Thursday, April 4, 2013

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man
Author: Andrew Garfield as Spider-man, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Drama
My Rating: ****
Age Group: 16+
Official Rating: PG-13

My Summary:
It's simple, really. It comes down to this: what’s in a hero? What does it take to be one? What kind of hero do you want? Do you want a guy like Clark Kent, whose only human traits are love for Louise Lane and a real talent for being clumsy? How about someone like Iron Man, who is sarcastic, pretends to have no weaknesses, and whose power comes from a suit of metal? Or would you like a boy, who can’t seem to decide what he is?
That is the true story of Spiderman. It’s not the plot, it’s not Curt Conners and the giant lizard, it is who Peter Parker actually is. Because, you see, Peter doesn’t know.
Take your typical science geek with posters of Einstein hanging in his room, a brain that churns out scientific equations, and a mouth that shoots of scientific jargon. Mix all that with a senior in high school who isn’t exactly at the top of the totem pole, enjoys photography, and has a crush on another senior (who happens to be cute and a tutor/science nerd).
But don't forget one thing: Parker was left by his parents with his aunt and uncle. His parents died when he was a very little boy.
Peter doesn't know who or what he is and we watch him struggle with that. He seems to waiver on a line between typical uncaring high schooler and kind nephew who really does love his adoptive parents. He has his tender moments and they're heart-wrenchingly sweet. Then he has his high schooler moments where he gets into fights, is late to class, and neglects various duties. Those are also heart wrenching, because as the viewer we see him trying to figure out which way to fall.
The biggest wound Peter has is far deeper than any gouges or bruises he gets during fights with a giant lizard. His wound comes from the lack of a father. He's lost, needing that guidance, and it's not there.
He's on his own, or so he thinks.
Then we have the plot with his dad's old partner in the science business, the little problem of a police chief wanting to capture Spider-Man, and the whole crush-on-Gwen thing.
Yes, Peter has a bit more than he can handle without the guidance that he needs so badly. He watched his uncle die, he's responsible for creating a monster with his scientific "genius", he's dating a girl whose father wants to arrest his other identity, and Dr. Connors wants to create a world where everyone is equal. Oh, and the little ordeal where Peter becomes part spider. Poor guy.
For the viewer, this all adds up for a fantastic movie filled with excitement, a few romantic scenes, lots of epic battles, awesome spider-man moves, and a great finding-self story. Does it get any better?
Mr. Stacy might not realize it, but his first positive words to Peter are just what Peter has needed to hear all his life from a man: “He’s not alone.”
His aunt states, “Peter Parker, if there’s one thing you are, it’s good.” And she’s right. He does have good in him—but he can’t seem to figure out what to do with it. And that's where all his troubles seem to come from.
Is he going to take responsibility?

Word of Warning:
This is a PG-13 movie, and rightly so. Here is a list of the negative elements:

  • Peter is beaten up by fellow high schoolers (kicked, punched, etc), and bloodied by his various fights with the lizard, falling from buildings, and crashing into things. He is also shot in the leg by a policeman.
  • Peter flees the law.
  • Peter starts out on a quest for revenge, desperate to fix something he's sure he's responsible for: Ben's death. At first, he's quick and ruthless. Check the guy's wrist of the tattoo, move on. But then, when he gets the spider suit, he starts to enjoy it, making funny comments and taking his time.
  • Peter accidentally rips a woman's shirt off when he is still getting used to his powers. To his credit, he is horrified and turns away, shielding his eyes and apologizing. That doesn't save the viewers, however, and we see the woman standing there in her bright pink bra.
  • Peter kisses Gwen a bit too passionately the first time(s). In a different scene, she pulls away and protests quietly, he insists and pushes forward. Nothing more than kissing, but he did not respect her refusal.
  • An unknown couple at the high school kiss rather passionately in front of Peter's locker, making it hard for him to open it and get his books.
  • In an attempt to get some privacy, Gwen lies about having cramps and says that she feels emotional and it's very brutal, all to her dad, who backs away and says he doesn't want to know.
  • Peter dates a girl whose father clearly doesn't like him and who wants to arrest Spider-man (Peter's second identity).
  • A man suggests bringing war veterans into a scientific experiment regarding limb regeneration. This idea is shot down by another man, who is horrified at the thought.
  • Cars hang from a bridge and we know at least one is occupied: by a little boy who is terrified. The car starts on fire. (The boy does survive.)
  • Peter replaces an unknown word with "Mother Hubbard", which he spits out angrily and in a moment of frustration, anger, and terror.
  • The word "a**" is used at least once, as are a few other words.
  • There is shooting done by the police.
  • A giant lizard is shot at and appears to be dead but is not.
  • Men turn into lizards.
  • A man seems to be possessed by something evil, which is embodied in a lizard, almost as though a lizard's mind is taking over the man's mind.
  • Animal experimentation (human experimentation is mentioned, but is held off until things are mostly grounded and sure)
  • Uncle Ben is shot and we see blood, which does a scene jump with Peter and remains on his hands.
  • Peter promises to stay away from Gwen in order to protect her--the last thing Mr. Stacy asks of him. But Peter reveals at the end of the movie that the best promises are the ones you can't keep, shooting a look at Gwen.
My Thoughts:
No, this isn't the Spider-Man we saw in the original movie. This is a troubled boy who is trying so hard to grow up but just can't seem to figure out how. He needs his dad. He staggers around, empty, desperate, lost, trying to make sense of everything on his own. He gets so close to the good, but gets knocked away, and even the end of the movie isn't satisfactory. Really? Making a promise you don't intend to keep? Not something that should be done, especially to someone who is dying.
Yet we feel for Peter. How could we not? Even as he rides his skateboard around in the school after being told not to, he stands up for a kid being bullied even though Peter is well aware he hasn't got a chance. His humorous comments to the criminals are enough to make us smile, but we wonder, when did he start enjoying this? At first, we felt like he was blindly searching for a way to deal with Ben's death. But when he starts mocking the criminals he attacks, we know he's gone over the edge.
He's not all bad. I found Garfield's portrayal of a high school guy to be very well done. So well done that it hurt.
But Spider-Man is not fully redeemed by the end of this movie. No, he still has a lot of learning to do. He's no Spider-Man. Even as a senior in high school, because of his inner struggles, he's very much a Spider-Boy.
That's a dangerous thing.

So we come full circle: what’s in a hero? What does it take to be one? What kind of hero do you want?
Do you want a Spider-Boy? Are you willing to let him spend more than one movie turning his life around?
Realistically, it should take him more than that. I think it's reasonable to wait for more development, as he really has started to show some progress by the end of this movie. Personally, I enjoy a story about a hero who finds it hard to be a hero.
Who knows? Maybe by the end of the next movie he'll have moved on from being Spider-Boy to being a real Spider-Man.


Lurai said...

Excellent review! I saw this movie a while ago and was pleasantly surprised by it; I really, honestly, loved it. I couldn't believe it!! And even though there were PG-13 things involved, it surprisingly didn't go over the edge; I was expecting a lot worse and was really happy when they didn't let it go there! I haven't seen the other Spiderman movies *insert gasp of shock here* but, though the ending to this one isn't quite satisfactory, it makes sense chronologically because he still has to grow and learn (supposedly through the other movies), like you said. It was awesome :D Glad you liked it too!!

Also, a suggestion? I just saw the movie The Croods, and trust me, it's worth watching towards the end. I was floored. I cried! CRIED! It was amazing if only for that one (big, huge) part and it was also incredibly funny. It had a great (Christian?) message at the end and I was astonished. Please watch and review if you can; I'm forcing myself not to give it away, but it was amazing. :) :) :)

Maria Gianna said...

Thank you! I agree that it was a great movie, and I too was surprised by that.
Considering just how messed up Parker's life actually is (abandoned by a father, parents dead, watches uncle die, etc), it makes sense that he doesn't really recover completely by the end of the movie.
The next movie will be coming out this year or the next, I believe. As for the other spider-man movies, they are the originals and tell a story separate from this one, set almost in a different time frame.

I will see what I can do to get a review of "The Croods", though it might take a little while. I appreciate the suggestion and am glad to hear that it's good, because at first I hadn't been sure what to expect.

Lurai said...

Ooh, I didn't know there was another movie! Awesome!

I'm glad you'll hopefully do a review for The Croods, even if it takes some time! :) It is incredibly good...I wish I could give it away but I just can't! The previews didn't really show the awesomeness at all, though they did show some funny parts, which were epic :D

Stacy C said...

@Maria: The old ones were way better. You and I will disagree on this forever, but I don't care. I shall proclaim the old Spiderman's awesomeness from the rooftops. :P
Not that I didn't like the new one, but the old ones were just... better.

@Lurai: I totally want to go see The Croods. It looked really good. :)

Lurai said...

@Stacy C: You, my friend, have incredibly good taste (as do you, Maria!!). It was incredible and the previews don't even begin to describe it. :D