So we covered the flawed, yet still pretty awesome, trilogy of Spider-Man films here, and while there was still plenty of room for stories to tell with the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man and the universe Sam Raimi crafted, Sony Pictures decided that Spider-Man 3 was to be the last installment in the series. They rebooted the franchise, and drafted director Marc Webb (kind of ironic) and cast Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man for the new series. The new franchise improved on the work the previous group did in a lot of ways, most notably casting and effects, and had some missteps of their own, which we will try to cover below.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker / Spider-man), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Rhys Ifans (Dr. Curt Connors / The Lizard), Dennis Leary (Captain Stacy), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben), Sally Field (Aunt May), and Chris Zylka (Flash Thompson)
Plot: Peter Parker is bit by a genetically modified spider gaining the proportionate strength and agility of a human spider. When his Uncle Ben is killed by a robber he could have stopped, he learns that ‘with great power must come great responsibility’. Now, as Spider-Man he must battle the monstrous Lizard to save the people of New York, and as Peter Parker explore his new relationship with Gwen Stacy while working with Dr. Curt Connors to learn more about the mysterious death of his parents and his father’s work they may have been killed for.
Comic Zombie: As I stated in the last installment I am a huge nerd for Spider-Man, so more Spidey movies will always be something I welcome with open arms. However, I was again skeptical when they announced they were going to be rebooting the movies, and was even more skeptical with the casting of Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. The early pictures had him looking rather hipster-ish. However, the announcement that Sally Field and Martin Sheen would be playing Aunt May and Uncle Ben, respectively, gave me some hope. These were far, far superior actors to the previous ones, and don’t typically attach their names to crappy projects.
Emma Stone being cast as Gwen Stacy helped, too. I eventually decided to stop judging the movie before I had even seen a trailer (imagine that!), and ignored all of the pre-production news, other than the announcement that Rhys Ifans would be playing the Lizard as the main villain, which I was excited by.
When the trailer came out I was very excited. It seemed like, at the very least, they got Spider-Man’s humor much more than the Raimi films did, and Garfield seemed to be having a lot of fun playing the role. I later read that he had sent in a picture of himself as a little kid dressed as Spider-Man before his audition, and was a huge fan of the character and the comics going way back. That’s always good to hear, and it translated to the screen. Garfield is immensely likeable as Peter, and even if he isn’t quite the Peter Parker from the comics, he gets the spirit of the character down pretty damn well. His Spider-Man is damn near perfect, and I am bummed that he won’t be portraying the character past the sequel.
I am not the biggest fan of the Ultimate comics, so I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the way they tied a lot of the stuff with Peter’s father’s work to his origin, as Brian Bendis did with Ultimate Spider-Man. I like how there is an overarching conspiracy at play in the background, and the foreground, of these films, and again it bums me out we won’t get to see where they were going with this. I wasn’t sure about tying Dr. Connors to Richard Parker the way they did, as it felt like they were just trying to tie Peter to the villain like they did with Dr. Octopus in Spider-Man 2, but it worked. It gave the feeling that there had been a lot going on in the past that was starting to come to a head with Peter’s bite and with the Lizard formula, and we were just seeing the beginning of something that had been building for years. It seemed like there was a lot of world building going on, especially with all of the vaguely menacing mentions of Norman Osborn, who we never see in this movie, but who nonetheless has a rather large impact on the story.
Including the scene at the beginning with Peter’s parents having to run out on him and dump him with his aunt and uncle added gravitas to the tragedy of Peter’s early years, and even before Uncle Ben dies at the end of the first act, it is quite clear that Peter is dealing with a lot of issues that stem from that night.
I loved the chemistry between Garfield and Stone, which feels genuine, and clearly is judging by the fact that the two have been dating since this film was being made. Stone does a great job of making Gwen likeable in a way that Kirsten Dunst was never able to do with Mary Jane in the previous films. Their back and forth feels natural, unforced, and adds to the film in a lot of scenes.
The effects are terrific. Spider-Man looks awesome (even though there are some changes made to his costume that I wasn’t wild about, he at least still looks like Spider-Man), and his movements while in costume are far more spider-like than anything we’ve seen before. In particular when he is webbing the Lizard up in a cocoon during the fight at the school (the best action in the film). He moves slightly creepily, and it just looks awesome. The uses of his powers are done well, especially when he first wakes up after the bite gives him his powers and he destroys his bathroom in like ten seconds in one of the funniest bits in the film. In fact, from the bite through the next day is all really funny.
The uses of his webbing are clever, such as when he creates a web in the sewer and, like a real spider, uses the vibrations created by movement along the web to track his prey (in this case, the Lizard). It’s also nice that they used web shooters instead of the gross ass organic webbing from the previous films.
Dennis Leary does a decent job as Captain Stacy, who is portrayed much younger than he ever was in the comics, and the film does a decent job of showing why he would be distrustful of Spider-Man at first. It’s also a nice bit that, when he finds out Peter is Spider-Man, he realizes that maybe he was wrong about both of them and even gives his life to buy Peter time to save the day. I like how he also kind of puts Peter on the right path when he mentions that Spider-Man is not a hero, he’s just going out and beating the crap out of anyone that looks similar, like he’s out for revenge against someone (he is, obviously). Peter realizes he’s right and starts to behave more altruistically after that. Leary seemed like an odd casting choice, as he is primarily known as a comedian and his dramatic roles have often been ones that wouldn’t make you think “Spider-Man movie”, like the excellent FX series “Rescue Me”, but he does a good job with the screen time he is given.
Finally, on to the villain. Connors seems like a nice enough guy, and the scenes with him and Peter are well done. Their teacher/student relationship works pretty well. When the stress of having Osborn’s lackey pushing him on a deadline he just can’t realistically meet takes its toll and Connors begins to break it gives Peter the opportunity to grow concerned and suspicious, and when the Lizard shows up he smartly puts two and two together pretty quickly and begins trying to stop him.
I liked the Lizard quite a bit, other than two things which I will touch on in a second. I really liked how he was shown as big and powerful, yet scary fast. I liked how he retained his intelligence when he changed, rather than just being a mindless monster. I loved how he moved, especially how he fought, and thought that there were some nice touches thrown in, like how he ‘smelled’ with his mouth (as lizards do). I did NOT like his face. I thought they could have done a much better job and made him more lizard-like in the face, as opposed to the human/lizard hybrid. I mean, what they did makes sense, but it just doesn’t look quite right to me. And I REALLY didn’t like his master plan. He was going to ‘cure’ everyone of disease and injury and whatever by turning everyone into giant lizard people? That’s like Magneto’s plan from the first X-Men movie. It’s hackneyed and stupid. With the proper execution it could have been ok, but it just comes off like “well, he has to do something big”. He didn’t have to. Spider-Man doesn’t always have to save the city, he just has to beat the bad guy. Notice in the first Raimi film how Osborn was going to like blow up New York if Spidey didn’t stop him? What’s wrong with that? Why can’t it just be one on one with more personal stakes?
Anyway, all told I enjoyed the movie quite a lot, and thought it was a nice job of rebooting a series that probably didn’t need a reboot to begin with.
When I first heard they were rebooting Spider-Man I was skeptical to say the least. Especially considering it’d only been a few years since the last movie. I wasn’t a huge fan of how the third Raimi movie was handled, but it was no Batman and Robin. I have to admit, I was very curious about what Spider-man 4 would’ve been like. Before it was scrapped it was rumored to have the Vulture and Black Cat, not to mention it would’ve been cool to see a Spider-Man movie where he becomes a college professor and/or scientist, like he does in the comics. Still, a Spider-Man movie is a Spider-Man movie, and there’s really no point in judging something before you see it.
When I first heard about it though, there was a lot of rumors going around that it was going to be a prequel/in-between-quel of sorts, people speculated that it would be taking place during the first Spider-Man movie, between that awesome montage of shots. There were also some crazy rumors about a ‘proto-goblin’ and that the movie would be about Miles Morales even though that comic book had just come out. Luckily none of those rumors were true. The movie was a complete and total reboot, with a more modernized approach. The first trilogy was clearly inspired by the old Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics, whereas this one took a que from the more recent comics, including the brilliant (original) Ultimate Spider-man series in 2000 by Brian Michael Bendis, where everything’s tied together: Oscorp, Peter’s father, the genetically altered spider, the villains, etc
When I first saw the movie, I wasn’t blown away the same way I was with the first one, but there were probably a few factors at play: It wasn’t the first time I’d seen Peter Parker’s origin story come to life, I wasn’t a teenager anymore, it lacked the epic Danny Elfman score, there were a lot more awesome super hero movies to compare it to, and I saw it in a packed theater with perhaps the worst audience I’ve ever experienced. Seriously, there was an entire row of rowdy teenagers talking, joking, getting up, playing on their cell phones, and giving me the single dumbest play by play commentary I’ve ever heard. No joke, it was like watching a commentary track, except with someone who didn’t know anything about the movie, much less Spider-Man, comics, movies, or life.
Anywho, when I did get around to rewatching it, I definitely had much more appreciation for it. It’s a really solid movie. I like how all the elements of his origin are done differently: the obligatory spider bite, Uncle Ben’s required death, the proto-Spidey costume, etc. I think Andrew Garfield is a spectacular Peter Parker. Tobey Maguire was great for the 60’s stereotypical nerd, but Garfield is so much more believable as a modern nerdy teen. He’s awkward for sure, but he’s also not a creepy stalker whose probably building a nuke in his basement. I also like that he’s a skateboarder, because it kind of explains all the crazy stunts he’s able to do as Spider-Man. But the best thing about him that was lacking the first few movies is that Spider-Man’s actually funny.
As much as I like Andrew Garfield though, Emma Stone is perfect as Gwen Stacy. It’s not just that I love Emma Stone (which I totally do), but she’s a really great character. I also like how different she is from the way Mary Jane and the way she was portrayed in the last movie. She’s also not a helpless damsel in distress. What’s more is I really dig the chemistry between them. I also like how she knows he’s Spider-Man. For me, she really makes these movies. (I find it funny though that Kirsten Dunst was a blonde who had to dye her hair red and Emma Stone is a natural redhead who had to dye her hair blonde)
And then there’s the villain of the piece, Dr. Curt Connors, aka The Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. I totally buy him as a scientist turned madman. It’s great to finally see The Lizard in action, although I think his design could’ve been tweaked. I really dig all the B-movie sci-fi villains that Spider-Man tends to face off with, and the Lizard is no exception. All the cross-species genetics stuff was really cool, in fact all the Oscorp designs are top notch.
Speaking of, I love all the foreshadowing with Norman Osborn having an off screen presence. In so many ways, it really seemed like they were planting the seeds of an ongoing series for decades to come. I keep telling myself, one of these days we’ll see the Sinister Six! Anywho, as far as a standalone movie it’s certainly entertaining. There’s so many great moments, like when Spidey’s just chilling in the sewers, waiting on the Lizard to show, and he’s playing a game on his cell phone, or when they’re duking it out in the highschool, or that scene where Peter’s typing into a search engine and it turns into a gibberish nonsense as he realizes his fingers ripped the keys out of the keyboard.
The ending fight on the top of the Oscorp tower was visually stunning and had emotional weight to it with Captain Stacy’s demise. Then there’s the ending credits scene where a mysterious figure visits Connors in the prison/asylum and mentions Peter’s father. I thought it was a great cliffhanger and got me all pumped for the next one, because clearly they were building to something… Right? Right??!!
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker / Spider-man), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Jamie Foxx (Electro), Dane DeHaan (Harry Osborn / The Goblin), Sally Field (Aunt May), Paul Giamatti (“The Rhino”), Marton Csokas (Dr. Kafka), Colm Feore (Donald Menken), Felicity Jones (Felicia Hardy?), Chris Cooper (Norman Osborn), and Dennis Leary (Dead Captain Stacy).
Plot: Spider-Man must face off with the immensely powerful Jamie Fo- er… Electro, as well as his old friend Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin, while as Peter Parker trying to keep Gwen Stacy, the girl he loves, in his life. Oh, and the Rhino shows up, too. Sort of…
Erik Smash: I think I speak for both of us when I say I have very mixed feelings about this one.
There’s a number of things wrong with this movie, but there’s also moments of greatness hidden in it. It’s one of those cases where it seems like the director and the producers wanted two different movies and we got something in between that just didn’t work as well. It feels like they desperately wanted to appeal to both the adult comic fans and the kid demographic while making it accessible to your average movie goer/smelly hobo who aimlessly wanders in off the street wondering why there’s a dude in a spider suit swinging across the New York skyline and not quite sure what happened to the last several decades.
So I don’t think the actors are necessarily the problem with this movie, because as I stated earlier, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are both awesome, and I’d argue they’re actually even better in this one. The supporting cast is good too, especially Sally Field as Aunt May. I think Dane DeHaan is a great choice for Harry Osborn and Chris Cooper is the absolute best choice for his father, Norman. I’d have to say the only major weak leak is probably Jamie Foxx as Electro, which is… unfortunate. Jamie Foxx is actually a really good actor, but he kind of phones it in on this one.
First problem with this movie: I really feel like it needed a subtitle to truly separate itself from the other Spider-Man 2 and really they should’ve tried to distance themselves from being compared to one of the better super hero movies ever made. Second: the main theme music seems all wrong, especially considering the tragic ending of the movie, also the Electro rap song seems a bit weird and out of place (but I do like the techno sounds that go with it). Third: pacing and tone, it’s all over the place, and it has way too many tonal shifts, jumping genres in the blink of an eye. The movie feels like a mostly fun roller-coaster that gives you whiplash (although to be fair, not as bad as the kind Gwen Stacy has).
The opening shows what happened to Peter’s parents after they left him with his Aunt and Uncle. I really like the sequence with the assassin in the plane, but it does seem a bit odd to open with that. Also, is it just me, or does the assassin character look like an Osborn? I feel like that guy should’ve been The Chameleon or something, that would’ve been cool, but whatever. Anywho, Peter’s parents are killed trying to send some kind of secret Oscorp data somewhere as the plane goes down.
Then we immediately jump over to Spider-Man swinging through the city (the first of many mid swings this movie goes through). Anyways, there’s a pretty decent scene where Spider-man takes on a Russian Paul Giamatti (aka The Rhino) whose stealing some plutonium from Oscorp or something. This scenes goofy, but it works and it establishes Spider-Man as a hero, in case we didn’t already know that for some reason, but it’s kind of an obligatory scene and part of why we love super hero movies. What’s better though is the next scene where Peter changes into graduation robes and temporarily forgets he has on his mask.
Then we shift over to Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon. I like that Electro’s in this movie, but I don’t really like how they handled his character prior to his transformation. You can’t really take a movie’s comic relief character and turn them into a menacing adversary. That said, I do like the scenes where Max becomes Electro. (Comiczombie: EXACTLY.) The effects themselves are truly amazing.
Then we meet Harry Osborn in a great scene where he goes to see his dying father, Norman. I thought it was very clever how they ‘kill off’ Norman Osborn before he ever becomes the Green Goblin and instead have his son become the Goblin. The sickly green skin was a nice touch too. His dad’s a complete asshole to him, which makes you sympathize with Harry, but also explains his… issues. I like when Peter and Harry are reunited, but it felt like we were missing something. I kinda feel like we maybe should’ve had a flashback with them as kids or something, maybe had him in the first one.
Some of the drama between Peter and Gwen seems unnecessary, but some of the scenes between them end up being some of the best moments in the movie. The fight scenes between Spider-man and Electro are top notch, especially the confrontation in Times Square. I love how the electricity shorts out Peter’s web shooters and how he has to figure out how to insulate his suit (just like in the comics). The sub plot about Peter figuring out the secrets his father was trying to protect is rather intriguing and I have no doubt a third movie would’ve expanded even more on that.
I still don’t know how to feel about the way the movie ends. It feels like Harry becomes the Goblin just so he can show up at the very end to kill off Gwen. After watching the deleted scenes though, it seems there was a lot more leading up to and explaining Harry’s transformation. He injected himself with the ‘venom’ which accelerated his condition and it was killing him, but he made it to the test suit which had a nano healing system built in, which kept him alive. He goes crazy, steals the glider, kills a bunch of people, and then confronts Spider-Man who he then figures out is Peter, so attacks Gwen to get back at him. I for one think the Goblin looks better in this one, than any previous incarnations. It’s a great sequence, but it feels tacked on, after Spidey defeats Electro. Part of me feels it should’ve been left for the third movie, but I’m glad they didn’t, because we didn’t get a third movie.
<Spoilers Ahead you slackers!>
During the confrontation, Gwen falls to her death at the Goblin’s hands, and Spider-Man unable to save her (just like in Amazing Spider-man Issue #121 true believers!). In slow motion, Spider-Man attempts to snag her with his webline, but it’s not fast enough and she hits the ground. It’s beautiful, brutal and touching. My problem with how it was handled? The last scene of the movie shows Spider-Man facing off against a comical Paul Giamatti in a giant mechanical Rhino suit. Once again super serious to goofy comedy. What’s worse is, the movie ends right as the face off begins.
My biggest problem with this movie was that it had so much going for it: it was building on the first one, it was furthering the backstory, and it was building towards the Sinister Six! It even teases you with Doc-Ock’s arms and the Vulture’s wings! So much potential!
It pisses me off that this movie just barely missed the mark just enough for the studio to scrap the third one all together. I really wanted to see where this was going. I would loved to have seen Andrew Garfield face off against a new version of Doctor Octopus, but no instead they’re rebooting it all… again.
At least now Marvel Studios will have a hand in the next one and he’ll be finally crossing over into the Avengers-related films…
Comic Zombie: I’m mostly with Erik on this one. There are parts of this movie that are really inspired, and very well executed. The acting is very strong, with the exceptions, ironically, of Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti, who are both hamming it up like they are in an episode of the 60’s Batman show. Foxx improves a bit towards the latter half of the movie, but at that point he’s been portrayed as such a goofy loser that it’s hard to take him seriously at all.
I liked quite a few things, and had some gripes. The stuff I wasn’t a fan of:
-Opening the movie with Peter’s parents.
The ‘mystery’ surrounding Peter’s father’s work can be important to the story and I have no problem, but when you open the movie with his parents being murdered it starts everything off on a dour note and drags everything down. It’s like starting the movie off with Uncle Ben’s autopsy or something.
-The hamminess of Electro and ‘Rhino’.
It’s bad enough when you have any villains played for laughs, or portrayed as goofy, but when you have 2? Now you’re entering Schumacher territory, and you don’t want to be there. You just really, really dont’.
-Killing Norman Osborn.
So let me get this straight. You cast Chris freaking Cooper as Norman Osborn and you give him ONE scene, and he dies?!?! What the shit?? There was so much potential there to have him be the Green Goblin, or at least an evil son of a bitch, but instead we get ‘you suck, Harry’ <dies>. So disappointing.
-The Gwen relationship.
In the first movie the relationship between Peter and Gwen was portrayed very well. They played off of each other well, and added some levity and humor to the film. In this movie it’s all Debbie Downer time. Peter can’t escape the guilt of ignoring her father’s dying wish, Gwen can’t stand him constantly breaking her heart, she’s leaving him, he’s sad, she’s sad…. for Christ’s sake. Peter’s parents are murdered, Uncle Ben is murdered, Captain Stacy is murdered, Norman Osborn dies, Gwen is murdered… and this is in 2 movies!!
-Too much setting future projects up, not enough focus on now.
You get the feeling watching this that a ton of this movie is geared towards setting up future franchises for Sony, like Sinister Six. There is no reason for this film to have 3 villains (well, really 2, cause Rhino barely counts). They should have followed the mantra of ‘less is more’. If you want Electro to be the villain, use Electro. If you want it to be Harry Osborn, have him be the villain. If you want to use a villain while you are setting up Harry, fine, but don’t spend so much screen time with the other guy. Between Peter’s parents and that mystery, Harry trying to figure out his plan, Electro being stupid, and the Peter/Gwen drama, there’s like no time for Spider-Man to just be Spider-Man. He gets to fight Electro once, swing around a little, and then the big fight at the end. That’s it. Oh, and the bit at the beginning with the plutonium.
The editing of this film is a mess. There are some scenes that were cut that explain the plot so much better than what made the final cut, and some things that are really kind of important that are left out, such as explaining what the suit Goblin Harry grabs does and why it saves his life. You couldn’t have cut Max Dillon’s Fortieth Annual Super Depressing And Creepy Birthday Celebration for something that actually furthered the story?
And the music… the music is awful. Whoever decided to approve the voices in the Electro theme should be clubbed. It’s so unbelievably stupid and cheesy…
Not talking about Giamatti’s performance, but the design and use of the character. What, Oscorp saw Systevich on the news being like “Spider-Man is bad!” and they gave him some huge Rhino mechanical suit? That’s retarded. Maybe not as retarded as the look of the suit, but plenty retarded. I understand maybe not wanting to have him be a giant dude in rhino-like suit, like in the comics, but the Ultimate version, a dude in a mechanized rhino suit (not to be confused with the movie, which is a giant tank with rhino themes) could have been done easily and would have played a hundred times better on screen.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to like here, too. Such as:
-Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
When they’re not breaking up or being depressing, the chemistry these two share on screen is, once again, very evident. If they were going to keep Gwen as the romantic interest they should have just committed to it. A whole movie of them playing off of each other again would have made Gwen’s loss at the end even more impactful.
-Andrew Garfield and Dane DeHaan.
DeHaan was a nice choice for Harry. He brings an intensity, and a likeability, to the character that James Franco just never could (or was interested in even trying to). And credit where credit is due, he is rather fucking creepy when he gets Goblinized. The two of them don’t have a lot of screen time together, but the little they do have, especially before Harry starts going nuts, is well done.
-The look of Electro and the Goblin.
Electro, for all the mistakes they made, looks pretty cool. Especially once he starts pushing himself in Ravencroft. The effects are really strong. Also, while it may not be the direction I would have gone, Harry looks pretty cool as the Goblin. He looks plenty fucked up, and it is kind of creepy. Certainly much better than the Franco ‘X-Games’ version.
-The action scenes.
The first film did, I think, a very good job with the action and fight sequences. The sequel, it should be noted, does even better. The uses of Spider-Man’s powers, and the choreography of each fight, is tremendous. And the look and feel, from the lighting to the locations to the action to the music, of the final confrontation between Spidey and Electro and then Spidey and the Goblin, is tremendous. Really well done.
Once again, Andrew Garfield shows that his Spider-Man is about fifty thousand times funnier than any non-comic version that has come before him. There’s a bit where he ‘accidentally’ trips up some guys at Oscorp that are after Gwen that is pretty funny, in particular, as well as a great bit towards the beginning with Peter and Aunt May where she almost walks in on him in his costume.
All told, this isn’t a bad movie. It’s better than Spider-Man 3, and parts of it are maybe the best of any of the Spider-Man films, but it’s too bloated and tries to do too much (like Spider-Man 3). The performances of the young actors nearly saves it completely, but it’s not quite enough, apparently. As Erik mentioned, and I’m sure you already know if you are reading this, Marvel and Sony have reached a deal to allow Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and for Marvel to co-produce the Spider-Man films moving forward. That means an all-new cast, and yet again going back to high school. While I am beyond thrilled to know that Spidey will be in like Captain America movies, or Avengers movies, and that they can show up in his movies, I am still sad to see Andrew Garfield go. He was by far the brightest spot out of the last two films, and I for one will miss his take on the character.