Now that The Avengers has been released – it’s awesome, go see it if you haven’t – and the summer movie season has officially begun, the new trailers will be coming in fast and furious. Attached to Marvel’s comic book opus are the final trailers for the other big superhero films of the summer: The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man. With two such high-profile trailers being released in the same week, it’s time for the first-ever Trailer Trashin’ Double Feature! Now, let’s take a look at the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, the continuity reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise.
Premise: Teenage social outcast Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is trying to figure out who he is and attempting to win over his crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). When Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, who disappeared when Peter was just a child, it leads him to his father’s former partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). What he discovers will shape his destiny of becoming the hero “Spider-Man” and brings him in conflict with Connors’ villainous alter-ego “The Lizard.”
My take: Let me get this out of the way: I have been dubious about The Amazing Spider-Man ever since the project was first announced. While Spider-Man 3 (2007) was nowhere near the standards set by the first two films, I do not think it was the absolute train-wreck some people think it was, and it didn’t leave the established continuity of the series in a place where there was no way to continue it. And we certainly don’t need to spend the next movie retelling the origin story, which was done almost perfectly by Sam Raimi only ten years ago. This trailer is very well-done, but the movie and its advertising just don’t interest me.
First, the good. I do like the cast they’ve assembled. I like what I’ve seen so far of Andrew Garfield as Spidey. I loved Emma Stone in Zombieland (2009), and I think she’s a great choice to play Gwen Stacy. Rhys Ifans is a good choice for Curt Connors, and the issues I do have with this version of the character – which I’ll get to momentarily – have nothing to do with him. I also think Denis Leary’s a good fit for Captain George Stacy. Martin Sheen, who I will forever have great respect for because of Apocalypse Now (1979), is an excellent pick for taking over the role of Uncle Ben. I don’t have much to say about the rest of the cast, except that I’m somewhat amused to see Embeth Davidtz show up here as Peter’s mom Mary Parker, since she makes me think fondly of Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness (1992).
I also really like what they’re showing of the action in the film. It’s clear that the visual effects to depict Spider-Man’s web-swinging have greatly improved over what we saw in the previous movies. I like the way they have Spider-Man moving and using his powers in the bits of the fight scenes we see here. And I like that they have the Lizard using his tail as a weapon, just like in the comics.
Another element I like is that they’re bringing in the quippy, smartass part of Spider-Man, which was unfortunately missing from the Raimi films. Spidey’s line to the carjacker about “small knives” being his only weakness actually made me break out in chuckles. And the brief moment where Peter is building the mechanical web-shooter and it accidentally goes off in his face also made me smile.
I like the touch that Gwen Stacy knows that Peter is Spider-Man. We’ve all seen the superhero cliché of the hero having to hide his/her identity from the love interest, and I appreciate it when filmmakers dispense with that in creative ways. So that’s at least one thing they’re not retreading from the previous films.
Now for the bad. Even with all the stuff I do like here, the things that are wrong or ring false are so overwhelming that it sours the whole movie for me. First off, the tone being presented here is way too dark. Yes, there is a dark element to Spider-Man, especially with his unwitting culpability in the death of Uncle Ben, but what they’re doing here goes too far. Being (apparently) only active at night, hunted by the police, obsessed with his parents who disappeared when he was a child, his father having apparently been up to something bad, and having a sinister dark secret in his past – none of that sounds like Spider-Man to me. The whole thing smacks of typical studio executive logic – the last Batman film made tons of money, therefore every superhero has to be like Batman. Secondly, I hate this design for the Lizard. Are they seriously trying to convince us that, almost twenty years after Jurassic Park, they can’t create a reptile-headed humanoid creature with CGI? I don’t buy it. This doesn’t look like the Lizard; it looks more like Killer Croc from the Batman comics, or, if I’m feeling less charitable, like one of the Goombas from the awful live-action Super Mario Bros. (1993). Thirdly, I don’t like that they’re making Curt Connors an out-and-out villainous character. In the comics, Dr. Connors is a good man who tries to control his monstrous alter-ego, and even the Lizard is more of an id-driven animal than an actively malevolent villain. Finally, the last line of the trailer makes me feel like they’ve completely missed the point of the character: “Do you think what happened to you, Peter, was an accident? Do you have any idea what you really are?” The crux of Spider-Man is that he’s a normal guy who gets his powers in a freak accident, at first tries to use them for personal gain and pays a terrible price, and then has to learn responsibility and become a hero. If Peter Parker is somehow fated to be a superhero, it takes away from the concept of him starting as an everyman we can relate to. And just to reiterate, there is no reason to do Spider-Man’s origin again. “The Untold Story,” my ass.
Look, I don’t want to be writing these words. I would love it if everything about The Amazing Spider-Man looked awesome to me. I love comic book superheroes, and I want their movies to turn out well. Believe me, nothing would make me happier than if I turn out to be completely mistaken and this movie is actually great. But as it stands, I just can’t summon up any excitement for The Amazing Spider-Man. Right now, this smells like a “wait for Netflix” release.
ANTICIPATION: It’s a Spider-Man movie, but I am not excited about seeing it. Something’s wrong with this picture.
Release Date: July 3rd, 2012
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka, Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, and Embeth Davidtz
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves
Check out our look at the latest trailer for The Dark Knight Rises right here!