Adapted by James Vanderbilt, Steve Kloves and Alvin Sargent from The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Did you know Spider-Man is the highest-grossing fictional character? When taking into account everything, merely including cinema, he’s earned more money than any other character. So it’s no surprise Columbia Pictures want to keep the character. The Amazing Spider-Man was originally Spider-Man 4, but numerous reasons lead to it being a reboot. This meant re-telling his origin story, introducing a new actor as Spider-Man and reinventing the franchise. Many of the positive reviews I give are often due to me considering something to be an accomplishment, and The Amazing Spider-Man is definitely an accomplishment. Because never, in anything else, have I found myself being so immersed in a story because of the combination between character and actor. Andrew Garfield was the perfect casting choice, due to his subtle nuances and ability to make Peter Parker the everyboy, while also showing him to be extraordinary.
As someone’s who never read a single issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s never been a part of me. And I haven’t, as yet, seen any of the original trilogy. This was the first Spider-Man-related product I was exposed to, and that makes me see it as the perfect representation of what that world is probably like. Hiring Mark Webb, the director of (500) Days of Summer, was a genius move. Too many people make the mistake of labelling genres based on setting, rather than characters. The Amazing Spider-Man is, based on Peter Parker’s relationship with Gwen Stacy, a teen comedy drama. And it’s the Parker/Stacy relationship that’s at the heart of the story, and his transformation into Spider-Man is just a part of that. It’s a part of that story, rather than being the story. Which is totally the right way to do it – I care more about who’s under the mask, and what’s going on in his life. Everything is attached to the romance plot, and the whole story feels imbued with it. There’s a magic to it, because we find ourselves instantly loving our lead actor and protagonist, as well as a darkness, because of the themes and what the characters go through. But ultimately, as is every story, the latter is the most important thing. It’s a story about characters who come closer together because they’re missing something. Parker’s missing his parents, and this brings him closer to Stacy. Stacy’s Father dies, and this brings her closer to Parker. Uncle Ben dies, and this brings Aunt May closer to Parker. The only person who doesn’t come closer to someone is Curtis Connors, who’s missing his arm. And he deals with that through scientific means, rather than emotional means. One of the things about Spider-Man is his ability to be an emotional character, and can show us – because he’s the Everyboy – that emotion is an advantage. Emotion is at the heart of the story, and the story is about how emotion will save us. Spider-Man isn’t like Batman; he doesn’t deal with his trauma by beating people, and he isn’t like Superman, by snapping necks because of his anger. Spider-Man lets it out, shows us it’s going to be okay, and is able to still be happy. We like Peter Parker because he’s happy, despite everything. It’s a bittersweet tale of a person who’s learned to appreciate things, and I’d say that’s what makes The Amazing Spider-Man stand-out as a motion picture: it’s the story of the man behind the mask. It’s about Peter Parker. Others could be Spider-Man, but only he can make him amazing.
And for the first time, we have a character transformed into a superhero, who actually freaks out about becoming a superhero. Were I to acquire superpowers, my initial reaction would be “Holy fuckballs, I’m a fucking superhuman!” They’re only fiction, and in becoming Spider-Man, he embraces it in the most believable way. Which is to go “Ahahahahahaha! Screw you guys, I’ve got superpowers”. Don’t lie – you’d do it. As Webb had only really directed independents up until this point, he’d learned to check the egos at the door. The story isn’t about promoting the characters, it’s just showing us them, and letting us appreciate them for what they are. In Batman adaptations (which I don’t dislike), his most common phrase is “I’m Batman!”, and Superman is dripping with egomania. But this isn’t about the superhero, it’s about the secret identity, and unlike others that attempt to do this, actually seems to know how. That’s why I’ve constantly referred him to as Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. Because one of those is an alias. Only one of them’s a character.
The Amazing Spider-Man: the superhero genre’s Citizen Kane. 8/10