At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Amazing Spider-Man “2012”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Superhero/ Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka, Embeth Davidtz, Leif Gantvoort, Michael Barra, Tom Waite, Hannah Marks, Kelsey Chow, C. Thomas Howell, Max Charles/Runtime: 136 minutes

I think it’s safe to say that movie studios really do seem to have a delightful habit nowadays in regards to significantly lowering the amount of time spent between remaking things. Indeed what was at one time a once in a blue moon occurrence is now something that is all but inevitable for any franchise that is not protected by Steven Spielberg, a pre-filled out Mad Libs-style lawsuit, or both. Yet despite the wave of disapproval that is constantly present when it comes to the fact that a lot of classic movies’ legacy are being tainted by these remakes, there are also 2 fairly significant counter movements in play. These of course consist of those who are highly reluctant but still accept that this is how things are and those who actually anticipate these kinds of movies provided of course the film in question vows to give an audience either something that makes the older work better or something that gives an audience some novel concepts. Either way maybe we should just call these movies “Revampings” since, much like vampires sucking a person dry, these movies literally suck people’s wallets dry until you have no money left for that oh so delicious week-old movie theater popcorn with extra butter. The reason I bring this is up is because of a comic book character named Spider-Man. Yes there is no denying that the 3 movies this iconic character had from 2002-2007 were extremely profitable, but after Spider-Man 3 didn’t exactly live up to the expectations either critics or fans had for it following Spider-Man 2 which is still highly regarded even close to 2 decades since its release, and Sony dropped the planned Spider-Man 4, there was still enough of a fan base that Sony decided to do something very particular. That being that they decided to revamp this character, take him down a new path with a new lead actor, cast, and director/creative team, and watch the money tumble in so they could give us a brand new trilogy (or at least that was the plan, but that’s another story). Thus in 2012, we got The Amazing Spider-Man a movie that did fairly well with critics (or at least better than Spider-Man 3 ), but that, even with way too costly ticket prices, still didn’t do quite as well as any of the prior attempts given to us by Raimi and Maguire (and yes that does include Spider-Man 3. Go figure). Yet, with the passage of time, I must say that this is quite the travesty. That’s because yes this slice of superhero cinema may start out slow and there are a few other issues here and there, but honestly this is actually a fairly riveting movie and one that is definitely worthy to be called a “Spider-Man film”.

The plot is as follows: Our story gets underway as we see that a little boy by the name of Peter Parker is forced to leave home when his dad discovers his study has been severely vandalized by forces unknown. As a result, we see that Peter is left to live with his aunt May and his uncle Ben for what was supposed to be a period of time that quickly becomes permeant when his dear ol’ Mom and Dad never come back. Years later and we see that our main character is now the classic archetype of the high school nerd. Sure he is a highly skilled photo whiz to say something of highly skilled when it comes to science and the like, but at the same time he is also bullied relentlessly by bullies and highly awkward around girls especially one by the name of Gwen Stacy. Our story really gets underway though when we see our intrepid hero discover his dad’s old work satchel and, while going through it, discover a fairly complicated math equation. One that we see leads him to a business known as Oscorp and to a man by the name of Dr. Curt Connors. A talented albeit slightly arrogant scientist who doesn’t have a right arm and who, we learn, has been trying to develop a way to regenerate lost human tissue in a way that resembles the way that say a reptile might. To that end, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Peter actually manages to impress the good doc with how smart he is. Things soon go haywire though when, while on a sneaky trip to Oscorp, Peter is bit by a spider in a top-secret area of the facility and, surprise surprise, soon acquires astonishing powers such as incredible strength and a fairly accurate 6th sense. However when tragedy soon strikes awfully close to home, we see Peter come to grips with his new abilities, design a suit, create an incredible new spider web-esque material, and turn himself into a masked hero known as “Spider-Lad” ehhhh “Spider-Man.” Yet as he starts forming quite the bond with Gwen, we see Peter start to hone in on a horrific secret that could result in good ol’ Dr. Connors going down quite the dangerous path and could see potentially all of New York City be placed in grave danger unless a certain arachnid hero does something about it….

Now right off the bat it should be noted that The Amazing Spider-Man is one that regales us with the same story that those of us who even have the tiniest degree of familiarity possible with this iconic character are familiar with. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything novel to this particular movie. I say that because in addition to a new cast, filmmaking crew, and some 2012 flair, The Amazing Spider-Man did, for the time, manage to conjure up a novel vibe for this character not per se in terms of web-swinging action beats, I mean those are still an essential part to this cinematic experience, but rather in conjuring up a more immersive human component that isn’t sacrificed in favor of effects work and instead helps to define the action and be a wonderful guide for the film from start to end. Indeed this is a movie that, more than any other entry in the Spider-Man film pantheon at that time save perhaps for Spider-Man 2 in 2004, is one that deals a lot more in the responsibilities that great power does comes with. Yes this is the defining component of what makes Spider-Man who he is as a hero, but in this film it’s not a compare/contrast. Instead it’s one where the only thing that really distinguishes the heroes and the antagonists in this are how they think about things that, over time, lead to physical conflict. Suffice it to say that this film’s handle on the various shades of humanity and its belief that people are inherently decent mixed with the theme that sometimes doing something with the best of intentions can still lead to terrible things happening all help to ensure to this movie is a fairly riveting film, but of course that’s only half the equation.

Thankfully, in regards to the other half of the equation, The Amazing Spider-Man is successful at giving audiences by and large exactly what they want from an entry in the superhero genre. Indeed the second and third acts of this movie do a wonderful job at presenting us with a riveting mix of both top-notch visual effects and stunt work that may be simplistic, but are also quite potent as well. Along with that, I can also promise you that when it comes to the moments where Spidey is web swinging across the city, you will feel like audiences did when they first rode in the Batmobile or flew with the Man of Steel. Sure there isn’t anything particularly iconic or revolutionary about how it’s accomplished, but its how incredibly well mixed in with the rest of the movie to say nothing of how with very little effort it’s accomplished as well as not being utilized as something to keep your mind off of flaws this movie possesses that help to distinguish it. Indeed if there is one component in terms of visual effects that people might take issue with, I definitely think it will be how cartoony a certain character’s alter ego turns out to be when he’s unleashed in the movie. Sure it looks fine, and it thankfully is constructed around a person and their increasingly distorted psyche, but there is still something that is just a little bit off about it.

Ultimately, however if there is one key area where I have an issue with this movie, it would most assuredly be in the fact that this movie’s beginning is incredibly slow and, if I am being honest, a bit on the bland side. I mean don’t get me wrong: a movie in this vein does need to fulfill a few backstory items in order to get the ball fully rolling, but it’s not this prerequisite character construction that’s the issue. Rather, it’s the run of the mill manner that this movie chooses to operate with in dealing with said construction. I mean there really is no spark to this movie’s first act, but thinking about it further perhaps this is to the overall benefit of the movie. I say this because perhaps by making our main character so typical in the beginning maybe it makes his transition to full-on superhero so incredible to witness. At least I hope that’s why because without it, the first 50-55 minutes of this movie really do seem like they stretch on for infinity. Thankfully, after this stretch of time this movie is a wonderful treat to behold. Indeed this movie does a fairly good job at blending together all the necessary components to a movie succeeding fairly well. I am also pleased to say that the cast does all do top-flight work as well. Indeed as our favorite web head, Andrew Garfield is fantastic as both Spidey and Peter in that he has both the quippy manner of Spider-Man, but also the youthful enthusiasm of Peter. It also doesn’t hurt that film helmer Marc Webb manages to help Garfield find the much-needed degree of humanity that is always a necessary component to this character. We also get a wonderful performance in this from Emma Stone who as Gwen Stacy is both sweet and likable and she and Garfield have terrific chemistry together. I also really like the work done in this by Denis Leary as Gwen’s dad…..and someone who also happens to be a member of the NYPD that is NOT a fan of this new web swinging vigilante on the streets. Yes it’s a bit more restrained than his normal efforts, but Leary brings a relatability and grounded manner to the role that is perfect for the character. Finally, in the role of Connors I thought Rhys Ifans did a wonderful job of giving this iconic comic book character the dimensions he so desperately needs…especially when his other side starts coming forth to terrorize the city.

All in all, when given the benefit of time having come and gone since its initial release all the way back in 2012, I think it can safely be said that The Amazing Spider-Man actually does work fairly well. Indeed this is not just a slice of superhero cinematic pie that’s “cool”. It’s also a fairly immersive character analysis and human pathos blended quite effectively with riveting action beats and top-notch visual effects work. Yes the movie is a bit slow in the beginning and the main antagonist of the Lizard doesn’t always look the best visually in the world, but by and large this is fairly fantastic, a top-flight movie, and a (before a little actor by the name of Tom Holland came on the scene) wonderful relaunch of a character that, due in large part to the last film featuring him had its fair share of cringe worthy moments, it definitely needed. Suffice it to say that this movie was, for the time, definitely what a Spider-Man needed and one that, even close to a decade out since its initial release, is still a web slinging good time to be had. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Amazing Spider-Man “2012” a solid 3.5 out of 5.