I never thought I would write these words, but the Toby McGuire Spiderman 3 was a better movie than the current incarnation playing in the theaters now. Not to say Spiderman 3 wasn’t an impressive shit sandwich, but The Amazing Spiderman with Andrew Garfield is so much worse and so horrible on so many levels.
Why did I see it? I was taking a young relative who has crush on Andrew Garfield, and who am I to cast stones with my mad crush on Tom Hiddelston? There is also the fact that for me this is homework. I need to see what’s being done — or in this case done to the audience.
I’ll start by giving the faint praise I can muster — there was one scene early on that had Spidey quipping and joking as he rescued stolen uranium from a group of Russian mobsters. Putting aside for the moment that Russian mobsters could probably buy all the weapons grade uranium they could possibly want back in Mother Russia for the cost of a few rubles and some vodka, it at least had the Peter Parker cocky, joking quality that is present in the comics.
There was a scene between Peter and Harry Osborn that felt very authentic. Two boys at the cusp of manhood, uncomfortable with emotion, but happy to be reunited talking and joking in this awkward way where emotion is hidden under insults. I had to put aside the fact they seemed not to have any contact for years, but at least the scene felt more real to may than any thing else in the film.
Because the movie as a whole was so terrible I was sure that the writers would have Gwen set aside her own dreams of Oxford to be with Peter because he loves her and needs her. At least they didn’t do that. Instead he offers to follow her to England so they can be together, but she can still pursue her goals. Probably one of the reasons I feared the woman-as-helpmate outcome was the fact that Gwen never just “said the words” in the famous advice from my old Star Trek boss. I wanted her to tell him straight up that her goals were as important as his, and he didn’t get to blackmail her with his need.
Now the awfulness.
Try as I might I just don’t like Garfield in this role. He seems manipulative in every one of his relationships from Aunt May to Gwen to Harry to poor old Max. I have no sense of his life as Peter Parker. Unlike the terrific Rami Spiderman 2 there are no scenes of Peter applying for college or being in classes, or helping out his aunt. There’s fighting crime and throwing temper tantrums.
I’m struggling to figure out how to dissect this mess. I guess I’ll start with just some summery.
There is a teaser that I guess was supposed to cue me as to which of the multiplicity of plots I was supposed to give a damn about. It’s Mommy and Daddy Parker getting croaked on an airplane and doing uploady computer stuff. Then the movie starts with Spiderman doing his derring do.
Then a bunch of unrelated things happen and villains appear. There was a brief moment of hope that Max the down trodden engineer would have an honest and recognizable human emotion, but no. Instead he is presented as a nut who goes from loneliness and sadness to rage without any indication that murderous anger was in his nature. His obsession with Spiderman was creepy and for me unbelievable. And there are so many subplots that are thrown in that go nowhere and are frankly stupid. There’s the fact his plans for this power grid were stolen. Okay, I get it OsCorp is evil, but they also shouldn’t be stupid. You have a guy this smart you give him his own division. You don’t steal his designs. You pay him well and keep him inside the tent. Then at points he’s almost treated like high tech janitor. Which is he? Scut worker or engineer? I felt sorry for Jamie Foxx stuck in this movie.
And then there’s Harry. Oh god, how many subplots did we have to lard onto this movie? There’s the C runner of a boy rejected and isolated from his father that’s suppose to echo to Peter’s rage over his father’s abandonment, but I don’t know why it’s there. They never discuss their daddy issues. There’s the strange genetic disease that took sixty-two year to kill daddy, but is croaking the kid at twenty. There’s the struggle for control of the corporation. There’s his obsession with Spiderman, and the rather unsupported belief that Spidey’s blood will save him. That’s some leap of logic. There’s discovering all the secret projects at OsCorp where he gets the Green Goblin suit. Really, OsCorp is going to be the evil nexus for all the villains in the Spiderman universe?
Harry also goes nuts really quickly which means that both villains become cartoons almost as soon as they appear. There is absolutely none of the beautiful nuance that Alfred Molina brought to the role of Doc Ock.
I think the studio realized this movie wasn’t working so in a desperate attempt to gin up some kind of emotional reaction they just kept throwing in more jeopardy. Max aka Electro causes a citywide blackout and then we have two jumbo jets about to collide in the airspace over New York. When that happened I had to control my strong desire to either curse or giggle. Probably giggle. I didn’t want to spoil my companions enjoyment of the movie by making my contempt quite so plain.
And let’s not forget the cliched Nazi… er German doctor who is experimenting on Electro in some creepy building like an abandoned asylum. Because of course OsCorp would have its secret projects in such a setting.
There’s more false jeopardy when Gwen decides to investigate Max and she gets chased by evil security guards.
Let’s not forget the whole subplot about what happened to Peter’s daddy (apparently mommy didn’t matter too much). It isn’t until he throws another petulant temper tantrum and throws some of daddy’s possessions across the room that he discover the old fashioned subway tokens hidden in the back of a calculator. Peter is supposed to be smart. In all these years it never occurred to him to open the back of the calculator? The minute I saw the objects from the briefcase I knew there was something hidden inside.
Now we come to the absolute shit cherry on the top for me. The secret superhero base that dad constructed out of his spare coffee and lunch money that no one in the transit division ever noticed being built. If Peter had just found the abandoned station, and a small box with a computer inside I would have thought it was silly, but not moronic. Then the tracks opened and a subway car filled with a high tech lab pops up like a figure in a jack-in-the-box, and I knew this movie was truly worse than Spiderman 3.
We wind down to a final climactic battle with both bad guys. Gwen dies. Yawn. Aunt May says something moving. Peter puts back on the suit. Little kid (awwwww) faces down the Rhino — who of course is the crazy Russian from the opening sequence. Spidey arrives to save the day.
Finally it was over. I kept thinking it was never going to end. Two hours and twenty minutes which felt like two years. God only knows how many millions of dollars, and this is what we got. Audiences deserve better. My advice to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier or X-Men Days of Future Past for a superhero fix. If you haven’t seen this film — Don’t.