Reading reviews of the new Amazing Spider-Man movie I have come to the conclusion that a decade ago Sam Raimi created a perfect and holy scripture in the form of the first Spider-Man movie and Toby McGuire was the One True Parker. And thus by extension the new Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Mark Webb (no really, not kidding!) and starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, is rank heresy, an unnecessary reboot aimed at getting more milk out the cash cow that is Spidey.
Well if this is so, then I proudly declare myself as a heretic, for I believe in the superiority of this new version and that Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man’s true prophet! Let me tell you why.
For a start I think a lot of people are simply annoyed that there is a reboot at all and that is getting in the way of appreciating the new movie in its own right. As the reboot is seen as unnecessary it can’t win. But let’s be honest, the third movie was just awful and kinda killed the franchise. And legal issues meant that to have a movie for Spidey’s 50th anniversary there had to be a reboot. I believe the Wallcrawler deserved a movie for this occasion, so reboot it is.
And I really think that this movie does a lot of things better than the Raimi movies. Here’s just a few:
1 Andrew Garfield is a much better Peter Parker (and Spider-Man): Garfield just IS Peter Parker, combining the geekiness, charm, scientific brilliance, humour and sense of responsibility that define Peter Parker in a way that captures the essence of the character much better than MacGuire ever did. Toby was great but he was a bit bland. And as Spider-Man, the Raimi characterization lacked the humour and spark of the comics, while this version perfectly captures the classic Spidey banter - part cockiness, part false- bravado, part distraction to keep his foes off guard.
2 Emma Stone is a better love interest as Gwen Stacy: Now I love Mary Jane as much as the next guy. And I really like Kirsten Dunst. But She wasn’t a great MJ. Like MacGuire she was a bit bland, which is a pity because MJ is supposed to be anything but bland. Whereas Emma Stone’s portrayal of Gwen Stacy was wonderful, showing her to be smart, charming, witty, courageous and just adorable.
3 The relationships are more believable: The central relationship between Peter and Gwen is significantly more believable and deep than that between Peter and MJ in the Raimi movies. Webb’s track record as a director of indie romance movies (which I have not seen!) shows in a movie in which the central love story is as interesting and engaging as the superheroics. And its not just the love story. Some critics have noted that this movie moves a little slowly in telling the origin story as compared to the Raimi movie. This is true, but not only does it do it well, but in doing so it allows for the characters to be better realized than in the previous version. In particular Uncle Ben, played wonderfully by Martin Sheen, get a lot more screen time so you get more time to get to know him and care about him before his inevitable demise and you feel that loss much more.
4 The villain is better: OK, so the lizard doesn’t look exactly like he does in the comics, but that’s probably a good thing. And he looks a lot better than the Green Goblin in Spiderman 1, who frankly looked silly. And while there are some similarities between the two villains - both are mentors to Peter, both have a split personalities and a dark side that gets the better of them - Rhyss Iffans ( and the movie script) portrays a more nuanced character than did Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin.
5 Things that early reviewers criticized as loose ends have now been are clearly plot threads for the now confirmed trilogy. I am eager to find out about the fate of Peter’s parents and how it relates to his powers and to Norman Osborne, and probably lots of other things I won’t realize are connected until they are revealed in a later movie. And I like the fact that they are taking their time with things. We know Norman Osborne is an integral part of the story and will certainly appear as the ultimate villain in the third movie, but I’m happy they aren’t jumping right to him like the previous movies did. I think I will appreciate his story line more as it unfolds rather than it being told in one movie.
6 The superhero action is awesome and made my inner twelve year old giddy: The action in this version was no better and no worse than the previous version. It was just as good and really hit all the classic Spidey beats I was hoping for. And in some ways the “Spidey-ness” of the action was more accurate to the comics, bringing back the Peter Parker banter and, due to Garfield’s more wiry frame, better replicating the comicbook “look” of Spider-Man than MacGuire’s stockier build.
I will always love the Raimi movies, but I am a convert to the new religion of the Amazing Spider-Man. But don’t worry, I have no plans to go door-to-door asking if people will accepted Webb as the Holy Director and Garfield as his True Prophet!