I have now seen The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield’s arms and back and butt. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order.
– Martin Sheen and Sally Field are truly wonderful as Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Full points, casting department. (I am irrationally biased towards Sally Field because I saw her in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or, Who Is Sylvia? when I was like 13, and it is the second-greatest stage performance I have ever seen. (The greatest was Liev Schreiber as Henry V.))
– The idea that Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield could be convincing teenagers is laughably ridiculous. Garfield’s gonna be 30 next year.
– Also laughable: the idea that a guy who looks like Andrew Garfield would be harassed at school rather than trailed everywhere he goes by long lines of people of his preferred gender. He’s pretty to begin with:
But for Spider-Man he acquired these arms and back and his hands are the size of record albums and I just want to make out with his stupid face and grope his stupid arms. Here, let me take you to the gun show:
Have you seen my beach ball?
What do you mean, this is how everyone sits when they’re having their gaping chest wounds cleaned.
That’s right. Don’t try to resist.
The point is, if I were Emma Stone, I’d probably have come out of filming dating Andrew Garfield too. Where for “dating,” read “wildly boning at every opportunity.”
– Now that I’ve lost any credibility whatsoever regarding Garfield’s Spider-Man (and I don’t blame you if you no longer trust my opinion on this movie, it took twenty minutes for my brain to stop saying “really really ridiculous good-looking” on loop and that was before the scene where he comes home to Aunt May with a banged-up face, and guys, I’m not sure what it says that my absolute favorite Andrew Garfield face is the one that’s just been pounded on by Evil Criminals but I’m pretty definitively sure it says “nothing fucking good”), I will tell you: he’s really good. I’m pretty sure I think Garfield is a good actor, once I can get past the high-pitched screeching of the hindbrain lust animal – no, actually, I definitely think he is, “lawyer up motherfucker” in Social Network is an incredibly well-done scene – and his Spider-Man is fun. He’s awkward as fuck, and dorky, and insecure, but when he puts on his suit the confidence and pure joy he exudes seem unfeigned. I think he had a really good time making this movie. And I think he is really convincing. Roger Ebert does a way better job of getting at the essence of Garfield’s characterization than I can, so I’m just going to quote him:
… Garfield’s take on Spidey is sometimes a few strands short of a web. He’s not above showoff stunts in high school and takes chances with his newfound superpowers. This is the first Spider-Man who can leap off a skyscraper and make us wonder if he has a plan in mind.
– I did not particularly enjoy the villain, Rhys Ifans as a Giant Fucking Lizard / Dr. Curt Connors. For one, I’m getting really, really sick of crip drag. Seriously, you couldn’t have found a one-armed actor to play Connors? I somehow doubt that there’s not a single competent one-armed actor in Hollywood, and you know what? Even if there isn’t, I doubt they looked. For two, I thought his back story was really underdeveloped. This film was touted as exploring Peter’s loss of his parents (who worked with Connors), but after the flashback scene that shows them leaving him with his aunt and uncle, we get exactly one more piece of data in exactly one scene, and if you happen to miss what’s said due to bad sound editing and the speaker’s accent – as I did – sucks to be you.
I did enjoy the lizard being a giant evil lizard and smashing shit, though. That was cool.
– Thinking about Connors brings me to what I see as Spider-Man‘s primary weakness. Like The Avengers, it is a lot more concerned with character development and the relationships between the characters than with tight plotting, the biggest casualty of which is definitely Connors’ and the Parkers’ back story. So we really get to know Spider-Man / Peter Parker, and the relationship between him and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) feels fully realized, and both Aunt May and Uncle Ben are more fully formed than I remember from 2002’s Spider-Man, but we sometimes don’t quite get what’s going on in the big picture. That’s a trade-off I’m okay with, even though I don’t think it’s necessary. Similarly, the mood can be sort of patchy. Sometimes I felt like I was watching Spider-Man-with-Tobey-Maguire in all its campy glory – which I guess sort of can’t be avoided, there’s only so many ways to shoot New York City bridges – but most of the time I felt like I was watching something a little more streamlined and mature.
– Of course, I need to say a quick word about the women. I like Gwen Stacy a whole lot – she is clever and empowered and smart as fuck, though to be fair, I would probably love Emma Stone in literally anything – but the amount of time male superheros and authority figures spend telling each other what to do with women in superhero movies is always tiresome, and this was no exception. I also didn’t like when Uncle Ben and Aunt May argued. Co-parenting is a thing you can do better than this, Uncle Ben.
I don’t like ending my review on a negative note, though, because I really really enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man. If you’re not at least somewhat into the whole comic book superhero action thing this probably isn’t the movie that will change your mind, but if you buy it even a little I think you will get a huge kick out of this.