Review for The Amazing Spider-Man
I’m three Spider-men behind. My last encounter with the webslinger was back when Tobey McGuire donned the spandex, and since then Marvel have given us Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, and most recently the Oscar winning Spiderverse animation. It’s about time I did something about catching up. Watch the extra features on this disc, and they go to some length explaining this first reboot, citing Spider-man’s need to re-invent the character time and again in the comic books for new audiences, and the sense that the Sam Raimi trilogy had run its course, told a complete story. Of course the truth is that once you’ve had an emo Peter Parker, Saturday-Night-Fevering down the street, you know that a franchise has somersaulted over a whole school of sharks, and the only thing to do is to ditch it and start again. The surprising thing is that The Amazing Spider-man came only 5 years after Spider-man 3. Then again there is the whole licence situation, where if studios don’t use a Marvel franchise, they lose it, and with something as iconic as Spider-man, you can see Columbia/Sony not ready to lose that cash-cow.
Peter Parker was left with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May when he was a child, and his parents just vanished, leaving a question mark over his whole life. Now that he’s in high school, a chance discovery of some of his father’s research sends him on a quest for his past. It’s a quest that leads to Oscorp and his father’s research partner Curt Connors. Connors is continuing research into cross-species genetics, personally motivated by a desire to restore his missing arm. When Peter wanders into a restricted area, and is bitten by a genetically modified spider, it has an unexpected effect on him. Heady on his sudden strength and abilities after years of being the school outsider, his Uncle Ben gives him a lesson about power and responsibility, but tragically Peter ignores him. It’s a lesson he has to learn quickly when he shares his father’s hidden research with Connors, and unwitting unleashes a monster upon the city.
You get the film in 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p with audio in DTS-HD MA 5.1 English, Italian, and Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Spanish, Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, and DD 2.0 English Audio Descriptive. Subtitles are available in English, Finnish, Danish, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Norwegian. It’s an impeccable transfer of a modern film; the image is pixel perfect, rich with detail and with consistent colours. We’ve got to that point where the blending of CG and real Spider-man is seamless, although the unreal visage of The Lizard does stick out a bit. What impressed me most is, Lizard aside, how realistic and gritty the world of Spider-man now looks, in comparison with the comic book primary colours of the Sam Raimi trilogy. The audio is fine for music and effects, well and truly immersive, although the dialogue is a smidge low in the mix. I heard a bit of Wrath of Khan in one tense scene so wasn’t too surprised to see that James Horner was the composer of choice on this film.
You get two discs in a BD Amaray case, one on a centrally hinged panel. There are a couple of digital content flyers, but given that Ultraviolet is shutting down, whether the codes have expired or not at this point is moot.
The disc offers a Second Screen App for iPads and Sony tablets, so you can access timelines and extra features on your tablet and can be totally distracted from the movie. I checked the app store on iPad, and the app doesn’t work with iOS 11. My regret at not being able to give a fair review of this content is infinitesimal.
The discs take a fair bit of time to load their animated java menus, but the disc does hold its position in player memory after being ejected.
The film disc has a commentary with the appropriately named director Marc Webb, and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach.
There are also previews for Hotel Transylvania, Men in Black III, and Sparkle, as well as a generic Sony Blu-ray trailer.
Disc 2 has the rest of the extra features beginning with the extensive making of in Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-man Reborn, presented in seven parts but with a total run time of 109:49.
There are 11 Deleted Scenes with a run time of 16:50 in total.
There are 16 Pre-Visualisations running to 39:08.
The Oscorp Archives Production Art Gallery offers you looks at Spider-man, The Lizard, and Environments.
There are four Image Progression Reels lasting 11:51.
8 Stunt Rehearsals run to 11:52.
Finally, Developing The Amazing Spider-man Video Game lasts 3:26.
If you’re going to retell the story of Peter Parker, barely 10 years after his first cinema outing, then it’s incumbent on you to make things different. Certainly, there are things that have to remain the same, orphan Peter living with his aunt and uncle, bitten by a spider, uncle killed, great power and great responsibility speech, but if you reel out the same formula again and again, there’s no point. I’ve already mentioned that The Amazing Spider-man opts for a greater sense of realism in its visuals, no doubt helped by 10 years of advancement in CGI. But the big difference in Peter Parker’s origin this time is that it really focuses on the orphan aspect of his character, and that actually makes a world of difference.
It is a little bit Batman to be sure, but seeing his character shaped by being abandoned at such a young age offers greater insight into the choices he makes, the paths he chooses. Finding his father’s research goes some way to explaining his own aptitude for science and technology, and it also reveals to him an emptiness that needs filling. While Uncle Ben has been his emotional father, when he meets Curt Connors, his father’s former partner, he finds another father figure. His need to understand that aspect of his father leads him to make some questionable choices, for which he has to take responsibility as the story unfolds.
Another difference is the love interest, Gwen Stacy for this iteration of the story. Also with an interest in science, she makes for a more intellectual match for Peter Parker, as opposed to the girl on a pedestal that Mary Jane Watson was. There is the added complication that Gwen’s father is a captain in the police force, who winds up hunting the masked vigilante who unbeknownst to him is dating his daughter. There is a difference in portrayal too. I don’t think Tobey Maguire can be anything but serene, but Andrew Garfield brings a manic energy that suits the character better at this point in his life, while the film sticks with Peter Parker in high school, rather than having him quickly graduate and get a job at the Daily Bugle.
That brings us to the disappointments in this film, which begins with a lack of larger than life characters that would suitably match the wise-cracking webslinger. Certainly there is no J. Jonah Jameson in this story, at least not yet, while the film’s antagonist, Curt Connors, a.k.a. The Lizard is rather tepid as a human antagonist, while the CGI in his Lizard form is the weakest aspect of the film. There just wasn’t enough pathos to empathise with him as a tragic villain, while not enough was made of his murky past with Peter’s father, just a few hints that were never developed. There was also a chance for an ongoing antagonism with Gwen Stacy’s father as the policeman tracking Spider-man down, plus the clichéd protective dad, but other than one scene in the film, it wasn’t really developed as well as it could have been.
On a personal note, I was happy to see the return of the technological web shooters, as opposed to the genetic mutation of the first trilogy. That was always ‘my’ Spider-man. It turns out that this franchise didn’t even make a trilogy, cancelled after the next film. I’ve certainly read and heard some poor reviews of that outing, although I do wonder if it was more to do with Marvel gathering its canon of heroes into the MCU. The Amazing Spider-man 2 is next on my to-watch pile, so I guess I’ll find out for myself. There are many aspects of this film that are better than the Raimi trilogy, yet despite that it doesn’t feel quite as memorable or iconic. It is entertaining to watch though.