Posted July 5, 2012 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV

A Spider-Fan’s Thoughts on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Part 2 (SPOILERS)


In the first part of this spoiler-filled look at The Amazing Spider-Man, I tackled the numerous (albeit forgiveable) plot holes in the movie, and tried to make sense out of them as much as I could. There were some contradictions that I really couldn’t justify or get over, but I guess it’s the nature of the beast. The comic book universe has long operated on the notion of suspension of disbelief (a.k.a. “just swallow the damn pill”), and this probably holds true for movies as well.

Now that I’ve gotten all of that out of the way, here are some of the reasons why I loved the film, and why I think Andrew Garfield is the best live-action Spider-Man so far. (Read our spoiler-free review here!)

Based on what I saw in the trailers (like this one), I was happy about quite a few things: the trademark sense of humor, the webshooters, the look and build of the actor they chose, and going with Gwen Stacy (Peter’s first true love) instead of Mary Jane Watson (the woman he ended up marrying and, well, getting unmarried to in a stupid story that can probably be considered one of the worst Marvel stories of all time). All of those things gave me a little bit of hope. I’m glad I didn’t lose faith in the reboot, because all of these elements came together and gave us a really good Spider-Man movie that stands on its own merits despite showing events unfolding in a significantly different way from the comics.

For starters, the line “With great power comes great responsibility” is nowhere to be found in the movie. This is a good thing.

This is a BEAUTIFUL thing, for two reasons.

First, Uncle Ben didn’t even say the line in the comics; it was a caption on the last panel of part two of Spider-Man’s origin story in Amazing Fantasy #15, and it was only associated with Uncle Ben when the late and dearly missed Cliff Robertson said the line in Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie.

See? SEE?! (Sorry.)

I appreciated the fact that the filmmakers decided to put a different and arguably more powerful spin* on the wording of the statement that has defined Peter Parker for 50 years. If you have the ability to do good for other people, then you have a moral obligation to do it. It certainly isn’t just about choice – it’s about responsibility.

The new spin on the old adage works for a second reason: they changed the way Uncle Ben died. Sure, it still followed the same formula: as a result of Peter’s failure to act, the thief he allowed to escape ended up taking his uncle’s life, thus teaching him a powerful lesson about the consequences of inaction. In this version, however, Uncle Ben died from a fatal gunshot wound when he bravely tackled an escaping armed robber. The twist here is that the thief had just robbed a convenience store earlier – the same convenience store Peter Parker was in. Peter let the thief go because (1) he got into an argument with the storekeeper because he was couldn’t afford the milk he wanted to buy (he was two cents short) and (2) the thief tossed him the milk as a “hey, be cool and don’t try to stop me” gesture, which Peter was more than willing to accept.

Unlike in Amazing Fantasy #15, where Peter let the thief go because he was sick of being the world’s punching bag, in this case he let the thief go out of spite AND after he took a cut out of the burglar’s haul. This is a painful, two-way lesson in responsibility – not only do you have the moral obligation to do good for other people; you have the moral obligation to do the RIGHT thing, period. To never look the other way and to never let injustice stand, especially not when you have the power to make things right. It is a hard lesson that will stay with Peter Parker for the rest of his days. Perhaps the strongest symbol of this is none other than Uncle Ben’s death; he died as a hero trying to stop a dangerous man and not as a coincidental victim, despite his age and physical limitations. He had a great sense of responsibility, despite having little power, and the world would truly be so lucky if Peter were to grow up to be a hero who was even half the man Uncle Ben was.

Manly, manly tears.

In Part I, I mentioned that I was initially bothered by the costume design. I hated the colors, the lack of a belt, the shape and color of the eye lenses, and its texture. However, when the movie showed how the costume came to be, I appreciated it a lot more. Starting out with a simple red hood that he sewed himself, glasses, a bonnet, and oversized street clothes, Peter soon moved on to a more colorful and less restrictive outfit. The movie actually showed Peter thinking it though, using the Internet to look at costume options. He ruled out spandex for reasons that were never directly stated (though I think they were going for the implication that skintight spandex would look ridiculous on a real-life superhero). He ended up taking a more practical approach – his costume appears to be made of a hybrid material that has the same texture and elasticity as rubber, but is presumably more comfortable. He also used his shades as eye lenses, putting them inside protective sockets on his mask (perhaps to protect his eyes from intense light AND smashed bits of glass if his lenses ever got damaged or broken). This shows quite a bit of ingenuity from the same boy who designed a remote electronic lock for his bedroom door. Besides, the design is growing on me, really fast. It looks exactly like something a teenager would design, down to the silver-lined footgear. I used to hate that aspect of the costume, but now I realize it adds a nice accent to an otherwise plain-looking costume. Also, the lights on the webshooters didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would, for some reason.

Look at this, and tell me it DOESN’T look freaking cool.

Peter’s brilliance and creativity weren’t just limited to his wisecracks and costume, though. The Amazing Spider-Man also gave us an intelligent and youthful Spider-Man. He wasn’t mechanically climbing walls, he was Parkour-ing the crap out of them. He was leaping, jumping, skipping and running freely. While Tobey Maguire’s Peter was all about discovering his powers and figuring out how to bear the burden with a smile on his face, Andrew Garfield’s Peter revels in his new abilities and actually enjoys being a hero, despite all the crap he gets from people. The youthful energy and idealism that a rookie Spider-Man should have was captured brilliantly by Andrew’s Spidey. This new Spidey also puts the “Spider” in “Spider-Man” more than Tobey did – the way he used his webbing in the sewers to find the Lizard was one of the most brilliant and inspired ways of using Spidey’s abilities ever, and I was literally watching with my mouth open when Spidey encased the Lizard in a giant web cocoon, crawling over his scales in a spider-like manner. I also liked the idea of making Peter an active teenager, as opposed to being just a non-athletic bookworm. The spider bite gave him powers, sure, but it didn’t necessarily give his brain detailed instructions on how to control them. The guy had to have at least a bit of innate agility, right? This way, it makes sense that a teenager who just gained spider powers would be instantly adept at jumping around and climbing walls – he had enough experience from all those kickflips and manuals he probably did while skating, and was already familiar with the way his body moves in relation to his own weight, reach and flexibility. The spider-bite enhanced his physiology, no doubt about that, but now the whole idea flows a bit more smoothly thanks to this somewhat subtle touch.

Besides, I have very fond memories of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2.

Superhero downtime? More like superhero HANGtime, amirite?

I didn’t like the first pictures of the Lizard that I saw. I noticed that he didn’t have a crocodilian snout, and it bothered me because while I was aware that the Lizard was flat-faced in his first appearances, the croc-Lizard was the Lizard I grew up reading about and watching on TV. The lack of a labcoat and pants also bothered me, for the same reason. If you think about it, though, there is absolutely no reason why the Lizard should be wearing pants or a labcoat. He increases in mass when he transforms, so unless he has the same tailor as the Hulk, those clothes should definitely go bye-bye every time he turns into a reptilian horror. The omission of the snout also worked in the movie’s favor – it allowed Rhys-Lizard to be more expressive. He snarls and grunts like an unholy creature, yet at the same time expresses a wide range of emotions, from murderous delight to absolute surprise. I don’t think this would have been possible if his snout had been in the way.

Capt. George Stacy essentially played the role of J. Jonah Jameson in this movie (minus the insane cackling and side-splitting one-liners), and while it really stings for me to see that**, I have to admit that it makes sense to a certain extent. He illustrated the points pretty well at the dinner table: the principle of strategy, the dangers of operating outside the law, and the importance of proper training. He even brought up something important that could be of big help to the young Spider-Man if he decides to listen – Capt. Stacy noticed a pattern in his attacks on suspects and wanted felons, and immediately deduced that Spider-Man had a vendetta of some sort. If Spider-Man wanted to be an effective crimefighter, he’d do well to learn the basics of strategic planning. Otherwise, he’d be too easy to hunt and apprehend. Unfortunately, I knew that Capt. Stacy had signed his death warrant the moment he discovered Peter’s secret identity. There was no way he could have carried on with that knowledge without doing anything about it, and that would mean we’d spend the next movie watching Peter twiddle his thumbs in a special airtight cell or something. Capt. Stacy’s death was powerful and heartbreaking, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the family he left behind.

Which leads us to the biggest reason why I love The Amazing Spider-Man… Emma Stone. Or, to be more precise, Gwen Stacy.

Commencing Emma Stone picture dump in 3…2…

It’s no secret that I’ve always liked Gwen Stacy more than Mary Jane Watson. I always thought Peter and Gwen were a better match (the wonderful Spider-Man: Blue miniseries by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale highlights this fact). When I heard that Emma Stone was cast as the leading lady for The Amazing Spider-Man, I thought she was going to be Mary Jane, because I thought she was a natural redhead (she isn’t, she’s a natural blonde) and that she had that party-girl look that was perfect for the future Mrs. Parker.

Face it, Tiger…

However, I’m glad they decided to go with Gwen. The Amazing Spider-Man treats Gwen Stacy’s character with respect and actually gives her something important to do in the movie that isn’t limited to being a love interest and totally DOESN’T involve being “the other woman”.  I hated how her character was treated in Spider-Man 3. She was part of the biggest problem that plagued that movie: the filmmakers decided to cram as many Spider-related characters as possible into the movie without even considering if they could even play any integral role in the plot. Inclusion for the sake of inclusion always pisses me off, and when it involves a character I really like (especially if it’s a character who doesn’t seem to have enough appeal to merit a second shot to get things right), it makes it even harder to bear.

I’m guessing this picture dump is easier to bear, though – I don’t hear anyone complaining…

Another thing I loved about the movie is that it doesn’t have a “damsel in distress” scene. It was okay and a bit cliche in Spider-Man, repetitive but forgiveable in Spider-Man 2, and downright irritating in Spider-Man 3. Mary Jane was ALWAYS a hostage – if I were her, I’d seriously consider moving out of New York, taking martial arts classes, or looking for a radioactive something to bite me and give me powers. On the other hand, The Amazing Spider-Man gives us an intelligent, competent female lead. Gwen was instrumental in counteracting the Lizard virus, and at the same time displayed the ability to think on her toes in situations that would have otherwise caused any other person, male or female, to scramble around in a mad panic.

Then again, all she probably had to do was SMILE at the Lizard, but then we’d lose about an hour’s worth of running time.

Most importantly, there is a powerful sort of chemistry, a spark between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. Whenever they interact on-screen, you just know that these two must be a real-life couple. They really want each other, and we can see that crystal-clear, bright as day. They made the romance angle believable and engaging without making it the focus of the movie. Now THAT’s a good movie romance.

I *knew* I shouldn’t have passed the role on to Andrew. You owe me big time, man. Big time.

To sum it all up: The Amazing Spider-Man is not free of flaws, but the pros outweigh the cons. This is, indeed, the most brilliant and beautiful big-screen take on the wall-crawler’s story, and I’m sure that fans all over the world are eagerly anticipating the next installment. If for some unbelievably strange reason, you STILL haven’t seen this movie yet, please do yourself a favor and watch it tonight – you won’t regret it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings, and feel free to leave a comment or a shoutout!

…Please don’t let Gwen Stacy die***, Mark Webb.



*The scene where Peter receives a lecture from Uncle Ben about responsibility (up to the point where Peter answers back by asking for his father) was actually adapted from a scene in Ultimate Spider-Man #4.

**In the comics, Captain George Stacy was a staunch supporter of Spider-Man, and sometimes there were even hints that he was aware of Spider-Man’s true identity. He was later killed in a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (in Amazing Spider-Man #90), and with his dying breath he made Spidey promise to take care of Gwen (“Be good to her, son! Be good to her. She loves you so very much”). Unfortunately, Gwen blamed Spider-Man for her father’s death, and thus, this drove a stake through Peter and Gwen’s relationship up until her tragic death.

***This has been said so many times already so I’ll go straight to the point – in Amazing Spider-Man #121, Gwen Stacy died in a brutal battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. The Goblin threw an unconscious (and possibly already dead) Gwen over a bridge (drawn by artist Gil Kane as the Brooklyn Bridge, but mistakenly labeled by the editor, Stan Lee, as the George Washington Bridge), and Spider-Man, in his desperation to save her, snagged her ankle with a single webline that caused her neck to snap. To this day Peter bears the immense guilt of possibly killing the woman he loved more than anything…even more than Mary Jane.

Mikael Angelo Francisco