Rating: 1.5 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
Peter Parker is an orphan who’s kind of a dickhead. He gets spider powers after breaking into a lab. When his uncle is killed by a guy robbing a convenience store, he designs a costume so he can go out and find the guy to get revenge as Spider-Man. He’s distracted from his quest for vengeance when a giant Lizard appears causing havoc on a bridge, and decides to try to figure out what’s up with that instead. The Lizard is actually his late father’s old science friend, Dr. Curt Connors, who figures out Spider-Man’s true identity when he finds it written down somewhere. Connors attacks Spider-Man at his school, then leaves. Eventually Connors decides to turn everyone into lizardmen, and Spider-Man feels like he should probably stop him, so he chases the Lizard down and gives him a magic antidote before it’s too late. Also, Peter’s girlfriend’s dad is killed, and he’s sad about it, but you know not that sad.
The action scenes look pretty good for the most part. I liked Spider-Man saving people on the bridge. The Lizard fighting Spider-Man at his school was a fun sequence.
Martin Sheen is good as Uncle Ben. It’s always to see Emma Stone in a movie.
I was never exactly bored.
This is a terrible adaptation of the Spider-Man character. They take everything special and beloved about the character and break it. Peter Parker is like Sam Weir with superpowers, and in this movie they turn him into Daniel Desario. OK, for a lot of reasons that analogy is flawed, but I think the comparison still resonates. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker has cool hair, and slouches, and broods, and defies authority, and rides a skateboard around, and doesn’t give two shits about anyone but himself. The foundational concept of Spider-Man’s life, that having great power means having great responsibility, is given the tiniest lip service in dialogue and completely fails to be dramatized. This Spider-Man chases down crooks for revenge, not to help people, and wants to stop the Lizard because, as he tells Gwen, “I created him … This is my responsibility, and I have to fix it.” Not because he has a moral obligation to help even when it’s not about him—just because he can—but simply because he feels obligated to clean up his own mess.
He so utterly fails to learn personal responsibility that the big closing moment of the movie is realizing he can simply ignore the promise he made to a dying man and date Gwen Stacy anyway. Anyone who thinks that Peter Parker would believe that promises you can’t keep are the best kind should not be allowed within 100 yards of this character. And Gwen Stacy, barely a character herself, thinks that’s awesome. Because she thinks everything Peter does is awesome, because the movie desperately wants you to think this pathetic Poochie of a superhero is awesome. At the start of the movie, Gwen barely knows his name, and then between scenes she’s fallen in love with him before they’ve even gone on a date or had a conversation.
There are a lot of other bad things in this movie: The Lizard’s characterization makes no sense. He looks bad. He rarely wears a lab coat. The idea that his work at Oscorp requires something like two-dozen high school students as interns, with another high school student as their supervisor in absurd. The big “emotional” scene with the cranes feels unearned and makes no sense (exactly why can’t Spider-Man just swing between buildings like always?) (and especially considering Captain Stacy got to Oscorp at about the same time in his car?). The magic lab machine that has a special countdown timer and a voice recording for making REPTILIAN ANTIDOTE. Tying the dead Parker parents into this whole thing and somehow making Peter’s dad the reason Peter becomes Spider-Man (he’s got a Special Destiny!).
And more bad things: The big scene creating several more lizardmen out of police officers that is then completely ignored until we later see them cured. The emphasis on Peter’s photography hobby that goes nowhere. The thoughtless clichés at every turn (“Nobody likes your meatloaf”; “A chocolate house would be fattening!”). That Peter Parker discovers his abilities when he accidentally sexually assaults a woman on the subway, and then beats up the other passengers trying to defend her from him. That the filmmakers took to heart the (overblown) fan backlash about organic webbing from the earlier films and gave Spider-Man mechanical webshooters, but then just had him order his webbing from Oscorp through the mail, which is completely nonsensical. That Spider-Man’s quipping, all five-minutes of it, comes off more as petulant bullying.