Continuing our look back at The Amazing Spider-Man, the reboot of the Spider-Man series directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Two-thirds of the way through, the movie is a mixed bag. The attempt to update Peter Parker as a skateboarding slacker feels odd, but I think there are a lot of things that work about it. Garfield has great chemistry with Stone as Gwen Stacy. Martin Sheen and Sally Field make a pretty decent Uncle Ben and Aunt May. The costume is not classic Spider-Man, but it works okay.
On the other hand, the attempts at visual flash don’t always work well. The dark lighting makes some of the action hard to follow. It’s interesting that they’ve dug deeper into Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery for this film’s villain, but so far, the Lizard has only been barely glimpsed and we haven’t seen what his endgame is.
However, that’s about to change now that Dr. Connors knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.
The Lizard bursts up through the floor into the school bathroom. Peter changes into Spider-Man and fights the Lizard through the halls of the school. The fight is not bad, with Spider-Man having to try increasingly desperate gambits to try to stop a villain who is essentially a scaly Hulk with claws. Detachable tail optional.
We also get one of the funniest Stan Lee cameos ever, with Lee playing a man so lost in appreciation of fine music that he doesn’t notice the battle raging right behind him.
But even though there are several entertaining bits in the battle, like Peter telling Gwen he’s going to throw her out the window right before he throws her out the window, overall the fight is underwhelming. The Lizard is a bit one-note as a villain, and though Peter is clever and inventive, the emphasis on Peter’s fast reflexes makes the rhythm off-kilter.
The Lizard disappears as soon as he hears police sirens approaching, making the entire episode kind of pointless. It seemed like he was there to kill Spider-Man, but he takes off without a word, even though nothing Spider-Man did seemed to hurt him.
Peter follows him into the sewers and calls Gwen to ask her to make an antidote to the serum at Oscorp. Not long after, he finds the Lizard’s secret lab, where he has helpfully left an animated graphic looping on a computer monitor illustrating his plan to use the MacGuffin device introduced earlier in the movie to dose the entire city with Lizard serum. Kind of a double danger signal. Not only is this obviously a blatant ploy to get the plot moving, but it’s kind of a stupid plot. The Lizard can only stay a lizard for a few hours at a time. Dosing the city with the serum might cause pandemonium, but it will be a very a short-lived pandemonium.
So the Lizard sets out for Oscorp with Spider-Man on his tail (heh), but the cops attack Spidey and zap him with some kind of taser dart that puts him down for the count.
Captain Stacy rips off his mask, and though Peter tries to keep his face hidden as he fights his way free, the Captain discovers his secret. Peter tells him that Gwen is in danger, and Captain Stacy lets him go, but another cop shoots Peter in the leg.
Meanwhile, Gwen has ignored Peter’s phoned plea to escape, because the antidote only has a few minutes left before it’s ready. The Lizard bursts into the lab, seeking the dispersal device, which Gwen is hiding with. The Lizard sniffs her out with his tongue and takes the device, but doesn’t bother hurting her.
Peter’s leg wound is really hurting, and it looks like he might not make it in time. But it turns out that the guy whose son he saved on the Williamsburg Bridge is a crane operator, and he calls all the other crane operators on Sixth Avenue and has them line up their crane arms so Spider-Man will have a clear path.
This scene comes in for a lot of ridicule, and I can see why. I see what they were going for, wanting something like that heartwarming moment where the crowd takes Spider-Man’s side against Green Goblin in the first Raimi film, but there are a bunch of small sillinesses all adding up to a big ridiculousness.
First, there’s the idea that Spider-Man even needs the cranes at all, when we’ve clearly seen that he has no problem swinging from building to building. Then there’s the fact that this one guy can easily get all these guys to ignore an evacuation order. Then there’s the fact that there are like six or seven cranes more or less evenly spaced along this small stretch of street. Then there’s the fact that Spider-Man sprays a web bandage over his bullet wound and suddenly he’s fine again with barely a limp after two or three steps.
Captain Stacy reaches the Oscorp building and meets Gwen coming out with the antidote. He tells Gwen he knows Peter’s secret and she gives him the antidote for Peter to use on the Lizard.
Upstairs, Peter fights his final battle against the Lizard, but Connors is just too big and strong and invulnerable. Until Captain Stacy appears and uses a shotgun to shoot a canister of liquid nitrogen, which weakens the Lizard’s cold-blooded metabolism and also makes his body brittle and easily shattered. The Lizard is on the ropes.
Captain Stacy gives Peter the antidote, but instead of injecting Connors with it, Peter decides to put it in the dispersal device. Meanwhile, the suspiciously large number of liquid nitrogen canisters on the roof (exactly why do they need so much liquid nitrogen up there, anyway? To supercool their cellular phone tower or something?) runs out and the Lizard is able to regenerate his shattered limbs and kill Captain Stacy.
He leaps up to stop Peter from disabling his device, but Peter is able to switch out the antidote at the last moment, and we can see the horror in Dr. Connor’s eyes as he begins to change back to human.
There’s a little bit of random destruction, and Dr. Connors saves Peter from falling to his death. Captain Stacy dies from his wounds, but not before making Peter promise to stay away from Gwen for her safety, which makes for a dour last few minutes, until in the last moments, Peter implies that he has no intention of keeping that promise. Happy ending, I guess!
So I come out of the movie feeling definitely ambivalent. There are a lot of things the film does well, and I do really like the different interpretation that Andrew Garfield brings to the role. But as they say, a movie is only as good as its villain, and the Lizard ends up being one-note and kind of boring. Also, the movie’s strongest dramatic moments are in the early parts and the middle, where we see Peter working out his anger and see the chemistry develop between Peter and Gwen. Once the action starts, it seems to get progressively duller.
But it does get the iconic Spider-Man poses right. So a mixed success, I’d say. Very flawed but watchable. I’m almost afraid to revisit the sequel now, considering how much vilification it gets now. I guess we’ll see, although it might not be next week. I have a vacation coming up.