Short Films
Interviews Contact Links Cheez Blog

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field

Written By: James Vanderbilt (also story), Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves Directed By: Marc Webb

The Short Version

Good news: the reboot is a big improvement over the previous franchise attempts.

With that said, call The Amazing Spider-Man a “YA Comic Book Movie.”

Between the writers and the actor, a great job is done in realizing Peter Parker’s character.

The rendering of the villain is really quite an embarrassment to behold.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is a lot more amazing than I was expecting it to be.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


You know those little cheez-n-cracker packages that come with the red plastic strip for a spreader, ideally sized for inclusion with school lunches?  Yeah, those.

Pairs Well With...


I don’t think these kids are ready for anything more sophisticated.  (With that said: keep it legal, everyone!)

“So… thirty-eight of New York’s finest versus one guy in a unitard.  Am I correct?”

Though I’m quite certain it’s not really the first one I watched, the first cartoon I can clearly remember watching as a kid is “Spider-Man.”  (In syndication, thanks; I’m not that old.)  It was a pretty cool cartoon.

While I was growing up, Spidey had a few other runs on television – both animated and live action – but I didn’t pay much attention to those.  My interests had moved on to other heroes.  (I’m told I didn’t miss much anyway.)

As an adult, I watched Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi absolutely destroy any remaining affection I might have had for the character through a trilogy of headache-inducing films, the last of which stands for me as one of the worst comic book hero movies ever made.  (And which I came within a breath of walking out of; that’s something I never do.)

When it was announced in 2010 that the Spider-Man film franchise was going to be rebooted after being out of the gate for less than a decade, I had two immediate reactions: first, happiness that Tobey Maguire wasn’t going to be ruining the character any further, and second, an eyes to the sky question of “why bother?”

When I saw the trailers come out for the new film, my prejudicial sentiments seemed to be confirmed: the more I saw of the previews, the more convinced I was that The Amazing Spider-Man would suck.  But, I try to be above such things, and so, eventually, I walked into a theatre to give the movie a go, albeit a bit late.

Guess what?  While it’s not going to make my Top Five Comic Book Hero Flick list anytime soon, The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t suck.  It’s actually kinda cool.  As for just how cool…

If you know your basic pop culture canon, the frame here will hold no surprises, since The Amazing Spider-Man chooses to go the standard “origin story” route.  Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) is a high school dork who’s been raised by his Aunt May (Sally Field, Forrest Gump) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now).  One day, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and soon wakes up to discover that he’s developed spider-like powers himself: his hands and feet will stick to any surface, his strength has multiplied, and his reflexes are off the charts.  When his Uncle Ben is killed by a street thug, Parker decides to use his newfound powers to bring bad guys to justice, and assumes the identity of Spider-Man.

The twist here is that Peter’s parents were scientists working on a top secret project, and that they left him in the care of his aunt and uncle while they went into hiding, never to be seen again.  Peter’s discovery of his father’s old research notes leads him to his father’s former lab partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans, Hannibal Rising).  When Peter provides Connors with an equation he found in the old notes, Connors uses it to develop a formula that incorporates lizard DNA for the purpose of helping humans regrow lost limbs.  (He’s missing an arm himself.)  Gosh, you don’t think this could result in the creation of a supervillain, do you?  Cleanup in the lab… cleanup in the lab…

So, how old are you?  The answer to this question may be important in determining how you react to The Amazing Spider-Man.

The Spider-Man character was originally created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko specifically so that adolescent fans would have a front line superhero of their own.  (Previously, all of the major heroes were older adults, with the occasional younger person showing up as a sidekick.)  Fifty years later, The Amazing Spider-Man reaffirms that original focus, providing a definite contrast to what has become the standard practice of comic book films of leaning toward a more adult market.  You’ll find no hard-drinking smartass characters here; this one’s firmly grounded next to the soda machine at the school cafeteria.  It’s a comic book flick for the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” crowds: accessible to people for whom Prom is a distant memory, but still most appropriately housed on the “Young Adult” shelf at the bookstore.

So, can you handle a comic book hero flick that just as much about teenage awkwardness as it is about picking up amazing superpowers?  Can you sit patiently through the dork vs. bully segments?  Can you handle the dorky boy stuttering his way through asking the pretty girl out on a date, and later his awkward and overzealous attempt at a first kiss?  (Which, to be fair, the young lady at the receiving end is just as awkward and overzealous about.)  Are you cool with a hero whose first realization that he’s picked up superpowers comes in the form of having a freakishly horrible time trying to brush his teeth?

How about a superhero who still acts like he’s seventeen years old even after he puts on his spiffy new costume and assumes his vigilante identity?  ‘Cause web slinging is cool and awesomesauce, yo.  Can you really handle a superhero who’s theoretically not old enough to vote, let alone drink legally, and behaves accordingly?

Are you okay with bucking the dark hero trend?  Yeah, some lip service is paid to giving The Amazing Spider-Man a touch of darkness along the lines of Batman Begins (and about a million hints are dropped to suggest that this will end up as a major-arc trilogy, just like Christopher Nolan did for the Caped Crusader), but it’s really just cartoon level darkness, and Peter Parker’s still an Auntie’s boy.  (I can honestly see no reason at all for this to be “PG-13” instead of just plain “PG”.)  The villain’s not all that dark, either; think a tame version of Jekyll and Hyde.  There is absolutely nothing about this movie couldn’t pass muster as old-fashioned Saturday morning fare.

I ask again: how old are you?  Do you need your heroes to be jaded types with hard drinking alter egos, or are you okay reading from the YA shelf every once in a while?

If you’ve reached a point in your life where cartoons are silly and high school is something you’d just rather forget, then The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t going to be for you.  Hie thee hence to Iron Man, and don’t bother looking back.

For the rest of you, though… The Amazing Spider-Man is pretty cool.  It’s not perfect, it’s not great, but it’s good.

It’s good because once the production team decided to stick with the concept of Peter Parker, high school student, they went all in.  There’s nothing half-assed about the attempt, nor is Peter’s screen age conveniently set aside whenever it would seem expeditious to do so; the entirety of Peter’s reality makes sense given who and what he’s supposed to be.  Some have complained that given his “dork” characterization, he’s too socially sophisticated (i.e. he can talk to girls after one or two attempts and has something of a backbone), but for me, that just shows an effort to portray Parker as a real person instead of a cookie-cutter archetype.  Far from being a weakness, this is something that ended up selling the movie for me, because for one of the few times I can remember, I was actually able to accept a character being presented as a high school kid as a real high school kid and not a university senior who just stepped onto the wrong campus.  Thanks to the efforts of Andrew Garfield and the scriptwriters, Peter Parker is picture perfect.

It’s good because there’s more chemistry here than just what’s being depicted in the Oscorp lab.  The screen couples gel like real couples.  (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone: never doubted them once.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field: what, you mean they haven’t really been married for 37 years?)  The supporting players fit their roles like hands in gloves.  (Denis Leary is perfect not just as Captain Stacey, but also as Gwen’s father.)  Wherever there’s a human interaction, The Amazing Spider-Man gets it right.

It’s good because however cartoon simple it all may be, The Amazing Spider-Man still makes for a fun heroic adventure.  When the bully gets what’s coming to him, it’s so After School Special, but it also feels epic.  The scene with the little kid on the bridge is heavy on the saccharine, but it’s satisfying.  When C. Thomas Howell – yes, that C. Thomas Howell – convinces all of the construction crane operators in Manhattan to pull together and help Spider-Man out, it’s silly and ridiculous, but it’s cool.  And so on, and so on.

It’s good because the very last line spoken in the last real scene of the film saves it from falling into a trap that is one of my biggest pet peeves in all of comic book filmdom.  (I’ll stop there for spoiler avoidance purposes, though some of you who know me can probably guess what this refers to.)

It’s not perfect because despite the production team promising that the greatest emphasis would be placed on real physical stunt work and effects as opposed to CGI, The Lizard looks like the happy little computer generated love child of Godzilla and the GEICO Gecko.  No, it’s not as embarrassing as the Big Green Smurf from Hulk, but it is cartoonish in the “no so good” way, and a pretty big distraction whenever it’s on the screen (especially when it’s smiling).  It also takes a lot away from the conscious effort made to use physical effects wherever possible, because with such an obvious CGI construct bounding around the screen, it’s really hard to believe that everything else isn’t CGI, and easy to see some things as computer generated that aren’t.  Again, it’s a distraction.

It’s not perfect because Spidey’s costume can’t win.  On the one hand, as Denis Leary’s character points out, it’s a unitard, and unitards are inherently silly.  On the other hand, Peter takes his mask off far too often, which is annoying because the point of having a costumed hero in the first place is to have a costumed hero.  Really, he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, though either way, he needs to figure out how to use a hairbrush.

It’s not perfect for many other small reasons, but really, it doesn’t have to be.  It just has to be fun, and if you’re a person who can enjoy something off the YA shelf every so often, then The Amazing Spider-Man is much more fun than anyone could have reasonably expected it to be.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a comic book hero flick that bucks the trend of dark shadows and brooding sophistication, you could do a whole lot worse than The Amazing Spider-Man.  It certainly beats the three attempts that came before, and goes a long way toward restoring the silver screen honor of Marvel’s flagship character. 

Doom Cheez Cinema is now Cinema on the Rocks. Thank you for your support!

Tweet this page!

- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, September, 2012

More From The Bar! | Twilight | Iron Man 3 | The Dark Knight Rises | Thor |

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


- copyright 2000-2016, Ziggy Berkeley and Cinema on the Rocks, all rights reserved.

Promotional/still images copyright their original authors. If you're going to drink, please do so legally and responsibly. Thanks.