I get nervous watching films that are based on popular characters, particularly ones I love. I get the same nervousness with sequels, films based on novels I love or anything that fits roughly into that category. The key examples that come to mind at the moment are Indiana Jones 4, Superman Returns, War of the Worlds and, quite fittingly, Spiderman 3. In fact, Spiderman 3 is the worst example of this utter disappointment and disbelief. I’ve never been so baffled, amazed and shocked by how you can have two films that are so brilliant, the ingredients for a third film that practically writes itself and then produce, well… Spiderman 3!
That is why I’m one of the people who wasn’t disappointed when they announced the reboot for Spiderman. I love that character and the film franchise that already existed was ruined by Spiderman 3. They had done things with characters involved that couldn’t be undone. It was also falling amongst a new age in superhero films, an age that wouldn’t stand for average, cheesy and lazy story-telling. It would also need to be a superhero film that stayed a lot closer to the source material, something Raimi’s Spiderman never really did. Fans of superhero films won’t stand for just the unique, novelty of seeing their favourite character on-screen, the film has to deliver more.
You can see why I was nervous. I had a lot of hopes riding on Amazing Spiderman. Not only was this a chance to tell an origin story closer to the comics but also create a character closer to the one I knew and loved too. It would also be a film made at the peak of superhero films. Green Lantern had already failed by being average and predictable and Avengers had now set a new standard that I thought I could only rely on Nolan’s Batman to break. Luckily, Amazing Spiderman lives up to the high expectations.
The film, the story, the characters and the style, all feel like true Spiderman. The Spiderman from the comics. He is wise-cracking and self-deprecating. He is intelligent and actually demonstrates this. He creates web-slingers rather than them being organic and his first love is Gwen Stacy! This stuff might seem silly or trivial but to a fan of the comics and the original story, it actually feels like I’m watching the Spiderman stories I read when I was a kid. That is what makes a great superhero film.
Andrew Garfield goes some way to making that work. It is obvious he isn’t a teenage boy and you do have to suspend disbelief in areas, but he plays the Peter Parker I read growing-up. He does awkward, geeky and scientifically excited so well. His reaction when he makes his web-slinger work is fantastic to watch and epitomises the original character. It doesn’t feel like there are two different people playing Spiderman. It is Garfield under the mask and it helps even more that he is clearly a fan.
The casting as a whole is brilliant. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy was such an amazing choice and this has made me fall even more in love with her! She isn’t the damsel in distress that was so infuriating to watch with the Kirsten Dunst version of Mary Jane. Rhys Ifans as the villain was a peculiar choice but he pulls of The Lizard really well, even if his story feels rushed in comparison with the origin of Spiderman himself. The best casting, besides Garfield’s Parker, is Denis Leary as Captain Stacy, Gwen’s Dad. He acts, almost, like the comic relief and human side of the story. His scenes with Parker, Gwen and Spiderman make for some of the better, less action-orientated moments and he gets one of the best resolutions in the film.
Amazing Spiderman wasn’t perfect. There were some moments when it slipped from the comic book origin which were irritating and the characters of Uncle Ben and, especially, Aunt May were heavily under-used considering their importance in the actual story of Spiderman. These felt like only minor gripes considering how good Spiderman looked on-screen. It didn’t feel like a CGI character or a tense stunt-man on wires. The use of first-person for some of the scenes was a great addition and it felt like a fan was actually making this film. I really hope, all fingers crossed, that a sequel is coming because I could have watched another hour of Garfield’s Spiderman.
Overall, all my nerves and anxiety of how awful The Amazing Spiderman could have been were completely blown away. Andrew Garfield IS Peter Parker, Emma Stone IS Gwen Stacy and Spiderman has never looked better than he does in this film. It is the best superhero origin film. It is also now in my top three superhero films ever, behind Avengers and Dark Knight. The bar is raised really high but I also saw the trailer for Dark Knight Rises before this film and I’m actually not nervous about that film at all!
(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)