July 4, 2013

The Amazing Spider-Man

In my capacity as a random asshole on the Internet, it’s my job to deliver to you, the gibbering lunatics who read this blog, the taglined hatred and bile. Sadly, I couldn’t muster up any hate for The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s kind of crappy and a little pathetic, but unfortunately for the 99% of me that hates humanity, somebody cared enough about this misbegotten project to inject a couple of things I actually liked into it.

A lot of people have bagged on Andrew Garfield’s performance of Peter Parker. Now I don’t know who Andrew Garfield is and I don’t care, but the faults of this movie can’t really be laid at his feet. Peter as written is virtually unplayable--a “nerd” who’s handsome and ripped, dresses well, has a cool-by-high-school-standards hairstyle, does skateboarding tricks--and Garfield made the most he probably could out of the role. Likewise, he can’t be blamed for not having any chemistry at all with female lead Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). This is the fault of director Marc Webb (Get it? Webb? Spiders? Oh bite me, it’s fun!), a detail confirmed by Webb’s claim that he cast Stone based on her chemistry with Garfield. Both Garfield and Stone were believable as high school students despite looking far too old, and Stone was fine considering her nonsensical character: a high school student who, despite looking like the beauty queen, interns with a cutting-edge geneticist, has apparently never been asked on a “date” before, and is attracted to the clumsy stuttering of the (not actually very) nerdy Peter Parker.

Really, most of the stuff that doesn’t involve Spider-Man at all was alright. Great? Hardly, and Garfield is no Tobey Maguire (I can't believe I just had to write those words), but alright. Plus, since I maintain my sanity by blocking out the very existence of Martin Sheen, he wasn’t able to cock up the rest of the movie. There was even some decent Spider-Man stuff mixed in. His costume is okay (apparently replacing spandex tights with “webby latex-type bodysuit” is movie shorthand for “dark and brooding Dark Knight wannabe”), and the filmmakers mostly played straight with the audience, like having Spidey’s web-shooters believably short-out when he gets immersed in water. I liked that Peter at first breaks stuff with his newfound strength, since suddenly being ten times stronger would require adjustment of even such simple tasks as closing doors. Spider-Man’s quips are moderately amusing, and his fights with the Lizard (the Lizard, really?) show him using some innovative ways to get around the giant reptile’s superior strength and toughness. The best scene has Spidey locating the Lizard through vibrations of lines of webbing he has placed throughout the sewer. The shot of Spider-Man sitting in the center of his web detecting vibrations like, well, a spider was a pretty nifty moment. (Which they immediately ruin, but it was fun while it lasted.)

The movie’s biggest problem—apart from its being utterly unnecessary and deeply unoriginal—is that the serious, heady family (melo)drama and high school romance stuff doesn’t mesh at all with the goofy Spider-Man-fighting-a-giant-lizard-monster stuff. This is epitomized by the scene that has Peter going to Gwen’s dad (Denis Leary)—who just so happens to be chief of police in New York City—with a warning that Dr. Curt Connors is actually a giant lizard monster rampaging around the city. Leary reacts as anyone in the real world would, which is completely believable in the My So-Called Life part of the movie, but Peter's reaction is out of the superhero part of the movie, namely utter disbelief that Leary would doubt his giant-lizard-monster story, despite his lack of any evidence to back up that story. (I'm ignoring the fact that earlier the Lizard attacked dozens of people in front of probably a hundred witnesses on a crowded bridge, because the movie does, too.)

In fact, everything with the Lizard doesn’t work. The CGI animating him is cheesy and his look is ridiculous. The actor playing him (some guy I don’t know) is unremarkable, his mad-science dialogue is generic and uninvolving, and his bad guy plot is pedestrian and routine. (Think the Joker’s plot in Batman or, if you have no taste, the villains’ plot in Batman Begins. Or if you have my taste, the man-fish's plot in Zaat!.) Every time the movie might develop a modicum of dramatic momentum, the fake CGI Lizard appears to smash things, or worse, Connors appears to pontificate about how all people ought to become lizardmen before transforming himself into a hammy actor overselling a monster transformation sequence. They also play the oh-so-tired "hero involved in the creation of the villain so that it's personal" card. Actually, Peter says he's responsible for creating the Lizard, but he really isn't. All Peter did was give Connors a bogus equation to finish his turn-people-into-lizardmen ersatz-Predator-blood-serum. It was Connors who chose to then create the serum and inject it into himself in order to turn himself into a man-lizard. Bizarrely, the movie seems to know this, and Peter's reason for fighting the Lizard ends up being more along the lines of "He's the villain, and I'm the hero of the picture, so like, I gotta fight 'im."

Because this movie inexcusably lacks J. Jonah Jameson, Denis Leary's police chief has to fill the role of "authority figure who doggedly hates and opposes Spider-Man no matter how many times Spidey proves himself the good guy". Thus, even after the Lizard begins the movie’s climax by smashing buildings and murdering people, Leary continues to hunt Spider-Man, even as the Lizard is engaged in his rampage. It’s not as if the police are somehow unaware of this, since the Lizard slaughters an entire squad of cops sent to stop him. But instead of making, I don’t know, a second attempt to stop the Lizard from murdering not only police officers but real people as well, Leary orders any number of police helicopters and SWAT officers to capture Spider-Man, currently engaged in the heinous crime of “swinging from buildings by his webbing”. Only when Leary successfully captures and unmasks Spider-Man (oh please) does he finally trust him because, well, he’s Peter Parker, a man Leary met exactly once, when they got into an argument in which Peter, in defense of Spider-Man, accused the police of gross incompetence. If that doesn’t make the chief of police trust Peter/Spidey, what the hell would?

Not content to be merely an unnecessary retread of Sam Raimi’s infinitely-superior-even-at-their-worst Spider-Man films, The Amazing Spider-Man rips off the ending of the execrable Spider-Man 3 by having the villain save the hero from death. Then Leary gets a death scene because, well, somebody’s got to die for some pathos and it sure as hell ain’t going to be the villain a 21st century superhero movie, so they might as well give the death scene to the movie’s only actual actor. Now I’m a big Denis Leary fan—not the least because he’s a staunch supporter and proponent of the one true sport—but any decent actor can do what Leary does here. Like Christopher Walken, he can be effective in a straight role, but what’s the point? Why hire a man of his particular talents for a role anybody can play? You hire Walken so that his Walkenizing can provide at least a few moments of audience entertainment in your piece of shit cash-grab without your having to do anything that takes actual effort, like doing a thorough script re-write or directing the film with a modicum of flair and style. And you hire Denis Leary for his signature rants. Well, unless you’re the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man, in which case you’re soulless artistic whores of corporate America and I'd like you to leave a comment describing what it’s like to live without a soul.

Oh, and I’d just like to point out, Uncle Ben in this movie is a moron, and not just because he’s played by Martin Sheen. Now, legally, since he had a pistol, the bearded guy who stole money from the convenience store committed armed robbery, even though he didn't use or even reveal said weapon during the theft. (I liked that the robber tosses Peter the milk the clerk rudely refused to sell him when he was exactly 3 cents short. Even better, Peter in turn refuses to help the clerk stop the thief.) Again, he didn’t actually produce said weapon or even claim to have it; he merely tricked the punishingly stupid clerk into looking away from the open register so he could reach over and grab the cash. So at this point, all he’s done is sleight-of-hand some money away from somebody who frankly deserved to get robbed. The fat tub of shit who got robbed chases the thief out of the store, shouting for someone to stop him. Then the thief falls down and the gun tumbles onto the pavement. At this point, Uncle Ben, observing all this unfold, decides to intervene, engaging with the thief in a struggle over the gun. That’s right, a decrepit old man with one foot in the grave thinks he’s going to wrestle a gun away from a man forty years his junior. A gun the man hasn’t used or even shown to anybody. The gun goes off during the struggle, and Ben is kacked. The movie doesn’t even have the thief gain control of the gun and shoot Ben so he can escape. No, it clearly goes off accidentally.

Now as I said, I understand that the Empire's inhumanly harsh "justice" system employs something called the felony-murder doctrine which dictates that, legally speaking, the perp murdered Uncle Ben because once someone has embarked on the commission of a felony, any death that occurs as a result is adjudged murder. But I’m talking about reality here, not the fiction of the legal world. Ben wasn’t protecting any person, or even any property (since the money was already stolen), and the stolen property isn’t even his. No, he was using physical force to stop an alleged petty thief of an entirely unrelated party's property from leaving the scene, which so far as I know is illegal in any jurisdiction of the Empire. The entire chain of events is Ben's fault. He chose to go for the thief’s gun, which the thief hadn’t used or even threatened to use on anyone. Once he failed to reach the gun before the perp, he chose to struggle with him for control of the gun. At this point, Ben is assaulting this guy and attempting to steal his property. The fact that the guy stole at most a couple hundred bucks from the register doesn’t give Ben the right to steal his gun or get into a fight with him. Ben shouldn’t have been involved at all. This isn’t a matter of not having the Courage to Get Involved and Help or not being Cold and Uncaring and Indifferent to the Plight of Your Fellow Man or won't somebody please help the children! This is about not being a fucking idiot and going for somebody’s gun based solely on the word of a fat tub of shit you've never met who didn't even see the guy take the money. Hey Ben, I’ve got an idea: Why don’t you take that cell phone you've been established as having out of your pocket, call the police, and give them the guy’s location and physical description? I mean, nobody is in any danger. The guy isn’t firing the gun or waving it around or yelling that people had better move or he’s gonna blow ‘em away. Frankly, I wouldn’t have cared if the guy had just shot Ben, but the movie doesn’t even go that far because, as noted, the shooting is accidental. Ben shouldn’t have been there, and he got shot due to a situation that he brought entirely upon himself, because he's the one who engaged in violence. There’s a reason the police say things like “Don’t try to wrest a gun away from a petty thief who is currently a threat to exactly no one, because you might end up getting shot in the struggle and dying, you stupid fuck.” Okay, they might leave off that last part. 

And this, this is what inspires Peter Parker to don the mantle of Spider-Man and get repeatedly punched in the face by a lizardman?

Fuck Uncle Ben, and fuck The Amazing Spider-Man. I hate this movie.


  1. This blog post reminds me of every argument we have ever had. Except I laughed more. In the arguments, I mean. Oh! You see what I did there?

    1. You mean pretentious, a tad fadkid-ish, and overflowing with affectionate snark?

  2. I hated spider man years ago and I hate him now. Stupid. I never heard he had great strength, but wasn't really paying attention. I think movies of the past should be left just like that, the past, oh, but not red dawn..hehehe