The Amazing Spider-Man is a good film. Let’s get that out of the way right at the beginning. I thought there were many things it did well, and the things it didn’t do well were still decent. It never dropped the ball and brought home a good Spider-Man movie. Considering how disappointing the last installment was I call that a win. So if that’s all you’re looking for, then go see this film, it’s worth the $80 ticket price nowadays. If you’re looking for a little discussion of the issues that led to this film, with some minor spoilers, then continue.
Okay, so many people seem really focused on why they are rebooting this franchise when it’s only been about five years since the last one. In fact this is probably the beginning of a trend in Hollywood. Now we don’t go see Spider-Man, we see Raimi’s Spider-Man or Webb’s Spider-Man. It’s not surprising when you consider the exalted position of the director in Hollywood, versus the craftsman-like nature of a comic book writer working for one of the big companies. Comics are all about standing on the shoulders of giants and adding your own tiny part of the existing narrative. Directors like everything to be their own, and so you’ll usually never see a ‘name’ come into a pre-existing franchise. Don’t like reboots? Well get used to it, with the current explosion of comic book movies we’re probably going to be seeing them for a long time.
The other issue is that, usually, it is much easier to make an exciting intro to a character than a continuation of the story. Sometimes that is not the case, as with The Dark Knight or The Avengers where those films tend to be more well-regarded than their predecessors. In those cases they lived by upping the ante, in The Dark Knight we finally got the Joker, who is the ultimate Batman villain, and in The Avengers we united a disparate group superheroes to form a team. Also, The Avengers is only partly a sequel in the traditional sense, and is more of a mash-up or crossover. We all know those tend to be more exciting, when they don’t fall on their face, so it’s still not a completely fair comparison.
It is much harder to keep the excitement of a franchise up around the fourth installment and beyond. Trilogies are popular for a reason. Film is not television, audiences want a pay-off for their pay-out. So we see reboots of reboots. The X-Men franchise had a similar issue with the release of X-Men: First Class after the horrible X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s not all director vanity either, would you want to be the guy who had to revive the franchise after the last crappy film?
So now we have The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters. Say what you will about Spider-Man 3, because I certainly did, it did well in theaters. This new film needs to do well also, and I hope it does because despite some faltering steps they did one thing very well: Spider-Man. I really liked the him this time around. The actor, the look, the character arc; it was all very well-done. The new Spider-Man makes me realize all the things I disliked about the old one: too weepy, not sarcastic enough, bad jokes. Common sense says that superhero films live or die on the quality of their villains. Generally this is true, like most common sense, but fails to take into account the exceptions to that rule. While Loki was a fun villain, he was hardly original in concept, yet The Avengers was awesome. Batman Begins lacked a strong villain presence, even Ra’s al Ghul was off-screen most of the time, and I loved that film. Unfortunately, the villain in the newest Spider-Man film is not particularly engaging, he gets the job done to be sure, but lacks that spark which makes a great nemesis. He feels like a placeholder for the next guy to come along and really make a mark on Spidey’s life.
Really that’s about all you need to know about the new Spider-Man film. The hero was well-crafted and the villain fell short. It’s an origin story, so I think a strong villain is not as necessary as in later films. Hopefully The Amazing Spider-Man will do well enough to get a sequel where they can use a better nemesis, otherwise we might be seeing the next reboot sooner than we thought. Either way, go see it, if you like Spider-Man then you’ll enjoy the film.