The Amazing Spiderman is Great

We watched the latest Spiderman movie this weekend. I had heard mixed reviews from friends, so I was surprised how much I really, really liked it. My kids liked it, too. So did my wife, who wasn’t really looking forward to it.

I wasn’t a fan of the first three Spiderman movies. They weren’t terrible or great, I didn’t love or hate them. Mostly, they just left me cold. Nothing about them really inspired anything in me. They got Spiderman basically right as the wisecracking but selfless hero who uses his brains as much as his superpowers. What they got wrong was Peter Parker.

I knew 30 minutes into The Amazing Spiderman – before he gets his superpowers – that this was a better movie. They painted Peter Parker to a T. Problems at home, picked on at school, striking out with girls. (And later in college, problems with money and problems juggling work, classes, girlfriends, and being a superhero.) You can’t help sympathing with such a perennial underdog and cheering when things finally go his way.

AS follows the basic origin story, with a twist.* It shows what happens to Peter’s parents and why he’s living with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. In the movie Richard Parker was a scientist who was forced to flee in the middle of the night from some unseen threat. He only has time to get his wife and child and a mysterious folder hidden in the false bottom of a drawer. After that Mr. and Mrs. Parker go into hiding. Peter later finds the mysterious papers in his father’s attache and links them to work at Oscorp.

I didn’t have many criticisms. There were a few places where the effects weren’t great and the budget limitations showed through. The Lizard looked kind of stupid. If anything The Lizard looked like The Abomination in The Incredible Hulk movie.

The performances in the new Spiderman are generally better than the old. Andrew Garfield is a much better Peter Parker. Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben is a fully drawn character who gets more screentime than in the last series. Emma Stone made a fantastic Gwen Stacey.

* That twist may be part of the reason some people didn’t like the movie. There’s a contingent of comic book fans who will not tolerate deviations from canon. They treat the original storylines as holy scripture to which thou shalt be faithful.

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