Posted June 30, 2012 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV

MOVIE REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man

Note: This review is spoiler-free, unless you count screencaps and information from trailers as “spoilers”.
Columbia Pictures, Sony Entertainment
Philippine Release: June 29, 2012
Rated PG-13
136 minutes
Check out the four-minute preview here.

I can’t think of a movie whose production paralleled its lead character’s life quite like how The Amazing Spider-Man did.

Call it Parker luck if you will – The Amazing Spider-Man initially had so many odds stacked against it. Longtime fans of the character and casual moviegoers alike weren’t so keen on the idea of a reboot so early in the life of the franchise. After all, it has only been a decade since Tobey Maguire first wore the suit in Spider-Man, and his symbiote-influenced choreography in the third movie is still fresh in the minds of the people who were unlucky enough to sit through it.

You’re welcome.

Nevertheless, production for this film trudged on, despite the fact that every new tidbit revealed about the film seemed to bode ill for the franchise. The villain they chose to go with was the Lizard (sans trademark “modern” snout), whose character traits don’t seem to bear as much weight as the Green Goblin’s batshit insanity, Doc Ock’s intellect and hubris, Sandman’s humanity and aspirations of greatness*, and Venom’s…popularity (sorry, I never really liked the guy much). The new costume design discouraged some fans, and the omission of J. Jonah Jameson and Mary Jane alienated others. Still photos showing a heavily blackened crotch, as well as a trailer showing lights on his webshooters, were equally disheartening. Furthermore, the timing of the movie’s target release date was unfortunate. Compared to the buzz generated by The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, Amazing was relatively quiet and relied more on viral marketing.

Still, tiny rays of light got through. We saw the aforementioned mechanical webshooters, as well as a sense of humor almost completely absent in the original trilogy. We saw first-person wall-crawling and web-slinging, an appropriately lanky protagonist, and a rather stunning leading lady.

In this case, “rather stunning” is shorthand for “please marry me, Emma, I will gladly bear your children despite my lack of a uterus.”

Thankfully, true to Spider-Man’s example, Amazing succeeds and even soars, conquering all the bad impressions it spawned and disproving naysayers in the same in-your-face way that Spidey consistently makes fun of Vulture’s baldness or Mysterio’s fishbowl helmet.

More of a reimagining than a straight re-telling, the movie manages to condense the events of Peter Parker’s origin story, and ties them together in a way that both modernizes his origin and makes it more conceivably tragic. Without going into specifics, a lot of liberties were taken with the source material, but the end result is so good that all can be forgiven. As with pretty much all films, there are a number of plot holes that need to be addressed (which I will do in a subsequent article), but none of these detract from the story in a significant way. It’s actually a shame that I’m avoiding spoilers in this review, because it is the story itself that truly raises the quality of this film. From the circumstances surrounding Peter’s parents’ disappearance to the costume design used in the film, almost everything is explained in a smooth, show-don’t-tell manner.


There’s one scene in particular involving the climax of the film that left me scratching my head (it’s not really a big deal, though I’ll probably address it in the next article).

Undeniably, Amazing greatly benefits from a combination of James Vanderbilt’s masterfully-written script, stellar direction from the coincidentally aptly-named Mark Webb, and top-notch performances from competent actors.


“No, seriously, a guy named Webb is directing my movie. How cool is that?!”

Andrew Garfield completely nails it as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. There is a youthful recklessness evident in Andrew’s acrobatics that totally trumps Tobey’s somewhat mechanical and predictable moves. Watching the scenes where Andrew discovers his powers for the first time (especially his ability to stick to walls) fills you with enthusiasm and energy. His Spider-Man also happens to be the best live-action portrayal of the webslinger so far: carefree, acrobatic, and most importantly funny, whether as Peter or as Spidey. The mask provides him with enough leeway to completely destroy his opponents’ confidence through his trademark snappy patter. As Peter, he is soft-spoken and awkward, but has a wide range of facial expressions that make him more convincing as a brilliant but traumatized teenager. His best face, however, seems to be his mocking face. Believe me when I say that his moments as Peter Parker are some of the funniest bits in the movie. Seriously, there are scenes where you’ll laugh and want to punch the little jerk in the face at the same time.

Or exploit his weakness.

As Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone is endearing and alluring. She is portrayed here as smarter and more capable than her mainstream comics counterpart, which is absolutely delightful. There is also obvious chemistry between her and Andrew. You can just tell that they really want each other; that Gwen is more than just the requisite summer blockbuster love interest. Seeing as Webb also directed 500 Days of Summer, this comes as no surprise, and contributes significantly to the film’s emotional depth.

Any excuse to post a picture of Emma Stone is automatically a valid excuse.

The main villain of the film, Rhys Ifans, delivers a stellar performance shrouded in duality: the humanitarian motivation of Dr. Curt Connors, and the venomous Lizard persona that causes Connors to take a backseat whenever his reptilian side gains control. Many fans (including yours truly) complained about the lack of the Lizard’s trademark snout, but after seeing the film, the reason behind this decision has become clear. The Lizard is even more fearsome with a human face – he hisses, he bares his teeth, and he sneers like a maniac who will totally gut you and wear your intestines around his neck like a scarf. This would not be possible with a long CGI snout getting in the way of Ifans’s reptilian rape-face.


The performances in Amazing are more emotional and powerful than those in the previous trilogy. In fact, I cannot think of anything to complain about in terms of the way the rest of the cast portrayed their characters; it really seemed like everyone brought their A-game, particularly Martin Sheen (as Uncle Ben) and Denis Leary (as Capt. George Stacy).

As expected, they’ve taken the special effects up a notch or seven. I mentioned earlier in this review that we got to see web-slinging and wall-crawling from Spidey’s point of view months before this film’s release – I’m happy to say that those sequences actually made it to the movie, used sparingly (and thus, effectively). There are very few things that can match the sheer visual treat of seeing Spidey swinging above New York, and these sequences are rendered beautifully at multiple points in Amazing.

Oh, and it also has the best Stan Lee cameo EVER.

The key to enjoying this film is to get out of the mindset that any film adaptation should adhere strictly to the source material. Amazing opted to do without years of continuity baggage and convoluted, soap opera explanations. Instead, it took the best aspects from different stories in Spider-Man history and stitched them together to form a nearly seamless story. Don’t be turned off by the “reboot” label; The Amazing Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man movie so far, and is possibly one of the best superhero/comics movies ever made.

He still kind of looks like a basketball, and his webshooters still light up. His crotch isn’t black anymore, though.

Yes, I know what the black stuff is really for, but it’s still funny.

Also, his new movie is truly Amazing, and not just in name. It gets a solid 10/10 from me.

Looks like Peter Parker finally caught a break.

“The sky is my cape! Sort of! Woo woo!”

(Please stay tuned for the second “part” of this review – a spoiler-filled discussion of the film!)

*Reviewer’s note: Sandman’s primary motivation in Spider-Man 3 was to provide for his daughter (yes, I am ignoring the Uncle Ben subplot). However, in the comics, Flint Marko has been written both as a thug eager to prove his worth to other people and to himself (this was his characterization in the excellent Spectacular Spider-Man animated series as well), and a sympathetic human being who has tried to join the side of the angels more than once. Only recently was the “daughter” angle written into the character’s story, and to my recollection, it was first brought up in print as a plot point in the out-of-continuity, alternate future “Spider-Man: Reign” miniseries by Kaare Andrews.

“Thanks to Ayala Malls Cinemas for inviting us to the screening. Check out www.sureseats.com for your all-access pass to exclusive movie events and promos at Glorietta 4, Greenbelt 3, Alabang Town Center, Market!Market!, Trinoma, Ayala Center Cebu, Marquee Mall Angeles, Abreeza Davao and Harbor Point Olongapo.”

Mikael Angelo Francisco