“The Amazing Spiderman” is Unbelievably Juvenile


4/10

The Amazing Spider-Man Poster

The screenwriters seriously misjudged the audience for the newest Spiderman reboot, “The Amazing Spiderman” (2012).  That is the only explanation I have for a film that has a script at a teenage chick flick level.

The general premise of the Spiderman story is all too familiar. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a high school student living with his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and his aunt May (Sally Field) who has a crush on his classmate, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Peter’s father, a scientist, and his mother one day left him with Ben and Mary, then died. One day, Peter comes across belongings from his father and learns that he used to have a colleague named Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who founded a company called Oscorp that specializes in genetic research. Curious, Peter sneaks into Oscorp, where he is bitten by a genetically-engineered spider that gives him extraordinary strength, heightened sensitivities and quick reflexes.

Trying to understand his new powers, he visits Dr. Connors and confesses that his father used to work with him. Dr. Connors, who is one-armed, has been working on mixing genetics of humans with lizards, which has the ability to regrow limbs. Dr. Connors shares with Peter a crucial problem he hasn’t been able to solve for years, which Peter is able to resolve with an equation that he found from his father’s old belongings. Due to corporate politics, Dr. Connors is forced to try the new biological formula on himself, which goes awry and turns him into a giant Lizard. Suddenly armed with superhuman strength and the ability to regenerate the body, Dr. Connors becomes convinced that a lizard is a far more advanced form of living creature than humans.

Meanwhile, Peter is trying to deal with the death of his uncle Ben, who was killed by an armed robber. Looking for vengeance, he chases thugs by flying around New York City using a machine that he created that spits out powerful metallic strings developed by Oscorp. Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary) of the New York Police Department, who happens to be Gwen’s father, doesn’t think too highly of this vigilante justice and wants Spiderman caught. Peter, who eventually figures out that the Dr. Connors is the Lizard, decides he has to stop the Lizard because he feels responsible for providing the equation that made the mutation possible.

The script for this film is unbelievably juvenile. Peter goes into Gwen’s room in a skyscraper apartment by climbing through a window. They have a romantic rendezvous on the roof where he gives away his identity and they share a kiss. Peter gets bullied in the schoolyard in the first fifteen minutes, then later humiliates the bully on the basketball court by using his new skills. I get that Peter is in high school, but this is a story about a kid who is going through things that no other high school student goes through. Why couldn’t the movie evolve, quite literally, outside of high school grounds?

In a script this inept, it’s hardly surprising that the movie suffers from serious plot holes, inconsistencies and implausibilities. Peter, who goes to the Oscorp without a plan on how to meet Dr. Connors, is allowed to sneak in as an intern because the front desk tells him to just pick a name tag. Meanwhile, the guy to whom the name tag actually belongs is being thrown out of the building in the background. It’s also unbelievable how, in a high security lab, Peter can just walk around by keeping his head low and get into a secured room by observing from afar how the codes are entered.

These implausibilities are problematic for any film, but they’re particularly glaring in a fantastical film like “The Amazing Spiderman.” A comic-book adaptation by its nature has scenes that defy reality. When scenes that should be grounded in reality are full of inconsistencies, it becomes nearly impossible for the audience to take the supernatural scenes seriously.

The screenwriters also made some perplexing decisions. Unlike in the earlier series, Spiderman’s web in this film is not a natural phenomenon. This makes Spiderman a less appealing superhero and raises the inevitable question of why Peter needed to be bitten by the spider in the first place. After all, Spiderman spends most of his time jumping from building to building and tying thugs in the web he mechanically shoots out.

Choosing a giant Lizard to be the villain was a rather uninspired choice, too. Captain Stacy kept on commenting about how his city wasn’t Tokyo, but Godzilla would have made a far more interesting villain. At least Godzilla has the ability to shoot fire. The characteristics of a Lizard merely consist of its large size, its power, its swinging tail and limbs that grow back.

And I won’t even go into the ending, when the screenwriters killed off the wrong character.

Coming only a decade after the original, the comparisons to the 2002’s “Spiderman” are inevitable. The script of this film doesn’t make the comparisons worthwhile, but I did think that the special effects were far better in this reboot than in the original “Spiderman” (2002), which had scenes that were far too obviously CGI-generated. In “The Amazing,” Spiderman doesn’t do much besides fly between buildings and tackle a big lizard, but at least those scenes looked good.

The novices asked to lead and helm this project, Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spiderman, and Marc Webb, the director, showed flashes of competence despite being saddled with incompetent material. The subtle likeability of Garfield, who was in “The Social Network” (2010), as Peter Parker was pleasantly surprising, although he pulls off Spiderman less successfully. This is admittedly a major problem in a film with “Spiderman” in the title, but I suspect much of the blame for this falls on the script, which forces him to utter ridiculous teenage phrases like, “oh boy!” and “Here you go” while being Spiderman.

Webb also seems to have a promising future ahead of him as a director of major films, but he needs to learn that just because he has the ability to do something, doesn’t mean he should. There is a scene, for example, in which Spiderman and the Lizard fight in the library of the high school while the librarian in headphones goes about his work, completely oblivious to what is going on in the back. The classical music that the librarian is listening to plays in the background. This is all done very well, but it completely misfires with a script that woefully falls short on wit.

“The Amazing Spiderman” has already posted big numbers in the box office in the United States and Columbia Pictures, the studios that produced it, is apparently planning a sequel. One can only hope that in the next installment, Peter Parker/Spiderman will graduate from high school–and so will the script.

“The Amazing Spiderman” is currently playing in theaters in the United States and Japan.

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