The Amazing Spider-Man is, in my opinion, at least an over-hated movie. And for a good reason too.
The movie was supposed to follow up the massive success of Sam Raimi and Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man and was released at a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe had successfully completed its first phase with the first Avengers film.
It had a lot to live up to and a lot of competition in terms of ‘good’ superhero movies. And in my opinion, it did live up to that, even exceeding those expectations in many ways.
And I say this because TASM movies shed light on a very important aspect of Spider-Man as a character and as a superhero. It humanized the superhero we all know and love. It aimed to show aspects of Peter Parker that Raimi’s version didn’t portray.
TASM in many ways does what the Raimi’s trilogy fails to do, it establishes its characters as humans first, we get to see small aspects of their daily life, their hobbies, the way they interact with other characters, and the world around them.
The first movie starts with a flashback of Peter and his parents. And this sets the theme for the first act of the movie where Peter is trying to find clues about his parents. And this first act takes up most of the first movie.
We see Peter getting his powers from the spider bite 20 minutes into the movie but unlike the Raimi Trilogy, Peter doesn’t really explore his powers. Instead, he focuses on the mission that brought him to Oscorp in the first place – Knowing about his parents. Even after Ben’s death, Peter doesn’t immediately take to being a vigilante, he becomes somewhat of an Anti-hero first, being there just for the vengeance. He
The movie aims to show Peter as a human first and that is why it spends almost an hour (just over 55 minutes to be exact) before we actually get to see Peter in his suit and the name drop doesn’t come till about an hour and 20 minutes into the movie (at the bridge scene to be exact where Peter saves the kid from the falling car). Up until that scene begins, till the dinner with the Stacy’s we see Andrew Garfield as Peter, we see him dealing with bullies in Flash Thompson, with the death of his uncle and him helping Dr. Connors with his research.
We see his rather awkward interactions with Gwen, which by the way Andrew nails, even after dating Gwen for a few months. Even the interactions with Flash, his uncle, his aunt, and even the rest of Gwen’s family show the awkwardness that Peter Parker from the comics is known for.
Webb makes it a point to show growth for even a minor character such as him. Take Flash Thompson for example, we see him start off as a complete jerk that picks on people like Peter, to being toyed around by a Peter that was still understanding his powers. The third time we see them interact is once again in the hallways after Ben’s death. At this point in the first film, Peter was angry, he was the one that let the killer of his uncle lose in the first place and he takes this out of Flash for a mere second but instead of reacting to being literally slammed into the lockers by attacking back, Flash apologizes. Their final interaction occurs towards the end of the movie, we see the two of them acting almost as good friends, with Flash hugging Peter from the back and the following interaction about Spider-Man.
Webb’s version of Gwen Stacy through Emma Stone is made out in such a way that it becomes a rock for Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, someone that Peter trusts with every single secret, someone that he could be vulnerable around. From the very start of the first movie, we see Gwen as someone that Peter quickly trusts and someone that he later has a petty but friendly squabble that almost felt like the two were flirting. Gwen is the only one in the movie that Peter tells his secret to, telling her how exactly he got his powers and even going to her to get his injuries checked out.
And this trust that Peter has in Gwen is rewarded and reciprocated by the girl. She trusts him to keep her safe. All the way to the moment she dies in the second movie, she trusts that peter would save her and that is one of the reasons that Gwen’s death in the movie was so impactful that it caused Peter to completely give up his Spider-Man persona. And it was her words at the end that pushed him to put on that mask once again and go out and help people, it was her words from her valedictorian speech that pushed him to do that.
And this relations between Peter and Gwen doesn’t come out of the blue, it is built through small moments starting with that one that where Peter stands up to Flash for another kid. Even after they establish their relationship, we still see Gwen and Peter falling for each other, the rugby (or football) ground scene would be a good example of this. Once peter tells Gwen that he wants to and needs to go after the Lizard, Gwen tells him that it wasn’t his job, it wasn’t his responsibility, that there were people, the police, who were trained to do these things.
While the whole responsibility thing has become a crucial aspect of any Spider-Man film, Spider-Man is still a teenager and that aspect of the character is portrayed to such that it almost feels real as if there was some guy out there with these spider-powers dealing with these problems on a daily basis.
Another example comes with Uncle Ben, in TASM, he isn’t just a father figure for the main character who’s is meant to push the main character to greater heights, he is shown having hobbies he loves, as someone that tells white lies to keep May happy, being someone that wants to connect to Peter and know more about his school life.
And it’s not just the hero and his supporting cast that gets this treatment of humanization, we see this with Dr. Connors, with the way Imran Khan portrays Rajit Ratha and the way Norman Osborn is portrayed with nothing but words. With Dr. Connors, we see the motivation for his actions and how even after his ultimate defeat at the hands of Peter and George Stacy, he still is human at heart.
Even though the parts of Peter being Spider-Man come in in the last 50 ism minutes of the movie, they do leave an impact. It shows the consequences of Peter’s decisions, whether it was him saving the child during the scene on the bridge, telling Gwen to go to Oscorp or his promise to the dying Captain Stacy.
With less than an hour of the first movie, TASM manages to wrap up so many subplots pretty well as Peter manages to defeat Lizard and foil his plans for a city-wide mutation, Spidey getting city-wide recognition for his actions, the police ending their pursuit of Spider-Man (which is the last order they get from Captain Stacy on screen) and the eventual end and re-establishment of Peter and Gwen‘s relationship which sets the tone for the second movie.
And the action sequences also show an almost comic-accurate fighting style for Spider-Man, whether it was him using the manhole cover at the end of the second movie, using his brains to defeat Electro at the power grid, or the way he fights Dr. Connor during the high school battle scene, crawling all over the larger villain while webbing him up.
With this version of Peter, we not only get to see his brains, as he makes his suit and web-shooters from scratch like his comic book and TV serial counterparts. Even though the second movie we see him working on electro-proofing his webs and webs shooters which he later uses to defeat Electro. This aspect doesn’t shine through in the Raimi trilogy which opts for an easy way out with organic webs (which was a pretty daring move since no comic book or show had done it before. Only after the Raimi trilogy did we have Spider-Island and the Ultimate Spider-Man comic books that show Peter with natural webs). Even the newer MCU version of Peter Parker doesn’t do it as well as Webb’s rendition does get to see Peters’s ingenuity in the MCU. Still, in a way, he gets a lot of gadgets handed to him by Tony Stark directly or indirectly.
While the second movie did feel a bit rushed when it came to newer characters like Electro and Harry Osborn, the movie as a whole still stays true to the first one, keeping the characters human first. We see how Peter misses Gwen’s valedictorian speech because he was saving people from criminals, something that is a crucial part of Peter’s character.
While Harry’s inclusion in the second movie felt a bit out of place as he wasn’t referenced throughout the first, he does play into the running theme of showing Peter as a human. We see this when Peter and Harry are skipping stones and when Harry tells Peter that he needs to have Spider-Man’s blood to heal his genetic disorder.
Max Dillion, on the other hand, feels more like a naturally built villain for the story; we do follow him from the very beginning of the story, watching as he is saved by Spider-Man a few minutes into the movie, followed by his apparent demise after falling into the tank and eventual resurrection as Electro.
Starting off as someone that just wanted some help from Spider-Man, Electro quickly becomes of Spidey’s worst villains causing him to make new webs to fight the new threat. While the culmination of Electro’s story feels abrupt, it does make sense with the villain vanishing into nothingness, seemingly being overloaded by energy after an epic fight sequence and being followed by an almost satisfying scene of the two airplanes avoiding a collision.
Even the high stakes final fight between Harry’s Goblin and Peter’s Spider-Man, that culminated in Peter losing both Harry and Gwen, with Harry being taken to the Ravencroft Prison and Gwen dying in his arms felt like a natural end to both their character arcs though Harry was set to come back in the third film from the reveal of Rhino in the post-credits scenes.
The death of Gwen Stacy, even in the comics was a heart-breaking event, but the way that the second film portrays it, with the way the web frays almost looking like a hand reaching out for the girl as she fell made the ultimate death that much more painful to watch.
The Amazing Spider-Man films gave us a very well written and well portrayed Peter Parker, something that the Raimi films and the MCU films ditched going for more Spider-Man action and giving Peter somewhat of a back seat and it is this portrayal of Peter Parker that made me a big fan of the TASM universe, he felt more relatable, his struggles as a high schooler felt real and the connections we made not just with Gwen but also with Ben Parker made their deaths that much more impactful for viewers. Even with characters such as Dr. Connors, Max Dillon, and even Harry Osborn, you feel sorry for them because at many points in their stories, they were more victims of circumstance than being outright villains.