The Amazing Spider-Man Sony reboot is not remembered fondly. Being a too early franchise reboot to the beloved Sam Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy can do that regardless of the quality of the next franchise, and The Amazing Spider-Man does have its share of big flaws. It does have a boring villain with The Lizard, a lost parents mystery that just over complicates, and so on. On top of that, it is an origin story when everybody to their Uncle Ben already knows how Peter Parker became Spider-Man.
Because of the legitimate criticism of being a too early Spider-Man reboot and too early revisit of the origin story, the equally legitimate good things The Amazing Spider-Man did are left unnoticed. Sometimes The Amazing Spider-Man is even better than the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man. So much better, in fact, the flaws it has become trivial by comparison. Take a read and see for yourself.
We See More of Uncle Ben
Cliff Robertson was the perfect Uncle Ben back in 2002, in that he is the warm father figure everyone wanted to have. But the downside was we barely have any scenes with him in the Raimi movie except for the bare minimum to know who he is, so the only real scene Peter has with him is already when they are in the car, already in the pivotal point where he is about to die. We never see how they are on a regular day, so we do not see their dynamic and influence on each other, only what we can infer.
This is the total opposite in The Amazing Spider-Man where we have a lot of scenes between Peter and Uncle Ben before anything pivotal happen, and so we get one of the most genuine father and son relationship in any superhero movie, with Martin Sheen having just as much presence as a working-class sympathetic father figure the way Cliff Robertson was but having more to do.
We get to see Peter and Uncle Ben spending regular days together and doing chores together. We see that Ben understands Peter's disregard for authority and thirst for adventure, but he does not tolerate his shiring of responsibilities. He has insecurities of not being equipped enough to raise a boy with a gifted brain like Peter or cannot give him everything he needs. In turn, Peter does not see Ben any less of a real father and tries to be the best son he could be but is distracted when the world suddenly gave him everything he wanted, a lead to his parents, a girl, and superhuman abilities.
All of this makes for a better build-up to Uncle Ben's death. We know what Peter lost when he died, more than just what we can infer.Advertisement
The Love Story is Better
The biggest weakness of the Raimi movies may be The Amazing Spider-Man's biggest strength. We know immediately why Gwen and Peter are so enamored by each other practically and psychologically, instead of in the Raimi film where the two leads seem to like each other for shallow reasons or no reason at all.
Peter is attracted to Gwen not just because she is beautiful but also because she represents everything he is searching for all his life - purpose and direction. But Gwen is not just peter's fantasy projection, the admiration between them is mutual. Peter likes her brilliance and confidence, but Gwen is drawn to Peter's enate heroism. Gwen is drawn to a man who reminds her of her father while Peter is reminded of his parents when he sees Gwen's unwavering thirst for knowledge.
Gwen feels like a complete person- we know why she understands Peter's heroic side because her father is a cop and is used to seeing that risky side of life. She is hesitant to be serious with him, knowing she is in for a life of wondering if Peter will make it home but ultimately takes the risk. She is a life-risking heroic herself because that's what you expect in someone who has a heroic father and falls in love with Spider-Man.
We can go on and on and talk about how they fit together perfectly as characters, but at the end of the day, Andrew Garfield's and Emma Stone's onscreen chemistry just works.
Spider-Man is Now Proactive
Peter Parker made one big decision in Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man, he becomes a superhero and that's it. Outside this brief moment of choice, Peter just becomes a passive victim at the mercy of the plot. After Green Goblin attacks the parade, Peter contemplates to himself somebody has to stop him. Yet we never really see Spider-Man do anything to try and stop him. Even when Goblin attacks Aunt May, and Peter knows that Goblin knows who he is, he still does not do everything in his power to try and find him.
The Andrew Garfield Peter Parker is a different animal. He makes the plot happen, not the world around him. When he becomes Spider-Man, he makes sure he goes out every night to find his uncle's killer or fight crime. He constantly thinkers to find new ways to make his crime-fighting easier, which is why he came up with the web-shooters. When he realized that Dr. Conners might be a giant lizard monster, he goes to the cops. When they did not believe him, he takes the initiative by going to the sewers to find Conners.
The Tobey Maguire Peter still did a lot of things as Spider-Man, but they are just reactions to decisions where he has no other option. Peter made a choice to stop Green Goblin and save Mary Jane in the parade, but the alternative is doing nothing. Andrew Garfield's Peter, on the other hand, has real choices, and the path he makes informs us on who he is instead of being just being the default good guy. When he chose to save the child on the bridge instead of stopping the Lizard he made a choice to save a life instead of giving in to the immature impulse to beat up the bad guy. The entire plot started because he is too much of a curious kid and unnecessary risk-taker that the genetically engineered spider just had to bite him.
People That Hate Peter Parker Nurtures His Journey
In the original Spider-Man movie, everyone hates on Peter Parker because the script said so. It is not about a boy growing into a better man, it is about a person who is already good from the beginning placed with unfair obstacles entirely out of malice from 1-dimensional characters around him. If everyone is just a strawman he can look good in front of, he is left with no one to learn from and compare himself to. If he cannot self-reflect on his flaws, then he does not have to change.
In contrast, The Amazing Spider-Man has a lot of people that hate Peter but for real motivations than just that the script said so. No one is saying that J.K. Simmons is not amazing as J. Jonah Jameson, but he is just a strawman Peter can just ignore. What if Jameson has a real motivation for hating Spider-Man? What if he is actually making legit criticisms for the way Peter is acting that would reflect on Peter's character flaws that would lead Peter Parker to self-reflect and grow as a person?
In this alternate scenario called The Amazing Spider-man, Gwen's father, Police Captain Stacy does hate Spider-Man but unlike Jamerson, his criticism of Spider-Man is fair, in turn, Peter can self-reflect - He made him realize he wasn't actually protecting the innocent from the bad guys. He is just hunting down criminals who look the same as the guy who killed Uncle Ben to pass the blame for the guilt that he felt. When he encountered the Lizard on the bridge, we see how he is now different - He did not choose the impulse of violence like before by going after The Lizard, he stayed to save a child.
In the old movie, Flash Thompson is just some bully Peter needs to fight so Peter would look good in front of the school and for us to know he is now stronger. In The Amazing Spider-Man, it is implied that Flash's terrible personality is the same motivation as the violent behavior Peter exhibits after Ben died. There is a moment when Peter slams Flash to a wall, and Flash encourages him to just let his anger out because it is implied the Flash is going through the same thing and has been dealing with it in the same way. It nurtures our understanding of Peter further and lets us understand the kind of person he needs to avoid by the end of the movie. When we see Flash and Peter getting along, later on, it is a satisfying natural progression.Advertisement
The Responsibility Message is Earned Because Peter Has Flaws and Grows as a Person
In the Raimi movie, Peter Parker is a flawless person aside from a brief out-of-character exchange with Uncle Ben and when he let go of the thief. He just develop that previously unexplored character flaw experienced a consequence for it, and then decided to stop having it 5 minutes later. It just acts as a catalyst for what would otherwise be difficult to justify changes in the hero's life. When Uncle Ben said, "with great power, comes great responsibility," it was not even earned because Peter was not turning into a worse person with his powers. Uncle Ben just misunderstood the situation - Peter wasn't turning into a hooligan, he just cannot share his abilities with Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Peter did not start a fight with Flash, he was just trying to defend himself. When the story is about responsibility, we need a protagonist with real flaws to see how he absorbs that message like in the original Stan Lee comics.
That is Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker, who is turning into a worse person with his powers. We get to learn a lot about Peter's flaws even before he gets them - He is bitter and angry after being abandoned by his parents and feels like the world owes him recompense. He loves Uncle Ben and Aunt May but he takes them for granted. He is detached from everyone and can be an unnecessary risk-taker When he gets his powers, a lead on his parents, and a girl, he starts fights in school and shirks his responsibilities with his aunt and uncle. So when Uncle Ben says his speech about responsibility, there is no misunderstanding, it is what he really needs to learn.
When Uncle Ben died, he goes out on a spree of violence and convinces himself it is heroism instead of revenge out of passing blame for the guilt he felt on his involvement in the death. Peter receives the code of responsibility first, then grasped it later through experience - It is not just a light switch. Because of this, Peter's character development never stops.
When Gwen's father tells him that he is not a hero but a vigilante and then encounters The Lizard, it is only there does he become a hero by saving the child instead of going after The Lizard, letting go of his immaturity for violence. This is actually the first time he called himself Spider-Man. His origin did not end just because he put on a suit, he is only a superhero when he grows as a person.
By the end of the movie we buy the slow transition to a better person who will stand by his responsibilities to the point of when Gwen's father died and made Peter promise to leave Gwen out of the burden of being Spider-Man, Peter is suddenly hit with the true weight of his responsibilities and have to decide if his responsibility to himself as just being Peter is also in need of nurturing or has to be sacrificed for his life as Spider-Man. Even by the end, his story keeps on moving and we have to decide if he did the right choice in the end.
This is a birth of a superhero in a level of detail we have yet to see before or since grounded in the realistically flawed and moody emotions of a teenaged boy.