In Defense of The Amazing Spider-Man
Peter Benjamin Parker has been around since 1962. In that time, he’s seen a number of depictions on the big screen. There were some treatments in the late 70s that we all collectively agree not to talk about. In 1999 Sony acquired the film rights to arguably Marvel’s most iconic character ever, and since then they have made (solely or jointly with Marvel Studios) seven solo movies; with one more expected for December. These movies, especially the first three (The Raimi Trilogy), marked a new era in comic book movies. These movies were to be taken seriously, unlike the campy affairs of the late 80s and 90s (glares at Schumacher’s Batman).
Sony’s acquisition wasn’t all roses, however. The movie studio known for meddling in it’s affairs did exactly that during production of Spider-Man 3. Plans for a fourth Raimi Spider-Man were scrapped, and in 2010 the character was rebooted.
In 2012, The Amazing Spider-Man was released. Directed by Marc Webb (cool coincidence), it starred Andrew Garfield as our main man, and instead his famous redheaded girlfriend/wife (depending on if you’ve read One More Day or not) the writers went with his first love Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. It was a different kind of Spider-Man. Still in high school, haunted by the death of his parents, and crushing on the hot girl in class. It performed well at the box office, raking in over $757 million. That figure puts it at 75 on the all time list, 25th among superheroes, and first for reboots.
Despite the commercial success, and a very good critical rating (73% on Rotten Tomatoes), this movie hasn’t lived well among the fandom. The reasons are legion, and I’m gonna try to beat some of them back.
One very popular one is that Andrew Garfield is too cool as Peter, or variations on the theme. The idea being that Garfield’s Parker is portrayed as some sort of cool kid because he skateboards. If you’ve seen the movie more than once, you know this is not true. Peter was a stumbling incoherent mess who could barely string three words together. But, because of one ill-placed smolder, I’m supposed to believe that he’s just dripping with it.
While I’ll admit it doesn’t look great, it does not negate the fact that throughout that scene, the kid could barely talk. It’s not his fault he looks like that.
Another one is again aimed at Garfield’s Peter/Spider-Man. Ever since Tom Holland became the third Spidey in 2016, fans have been in the habit of ranking Spiders, with Garfield consistently coming bottom. This doesn’t sit right with me. Tobey’s take on the character will always be loved and revered (if there was a Hall of Fame for comic book actors, he’d be in it), but if we’re being completely honest, his Parker was just a tad dopey, and his Spider-Man was annoyingly mute (I can count a handful of quips over the three movies). A major part of the character is his constant talking; it’s stated numerous times in comics that this is a conscious decision by Peter. Garfield’s Spider-Man has that down right from the jump. The cockiness, the constant quips in the face of imminent danger; these are some of the things that make Spider-Man an iconic character, and Garfield’s Spidey nails them.
Also, and this is no fault of anyone, but Garfield’s Spider-Man looks better. No, I’m not talking about the design of the costume (which I don’t hate). I mean how Spidey looks as he’s swinging, and jumping and all that stuff. Better CGI tech leads to better swinging scenes. Like I said, no one’s fault.
Finally (not really, but the last one I’ll talk about), something I like to call Sequel Proximity Syndrome (SPS). SPS is what happens when the sequel to a movie swings hard on reviews (good or bad), that it affects how we see earlier movies in the series. For example, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a really good movie but the terribleness that is The Last Jedi will forever color the way fans discuss TFA. For TASM, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was such an amazingly bad movie, due in the most part to studio interference, that it overshadows any discussion about Andrew’s Spider-Man. Yes, TASM2 was bad, that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s prequel was bad. The inability to separate these movies will lead to the continued underrating of what I consider to be a very, very good Spider-Man film.