It’s been only ten years since the original Spider-Man trilogy was begun by Sam Raimi. Now, after three films, the studio has opted to start anew with a complete reboot of the franchise in The Amazing Spider-Man. Perhaps they felt that the original series of films had gone as far as they could go, and, of course, there’s the fact that the third film had numerous problems, so a fresh start could be just what the franchise needed. Plus there’s the opportunity to improve upon the original film, which had a few issues of its own. So, since we’re starting from the beginning, we inevitably find ourselves with an origin story.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a bit of outcast at his high school. He gets picked on by the jocks and doesn’t talk much with others, though he has recently begun to open up with a girl he likes by the name of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). We learn of how he was mysteriously dropped off at his Uncle Ben’s (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May’s (Sally Field) house by his parents when he was a kid. Afterward he never saw them again. One day, he happens to find a folder containing some of his father’s work on genetics, which leads him to an old partner of his dad’s, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).
Dr. Connors has been working on the theory of being able to cross the DNA of two different species in order to give abilities to different organisms, with regeneration being of particular interest due to his missing right arm. When Peter decides to wander around the research facility, he is bitten by a mutated spider and, as you probably already know, he gains amazing abilities that he puts to use around town by fighting crime.
Meanwhile, in order to help Dr. Connors in his work, Peter gives him an equation that he finds in his father’s notes. However, things begin to take a horrible turn as the results of Dr. Connors trying to give himself regenerative abilities actually turns him into a giant lizard who wreaks havoc everywhere he goes. Now it’s up to Peter and his new-found powers to stop him before he attempts to unleash the same transformation all over the city.
Let’s take a look at the original film for a second. It was obviously the same origin story, though it dealt with a different villain and a different love interest, but it was this story that actually caused it to be not quite as good as it could have. Spider-Man’s origin is not a particularly interesting one. He gets bit by a spider and gets a few abilities. There’s not much more to it than that. The original film couldn’t even improve it by having Willem Dafoe as the villainous Green Goblin.
Now we have this remake/reboot/reimagining that uses the same story that had been pretty bland the first time around, a blandness which is only added to by having the villain be a giant lizard that goes around smashing things. However, having an uninteresting villain doesn’t necessarily bring the film down. Even Christopher Nolan had a bit of a bland villain with Ra’s Al Ghul in his own reboot, Batman Begins, but that still turned out to be a great film due to the incredibly realistic universe he was able to create from a comic book.
With this new Spider-Man, there is a bit of a plot to be found when The Lizard tries to mutate everyone in the city, as well as with Gwen Stacy, Peter’s love interest, but you have to sit through the standard origin section of him discovering his powers and figuring out how to use them to get to these slightly more engaging sections. After the film’s runtime of over two hours, you may be surprised how little of it sticks with you.
The film features top-notch visual effects during fight scenes and where Spider-Man is just swinging around the city, but with the film’s difficulty in hooking the audience into the story, the fight scenes become rather dull to watch after a while. It was a rather interesting choice to have Marc Webb (I’m sure he got plenty of jokes about his name) direct the film given that his only other feature has been the great 500 Days of Summer, a bizarre romantic-comedy with a twist of drama. He handles the transition well, giving us action scenes that are easily comprehensible.
Another good choice that was made was having Andrew Garfield play Peter Parker. Garfield, who is mainly known for his excellent portrayal of Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, brings an interesting vulnerability to the role that gradually changes into having to deal with great power, a shift that Garfield portrays quite well.
There were indeed things to like about this new version, but unfortunately they can’t compensate for this bland part of the Spider-Man tale. Like the original film, it’s getting off to a rocky start, but you may recall that the original film lead to a great sequel because it is that part of the story that is what this character is all about. Spider-Man 2 leads into the fascinating area regarding the duality of Peter’s life, i.e. trying to juggle a personal life with his girlfriend and his life as a masked superhero who fights crime.
Hopefully this is the exact direction the new franchise is headed. Now that they’ve gotten the origin story out of the way, they now have room for a more grand adventure with more emotional depth and exploration of the character. There are tiny hints of things to come throughout the film, plus a scene partway through the credits that shows that things are not quite over yet. The foundation has been set, now it’s time to show us how “amazing” this franchise can be.
Now let’s turn to the Blu-Ray itself. The film is presented in a beautiful 2.40:1 1080p, HD transfer that does an amazing job of showing you every little detail in the frame. Back when I saw this in theaters, it was presented in 3D, giving the picture a very dull look, so this is a most-welcome upgrade. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is loud and clear, giving you an aural experience that’s as unhindered as it was in the cinema.
Now we get to the best part: the special features. The plethora of extras includes the following:
- Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn
- Pre-Visualization Sequences
- Image Progression Reels
- Deleted Scenes
- Stunt Rehearsals
- Audio Commentary with Director Marc Webb and Producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach
- The Oscorp Archives – Production Art Gallery
- A DVD copy of the film
This is the best set of extras I’ve seen on a Blu-Ray for quite some time. Starting at the top of the list, you have “Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn,” which is nearly two hours of behind the scenes featurettes featuring tons of footage and interviews about the making of the film. These go through the entire process from planning all the way through post-production. In short, pretty much anything you want to know about the film, you can learn it just from watching these.
If you’re not tired of learning about the film after that, you can move onto the other extras that include storyboards, production art, stunt work, and special effects materials. In addition, if you didn’t think the movie was long enough, you get about 16 minutes worth of deleted/alternate scenes.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: These kinds of special features should be standard on any Blu-Ray. It doesn’t matter if it’s a huge production like The Amazing Spider-Man or a tiny indie film, there’s always something interesting to be learned about how an idea came to be and was followed through on during production.
While the film is a similarly-bland telling of the same origin story we saw brought to film just ten years ago, The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-Ray is easily recommendable for its outstanding video and audio quality, as well as a plethora of insightful and fascinating special features.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.