deathly dull. This movie has no life. I could continue laying on the sarcasm and pick the film apart but when I nitpick a film it’s usually a symptom of boredom. And that boredom comes mainly from two things: Poor pacing and unclear motivation.
A scene will drag on for too long then burst into an action scene (most of the romance material). Then during the action scene the film will stop for some other business (crane scene, I’m looking at you). One scene felt like it was over only to turn into a rescue mission (climb you stupid fucking kid). Then at one point it felt like we were heading for the climax, but we had to stop and have a battle take place at the school first.
Curt Connors motivation is cut and dry, dude wants a new arm… I sympathize. But when he’s The Lizard, I don’t know what the hell he wants. Peter begins by being curious about his Dad, and then trying to catch Uncle Ben’s killer, but none of this ends up having anything to do with the movie. His impetus seems to be, “What else am I gonna do?”
The camera loves Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. They are two young actors I hope to see in other movies, but try as they might, they can’t do much with this shoddy material. The whole cast does serviceable work in thankless roles, except for the terribly generic teenagers/background players. Is it that hard to make Flash memorable? Millions of dollars have guaranteed we’re getting top-tier effects, but this is the type of movie that thinks you’re so fucking stupid that it has to cut back to something that just happened, just in case you didn’t catch it the first time, and it does this multiple times. They should have spent a little more money to replace whoever made those cuts.
Now, I know I started by saying I couldn’t remember anything about the film and then I proceeded to display amazing recall on my part. As impressive as that is, my point was the film leaves no lasting impression. There are no memorable lines of dialogue, no action set-pieces to endlessly reenact play-by-play, and worse the movie has nothing to say. It even goes out of its way to not say what Raimi’s films already said: Great power… something something… whatever I forgot.