As a comic book fan I’ve seen a lot of different versions of Spider-Man’s origin and personality. Understand that if Sony doesn’t make a Spider-Man movie in five years then the film rights return to Disney. So is this film a product of love for the character or a desperate move to keep a lucrative franchise going?
I’m not going to go over the basic story (boy who is picked on at school is being raised by his aunt and uncle then gets bit by a spider and manages to stick up for himself, suddenly become interesting to the girl of his dreams, and becomes a hero) because the movie hits all of Peter’s standard origin story.
What’s good about the movie is the addition of the mystery of Peter’s parents. Peter finds his father’s briefcase and examines the contents including a file with a mysterious equation and a photo of his father with Dr. Connors. Of course this sends Peter to Oscorp where Dr. Connors is working. Peter uses Dr. Connor’s published work along with his father’s equation to make Dr. Connor’s research work. Of course whenever Oscorp is involved in science, someone wants to shut someone down so they always use an untested formula on themselves which results in them becoming the deranged villain (in this film’s case, the Lizard).
I’m going to ignore how dumb the Lizard’s face looked (the comic book version might have been harder to pull off but I would’ve liked it better) and say that he and Spidey throw down a few times and the action is great. And instead of the love interest, Gwen, being in the dark the entire time then getting surreptitiously being swept up in the action, Peter reveals his identity early on and involves her in stopping the Lizard.
And we get web shooters! Honest to god web shooters. Of course the web cartridges are from Oscorp but the mechanisms are Peter’s. Spidey faithfully uses those web shooters every chance he gets and they’re awesome. A little red light comes on every time he uses them and the sound they make is awesome.
But this film was missing a few things, namely J. Jonah Jameson and spider sense. It’s possible that the film’s action alluded to spider-sense but he didn’t seem to have any heads up to danger around him. There was no great way to wedge Jonah into the story and the one time Peter attempted to take a photo of himself as Spider-Man was foiled when the Lizard destroyed his camera (while simultaneously discovering Spidey’s secret identity). Plus, it’s the cops who label Spider-Man a menace in this film, led by Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy.
Oh yeah – it’s also missing the one line that makes Spider-Man who he is: With great power comes great responsibility. Instead, we get a rambling speech that approximates that sentiment but would look awkward on a bumper sticker.
While Andrew Garfield is a good Peter Parker (maybe better than Tobey Maguire - let’s be honest, we didn’t have anyone to compare him to until now), Emma Stone is a fantastic Gwen Stacy and is a much better love interest for Peter. I liked the ending when the two kind of reconcile so that the next film doesn’t begin with them at odds with each other.
Of course the story foreshadows Norman Osborne’s involvement in the disappearance of Peter’s parents and promises that the sequel will involve him in some way. And of course we all know what Norman does to Gwen so that might come to pass in a sequel.
SEE IT/SKIP IT/OWN IT: So did I like it? It was okay. I’ve seen almost all the beats in that story and there were no surprises but when you reboot a franchise you have to give the origin. Sony didn’t make a film just for the hell of it, it seems they gave it a lot of time, attention, and talent. If anything else, it has the best Stan Lee cameo of any Marvel film so far (with the exception of The Fantastic Four in which he played their mailman). If you saw the original, this isn’t exceptional but you should watch it so you can compare the two for yourself. It might be worth owning but that’s something I’ll decide after I’ve seen the next movie.