Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Amazing Spider-Man

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man

Is He Strong? Listen, bud, he's got radioactive blood.

Can He Swing from a Web? Careful, you're going to give people the impression this movie's more fun that it actually is.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Two and a half skinks out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Please don't make me actually type it out.

Tagline: "The untold story begins."

Better Tagline: "And so does the contractually obligated studio reboot."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a Troubled Young Man; bullied at school, withdrawn, and tormented by abandonment issues stemming from his parents...abandoning him to his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) when he was a wee sprog. A chance discovery of his father's old briefcase leads him to Oscorp Industries and one of their top scientists, a Dr. Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans), who's doggedly pursuing "cross-species genetics" as a means of curing illness (and, not so coincidentally, regrowing his missing arm). While snooping around, he's bitten by one of Oscorp's genetically modified spiders and the rest, as they say, is web-slinging history, including the part where he starts dating fellow student Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), in spite of the fact her father (Denis Leary) is the NYPD captain specifically tasked with bringing Spider-Man to justice.

"Critical" Analysis: First, the good: The Amazing Spider-Man is superior in several ways to most of Sam Raimi's previous films. Garfield is an extremely talented actor and brings a wiseass element to Spidey that Tobey Maguire lacked, Stone is better than Kirsten Dunst in every way (except perhaps wet T-shirtedness) and the FX in ASM are an order of magnitude greater than those we saw ten years ago (watch if you don't remember). I mean, the "Spidey-Cam" is pretty cool, and Garfield -- or his CG doppelgänger -- actually looks like he's swinging through the streets of New York City.

So for a while, at least, you can overlook some of the movie's shortcomings. Leary can't hold a candle to J.K. Simmons, for starters (the Daily Bugle angle is completely absent), and after being confronted with the menace of "The Lizard," it's hard not to make the argument that the Wall Crawler's rogue's gallery is starting to fall off a bit. With heavy hitters like Doc Ock and Venom out of the picture, who are they going to spring on us next time? The Vulture? Kraven the Hunter? Boomerang?

And in the end, it's just another reboot, isn't it? A scant decade after the first Raimi/Maguire film, Sony has restarted the whole thing. The problem is, nobody born before 1999 is unaware of Spidey's origin story, and since most of us (it grossed over $800 million after all) have seen those versions, what do we gain by spending almost half of the new movie's running time retelling the same "nerd gets bitten/indirectly causes uncle's death/fights crime" plot?

I was seriously hoping Uncle Ben lived this time around. Between the comics, TV shows and movies, how many times have we seen that guy die?

As with anything else, it comes down to money. The Spider-Man franchise is one of the most lucrative in history (over $2.5 billion worldwide), and with Maguire et al, set to command over $100 million in salary alone for another installment, it behooved Sony to just hit the reset button with low(er)-rent performers in order to keep the rights a little while longer.

Unfortunately, that doesn't excuse what is, in essence, the rehash of a property that was still largely alive and kicking. Spider-Man 3 came out five years ago, and while it was pretty much crap, we were at least dealing with advances to the story. ASM, and by default director Marc ((500) Days of Summer) Webb, have to watch their step. After all, it wouldn't do to remove the audience from their comfort zone.

And maybe that explains they the so-called "untold story" goes nowhere. Trailers seem to suggest Peter's parents were mixed up with Oscorp's research when he was a boy, but this never goes anywhere. Pre-release scenes showing Connors asking Peter if he thought his exposure was an accident are also strangely absent.

So I guess this is what we can look forward to: shorter and shorter windows between franchise relaunches. That's why next year's Man of Steel comes a mere seven years after Superman Returns, the latest Punisher reboot followed four years after the previous reboot and we've had three guys playing the Hulk in three separate movies.

None of this is necessarily the fault of anyone directly connected to filming The Amazing Spider-Man, but all the gee-whiz webslinging action in the world can't hide the fact the whole endeavor is just the same old crap with a new coat of paint. It was pretty enough to look at, when I wasn't checking my watch.

The Amazing Spider-Man is in theaters today. You won't skip it even if I ask, but that's the only way you're ever going to get Hollywood to start telling new stories.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar