The weirdest part about the release of The Amazing Spider-Man was finding out that a lot of people didn’t like the Sam Raimi films. Not just the third film, which is – for the most part – reviled, but all of them. Marc Webb had the hard job of rebooting a franchise that was still fresh in audience’s minds, and did so with Andrew Garfield as the titular web-slinger, and Emma Stone as his girl Gwen Stacy. The approach mostly fails by trying to avoid being too much like the Raimi version. Our review of the Blu-ray of The Amazing Spider-Man follows after the jump.
Though they didn’t need to, this version is an origin story, and the justification for that seems to be that they wanted to explain that Peter Parker’s parents went missing mysteriously. Dad Parker (Campbell Scott) was working on important science stuff for Oscorp, and he and his wife rush out in the middle of the night. As this is never really paid off, who cares? Perhaps this is partly set up for the next film. Young Peter is dropped off with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), and none of this is painfully bad, just kind of pointless. Peter grows up and we see him at school, where they try to paint Garfield’s Parker as an outsider, though Gwen Stacy seems pretty into him from the start. And here is where direct comparison to the Raimi film makes this look bad. We see Tobey Maguire humiliated in much more effective and believable ways. Also, even before he gets bitten, this Parker is a skateboarder, so he’s borderline athletic.
When a water valve breaks in Ben and May’s, Peter finds his father’s old briefcase, and wants to investigate. It turns out that his father was working on something with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), and that may be why he died, but it’s never made clear. His father left a formula, so Peter wants to meet Dr. Connors. In doing so he pretends to be a student intern, which – again – shows the miscalculations of the film as he does so by screwing over some random kid. Things get even stupider when he is able to break free of his group, break into a top secret area and then gets bitten by a spider. He crashes out on a subway train after the bite and wakes up with powers, which make him (again) act like a jerk by ripping off a woman’s top and beating people up. He doesn’t mean to, but it’s played for laughs. Just as it is when he wakes up the next day and has super strength, which messes up his bathroom. Peter goes to school to humiliate a bully in a way that – you would think – would get him recruited by any team in the NBA when Uncle Ben tries to humble him without saying the words “with great power comes great responsibility.” As you can imagine, shortly thereafter, Uncle Ben gets killed. This leads to two things: Peter meets with Connors at his home, and gives Connors his father’s formula – which seems stupid as that’s what turns Connors into the lizard. The other thing is that Peter goes on a quest to catch the man who killed his uncle, and develops the tools to become Spider-Man. Also he asks Gwen out and she says yes, so there’s some dating. But her father is Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary). And quickly – because there’s no J. Jonah Jameson in this film, Capt. Stacy doesn’t like Spider-Man, which puts our hero at odds with the cops.
Many people, including Devin Faraci over at Badass Digest, speculated that the film – which had at least two rounds of reshoots – was changed radically from its original conception, and that seems likely. The film was sold as “the untold story,” but those elements seem mostly shorn in the final cut. In fact the film never makes up its mind about Peter’s destiny, as so much seems chance, but it feels like at one point this was way more of a Joseph Campbell/Hero’s Journey-type story than it ended up. But that friction, and the sense that there are a number of missing scenes is prevalent throughout the film.
But by missing some of the classical beats while still telling an origin story, it makes Peter unlikeable. This isn’t the nerd quietly pining away for Mary Jane, only to have her like him more as a superhero than as his regular self, it’s a guy who gets the girl easy, and isn’t the one being tortured but the one trying to stop the torture. This Peter feels like an outsider by choice. Curt Connors acts like a villain once he becomes the lizard, but there’s no sense of why. He’s a villain because he has to be. In the other films there was at least some motivational force, but here Curt Connors wants to turn all of New York into lizard people because… because. The cast is great, but when the movie wants to have fun it feels off, from Parker dunking on a guy to using his web to get Gwen to kiss him, these cool moments don’t build the character, so much as work against him. Which may be why it’s the least successful of the four Spider-Man films fiscally, but they’re going to make a sequel. Hopefully, hopefully, the mistakes they made here were because the original conception was abandoned. Hopefully they learned from their mistakes.
Sony’s Blu-ray presents the film in 3D, 2D, and with a DVD and digital copy. Like theatrically, the 3D is only okay, and a little dark, but the presentation in both versions is strong, with the 2D version looking immaculate. Both are presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The 3D disc offers two exclusive special features “3D 101 with Director Marc Webb (6 min,) and “Iconic Poses and Digital Environments – 3D Image Progression Reel” (3 min.), with the former walking through what it’s like to shoot in 3D, while the later talks to creating Spidey in a digital 3D environment. Both it and the 2D version come with a commentary by Marc Webb and Producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach. They walk through the decision-making process, but as can be gleaned by that there’s two producers on the track, it’s not a great portrait of the making of the movie. There is also a second screen app so you can be on your tablet or laptop while you watch the movie, but that wasn’t ready in time to be viewed for this review.
The special features disc is loaded. Charles De Lauzirika was the producer of the supplements, and he normally works on Ridley Scott’s movies. Here he goes full on, as he often does, with a seven part documentary called “Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn” (110 min.), which extensively covers the making of the film and talks to all of the primary cast and crew. There are also eleven deleted scenes (17 min.), with one being a different cut of how Uncle Ben dies. I like the cut version more as it makes it more real. There’s also more with Irrfan Khan, whose part seems to have been mostly lost to the cutting room, and more about Curt’s family, and more with the lizard that suggests he had better motivation in a longer cut. There are sixteen pre-viz sequences (39 min.), three production art galleries for Spider-Man, The Lizard, and environments, four image progression reels (12 min.) that walk through the digital effects with commentary by senior visual effects supervisor Jerome Chen, Additional Animation Supervisor David Schaud, and Digital Effects Supervisor David Smith. There’s also eight stunt rehearsals (12 min.) included, and a piece on the tie-in video game (4 min.). The only thing this is missing is a collection of trailers and TV spots.