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Critical Beat: The Amazing Spider-Man

Before I started I wanted to lay out the foundation of what I think about as I walk away from the theater.  The first question I ask myself (and therefore the first question I will answer here) is whether or not I was entertained.  Simple, right?  That’s the primary reason one goes to the movies.  After that I ask myself what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I thought the purpose of this movie even was (beyond making money).  Anytime I review anything from here on out, it’s going to have that basic structure.  Also, I hate spoilers and will try my best to avoid them.  Unless it’s something obvious, like what happens to Uncle Ben in Spider-Man.

With that being said, here’s my review of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Was I entertained:  Absolutely

What I liked:

This movie was really about Peter Parker and his evolution into a hero.  This goes way beyond him being bitten by a spider and gaining super powers.  It even goes beyond the death of Uncle Ben (which still gets me every time).  It takes nearly the entire first half of the movie for Peter to accept what it means to be a hero and actually become Spider-Man.  It explores his motivations and how the father figures in his life impact the choices he makes as a hero.  By placing Captain Stacy in the story as a figure for Peter to learn from, it really cemented the idea of heroism for Peter.  In fact, Denis Leary as Captain Stacy was one of the high points of the movie.  Here we have a man who has dedicated his life to helping others and provided a living role model for Peter.

The Peter/Gwen relationship in the movie was fantastic.  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were superb on screen.  There is particular scene with the two of them that is so awkward that it works.  This is why Marc Webb was a great choice as director, he was able to humanize the relationships in the movie.  Specifically, he fleshed out the Peter/Gwen story and made it feel like a real love story between awkward teens. One of my gripes about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies was that it was MJ and not Gwen Stacy who was Peter’s first love.  Gwen Stacy has a huge impact on the formative years of Spider-Man, and I was glad to see her used in such a way in this movie.  Also, the character is not just there to scream and be saved by Spider-Man (sorry Kirsten).

The Lizard.  I am very glad that he was the primary villain in this movie.  Not only is he a physical match for Spider-Man (which made for some great fight scenes), but Peter relates to Dr. Connors because he was involved in the process that made him into a monster.  This connection between Peter and Dr. Connors added depth to their struggle.  Peter has to stop him not just because he can, but because he has a responsibility to do so.

The final thing that I liked, and once you see the movie you’l better understand this, but there is an overarching presence to the movie.  Without spoiling it too much, it’s like the Emperor being mentioned in Star War for the first time (and all the smart people just figured it out).
What I didn’t like:

You know that awkward Peter/Gwen scene I mentioned earlier that was so awkward it worked.  It only works once.  The second time they try to keep the awkward going just feels forced.  Minor complaint, I know, but it’s still there.

There is an inconsistency throughout the movie with Peter spider-sense.  It was portrayed well, but it wasn’t always there.  And the time(s) it wasn’t there it was specifically missing to make things more difficult for Peter.  One such instance was the beginning to a scene that I didn’t really feel belonged in the movie.  At one point Spider-Man receives some help from a few civilians, and it just felt forced and unnecessary.  Sam Raimi did the same thing in his first Spider-Man.  Why?  Our hero had enough mentors and allies throughout the movie, he didn’t need the “People of New York” as well.

My final gripe is that I wish there had been more scenes with Peter and Dr. Connors.  I mentioned that there relationship was one of the better things about the movie, but it did leave me wanting more.  Really, I wanted one scene where they talk about how having foreign DNA would affect a person.  Are they a man, or a monster?  We know the answer to this in the case of the Lizard, but what about Spider-Man.  Peter sees Dr. Connors become this monster, but he never asks the question of himself.  And it’s something that really should be explored since the processes that made Dr. Connors the Lizards are directly to those that made Peter into Spider-Man.

What was the purpose of this movie:

I really believe the filmmakers were trying to explore what makes a hero a hero.  They wanted to explore what a person who had no power would do once given that power, and then demonstrate the consequences of those actions.  By not jumping straight to Peter being a hero, they were better able to ground him as a character.  After all, he is just a teenager.  To think he would go straight to being a hero and not want revenger after his uncle’s death is naive, and he needed to be called out on that.  In doing so I think the filmmaker’s hit the points that make Spider-Man real and relatable to all generations.

Overall this was a good movie and I highly recommend it.


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