The Amazing(ly Awful) Spiderman

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.

16 Responses to The Amazing(ly Awful) Spiderman

  • wolflahti says:

    Don’t be shy, Melinda. Tell us how you really feel about this movie.

  • Eric Senabre says:

    How happy I am to read that !
    We could spend hours listing all the crap they managed to stick in a single movie. But I’m with you on the secret base : it’s probably the stupidest, dumbest idea they had. It’s not the abandoned station itself that sucks ; as a matter of fact, my first novel starts in such a place. But come on : a secret station to do WHAT ? To host a PC ? Worst thing is that this PC has absolutely no interest at all in the story. The very-important-file Peter’s father is struggling to send in the opening sequence is what ? A confession with no proof whatsoever. At least it makes Peter feel better ; cool for him. But if it was REALLY to say that, he could just as well have sent a postcard.
    As for OsCorp, ok, they’re evil. But do they really need to be the center of EVERY plot ? Seems like in a 8 millions inhabitants city, everyone is somehow related to OsCorp. I works for Iron Man ; doesn’t work here. I hate the “Oh, by the way, have you looked in the basement ? We might have some spare cyborg-rhino outfit” thing. Yeah, of course. Every chemical company does have a spare rhino exo-skeleton, and some airglider in stock.

    As for Harry’s “disease”…
    – Do you feel the disease yet, my son ?
    – Mmmm… no ? Which disease ?
    – The disease that makes me look like a goblin.
    – Oh, right. Never noticed that. But, no, thanks, I’m ok.
    – You sure ?
    – Yeah, I’m sure.
    – Perfectly sure ?
    – Well, NOW that you mention it, my nails are growing and I’m turning green, you’re right, dad.”

    Have to stop, but… we’ll bitch on that movie some other time 😉

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Thank you for giving me a giggle this morning about Harry’s idiotic disease. I swear your snark dialogue is better than what these writers gave us on the screen. It is so frustrating to me that two of these writers are involved in every major film and the films are always terrible. How do they keep working?

  • Lee says:

    Agreed.

    But the one thing that this movie did better than any of the previous episodes was the sheer joy that Spidey gets from swinging through the city. Those scenes were truly beautiful, and I could have watched them for hours!

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      CGI technology has gotten so good that I did almost have that weightless feeling myself, but I sure would like to have had a story that made a grain of sense.

  • Jeremy Brett says:

    Wow. Slow clap, Melinda. THAT was a well-written takedown of a movie I confess to not having seen, mainly because it was an unnecessary sequel to a movie that was itself made for the sole purpose of retaining movie rights to the characters. Hollywood at its cold hard cash-oriented finest.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I’m not usually so vicious, but this one really got under my skin. I think I’m also sick of seeing the same writers showing up on every bad big budget film and still continuing to work.

  • Drew Bittner says:

    Both Raimi’s films and now Webb’s have a mix of strengths and weaknesses. In Raimi’s case, it seems that the studio system–which rewards those who get their fingerprints on a movie, usually for the worse–destroyed what had been a working franchise; there’s no way to look at SPIDER-MAN 3 and think it was anything more than a cluster**** driven by studio execs who demanded (foolishly) massive changes to the story Raimi clearly wanted to tell. Does anyone think it was an accident that Venom and the New Goblin were both wretched subplots, compared to Sandman?
    As for (NOT VERY) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, I like Garfield as Spider-Man but his Peter Parker is petulant, manipulative, too emo…well, he’s a rather outsized and exaggerated version of Peter at any rate. (Peter is no bed of roses.) Like SM3, there were subplots strangling each other to see which would become THE movie, while many (most?) of the actors were criminally underused amid storylines that went nowhere. Dane DeHaan should have sued to get his name off the movie; he’s a good actor but his Harry Osborn was a wreck of out-of-nowhere motivations, twisted thinking and some kind of feral viciousness masquerading as human emotion. And the less said about Jamie Foxx and how his Max Dillon had NO character arc that made sense, the better. He really should know how to read a script by now.
    Sony will salvage something from this, but I suspect Webb will not be back (by mutual agreement) and ASM3 will ditch the meandering and rather stupid Parker-parents story once and for all. We’ll get a SINISTER SIX and VENOM movie, then Garfield will be back for his swan song as Peter/Spidey probably in 2017.
    Then Sony can think about how they’ll reboot Spider-Man for the third time.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I really wish Marvel could get back the rights. Overall they have done a good job with the properties. Though Iron Man 2 and 3 were both quite weak the other films have been good to splendid.

  • Eric Senabre says:

    About Spider-Man in general… Of course, in France, we only had a small glimpse at the US production, with a considerable delay. I loved the character, because I felt I was the same kind of teen (minus the superpowers). BUT now that I think of it, I can’t really remember any truly great plot. Maybe the first “clone” stories… But there were already so much better ideas in other series, such as Iron Man or, of course, The Uncanny X-Men. Spider-Man is a wonderful character, but oddly, I’m not sure he gave us some really great stories. The series’ biggest strength was maybe its soap-opera touch, on the “civil” side.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Which is probably why I liked him. Powers are boring. It’s how the powers affect the human and his or her life that interests me. I think that’s the great strength of Wild Cards, and why it has endured for so long.

  • Ray Low says:

    Hi Melinda,

    As superhero movies become a staple among Hollywood film offerings with each sequel packing in more action and more villains, the prediction I hear from friends, colleagues and fan base is how the movie is going to suck. And, more often than not, they’re right. With so many characters having a backstory and each demanding some screen time, the story inevitably becomes muddled and the pacing of the film suffers.

    So, I wonder…if we can figure this out, why can’t Hollywood? Perhaps, the execs believe a property like Spider-Man is a guaranteed cash cow no matter how terrible the story. But, wouldn’t a film with a compelling storyline and a limited number of characters (that we cared about) have more “legs” and stand a better chance of drawing audiences to theatres for a longer period of time?

    I’m sure writers like yourself have beat your collective heads against the wall advocating this very thing only to have this advice fall on deaf ears. So, it’s especially exasperating for films fans like myself to suffer through crap like Val Kilmer’s / George Clooney’s Batman or Garfield’s ASM #1 and #2.

    Like what Marvel has done with the Black Widow (in Iron Man 2 and 3 and, later, the Avengers) or Agent Carter (who, I understand is getting her own TV series), you would be better off introducing each villain as a character in another film — get some of that backstory out of the way — before giving them the spotlight.

    Regettably, I don’t expect this situation to be corrected any time soon which is why we should savor gems like Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      It’s nuts and it makes me crazy. When you look at Spiderman 2 or the two Captain America movies you see the value in staying focused on a problem, and make the problem relevant to the main character’s emotional and moral life. There was so much potential in Iron Man 3 if they had kept the focus on Tony’s PTSD that would have been an interesting movie. Instead we got gibberish. What the hell did the Extremis inventor even want? To have the U.S. hire his soldiers because we were scared of the Mandarin? To take over the U.S. government via the Veep? To date Pepper? To get even with Tony? Yeah, that was a small part, but that’s not much of a business plan.

      • Dante says:

        Thank you, Iron Man 3 was just flat out garbage.

        I too felt that it had an opportunity to make Tony into the villain…after flying into a space portal and detonating a nuke that was souped up with Tesseract juice and then “dying” – one would think that his “make a lot of suits” reaction would go somewhere. In all truth the reaction seemed initially genuine but the only glimmer of it going anywhere was when the suit grabs Pepper while Tony is having his nightmare.

        His subconscious reaction to the PTSD that he is ignoring by building a crapton of suits should have given birth to something, maybe a malevolent Tony AI that invades those very same suits. It could even have had a holographic image with no mustache and go the Anti-80’s Evil Twin routine.

        I mean who doesn’t want to see Robert Downey Jr. play Evil Tony Stark? That would be worth the price of admission right there.

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          That is the coolest idea. Evil Tony. I would line up for a ticket. As I said in a lecture I gave to a writing workshop. There is plot and then there is theme. There was the kernel of a fascinating theme in that movie and then all just devolved into frenetic plot without point.

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