Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, and James Vanderbilt
Directed by Marc Webb
Released May 2014
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Spider-Man is one of my 10 favorite superheroes and the first Spider-Man film starring Tobey Maguire was one of my favorite superhero movies that were based on comic-books. I was underwhelmed with Spider-Man 2 and therefor I never did see Spider-Man 3, it just looked stupid. I saw The Amazing Spider-Man and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Like almost everyone I didn’t understand why they’d do a complete reboot with a new origin story so soon but, for the most part, it worked. I still think Maguire was a better “Peter Parker” than Andrew Garfield. I also had a hard time seeing Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben. I also didn’t like the attempt to add some mysterious backstory to Peter’s parents and their deaths (but, to be the fair, the comic-books have done the same thing). But I liked Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Dennis Leary as George Stacy and the use of the Lizard as the villain. I also liked that the made Spider-Man more jokey and wise-cracking, a trademark of Spidey’s character, which I feel wasn’t emphasized as much in the first two films. It all worked well and I enjoyed it (I’d grade it with an A), so I was hopeful for the continuation of the franchise. But I avoided the film in the theaters, and just picked up the DVD at Target on Friday, and just finished watching it.
Garfield grew on me as Peter. Once again I loved the portrayal of Spider-Man as a jokester who has fun doing what he does, but never forgets the supreme responsibility that he feels. The big opening action scenes interspersed with the more human elements like Spider-Man sticking up for the young boy who is being bullied and walking him home was also very nice. The romantic chemistry between Garfield and Stone helped make all the Peter/Gwen drama relate-able and interesting. I particularly liked Gwen’s portrayal as a strong, smart, and capable young woman on her own, not just someone pining away for Peter the way I felt Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane was played in the previous trilogy. I also liked more of the interaction between Peter and Aunt May in this film, although it’s still hard for me to separate the actress Sally Field from the character. When I see her on screen I just see “Sally Field” not “Aunt May”.
As for the rest, well, I quite liked Jamie Foxx as Electro, despite the multiple liberties they took with the character. Admittedly, as Max Dillon he was kind of over-the-top as a stereotypical nerd guy. But I thought the story of how he was transformed into Electro and ended up going on a rampage after mistakenly thinking Spider-Man, whom he’d become obsessed with, had betrayed him, was done well enough.
I also liked Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn, I thought he played the character very well, significantly different from James Franco, and the story they came up with regarding his father Norman and their inherited disease and how it led to Harry’s attempts to find a cure, which ended up transforming him into the Goblin was all very interesting.
However, the problem is that the film did not need both of them in it. They were two interesting villains, both dangerous but also sympathetic. Max was just a lonely shy guy who got in over his head. Harry was literally fighting for his life, and he thought Spider-Man was directly refusing to help him. Either one of them could have been the main primary villain in this film. By using both of them, especially in their “origin” stories, I feel like this film short-changed each of them, and it just felt too crowded. I would have just had this film be Spidey vs. Electro, and then save Harry/Green Goblin for the next sequel, or maybe the one after that. You could have them both return to team-up against Spidey in a later film, when they’re each established, but this was too soon, and it’s a problem that far too many superhero films make, they always think they need to increase the number of villains in each film.
In addition, the biggest mistake was killing off Gwen. That really should have been saved for a later film, give more time to establish her and Peter’s relationship. They spent most of the film breaking them up and getting them back together. He death definitely came off as tragic, but it could have been even more emotional. I also felt that with all the flashbacks to her father George, and his warning to Peter to leave her out of his life, it really does make Peter seem kind of irresponsible for not heeding that warning. At the funeral scene when the mother was crying I was thinking, dang, she lost her husband and her daughter in about a year. And it’s Spider-Man’s fault. They should have her become a villain next…
I also wasn’t crazy with the depiction of the Rhino at the end. The big mechanical suit of armor just looked like something out of the Iron Man franchise. I wish they had stuck closer to the comic-book depiction for that. And of course there was the further exploration into the background of Peter’s parents which, as I said, I just don’t find interesting or necessary.
The special effects were good and I liked the actors. I’d say that this is a good film (better than Spider-Man 2, but not as good as Spider-Man 1 or Amazing Spider-Man 1), but just not as good as it could have been, therefor it felt somewhat disappointing.