When it was first announced that ‘(500) Days of Summer’ director Marc Webb was at the helm for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, I couldn’t have been more excited. The brief teaser trailer fueled that excitement… until I saw the first full trailer. I couldn’t have been more worried. The footage shown was nearly identical to that of Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ movies. It looked like nothing new was being brought to the plate. I watched one clip of Peter Parker being held-up by a doorman (a clip that didn’t even make the 136-minute final cut) that looked exactly like the Bruce Campbell scene from ‘Spider-Man 2’. So, I decided to stop watching clips and trailers. Little did I know that this was all part of a master plan that is now clear to me, a plan so smart that I should have given Webb the benefit of the doubt. The last thing I expected was for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ to blow me away – which it did – or to become my favorite incarnation of the web-slinging superhero yet.
‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ sets up a new reality for the characters in Peter Parker’s world, one very different from that of the Raimi version. Yes, the movie over-writes the pre-existing films, but in an alternate universe sort of way that pays a lot of homage to Raimi’s work. Mild Spoiler: For example, when Peter lets the robber run past him, the robber who eventually guns down Uncle Ben, instead of the recycled cynical phrase, “It’s not my problem,” he uses a relevant-to-this-version line, “It’s not my policy.” End spoiler. Even though the clip that resembles Bruce Campbell’s cameo scene in ‘Spider-Man 2’ isn’t in the final cut, that scene is there to pay homage. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is riddled with easter eggs that pay tribute to everything Raimi did well. Fortunately, the things that Raimi didn’t do so well aren’t brought back for this version.
So, what does Webb do right? He has infused the Spider-Man storyline with huge swells of emotion. I don’t remember this happening in any of the three previous movies, but ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ stirs up genuine emotions. There are at least two scenes that caused me to start breathing heavily and even made my eyes well up. Both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone do fantastic jobs here. For the first time, I really felt for Peter Parker. I intimately understood the crappy side to having super powers. I understood exactly why Peter will never be close to anyone. Those themes are brought up in the old movies, but weren’t so strongly portrayed. I know that a lot of fans dislike the way the story here deals with the deaths of Peter’s parents, but it isn’t a huge part of the film and it sure makes for a beautiful tone-setting intro that paves the way for a lot of heartfelt scenes.
Yes, Webb has recycled some of the visual style of Raimi’s films, but he doesn’t rely on it. In fact, he makes the movie his own. My favorite of the new techniques is the first-person swinging perspective. For the first time, we see what it’s like to soar across the city from inside the mask. My only complaint is that this isn’t used enough. Helping make the effects even more powerful is a great use of aspect ratio and 3D. Just as I did with ‘Prometheus’, I highly recommend seeing ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ in IMAX 3D. The grand scope shots that I loved from the trailer made me giggle with excitement as I watched them on them expanded on the IMAX screen. It was as if I had never seen those shots before, one of which made my stomach hit the floor.
I cannot praise ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ enough. It’s not afraid to take its time setting up characters and stories. Even though Spidey doesn’t make his grand appearance for quite some time into the film, I never once thought of shouting, “Where’s Spider-Man?!” I was completely content. I enjoyed the fun times that Sam Raimi gave us, but this rendition of Spider-Man definitely functions more on a filmic level that speaks to me.
This movie took me completely by surprise. I honestly look forward to reading what everyone else thinks. If you catch ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ this week, please leave comments with your opinions.