Does it strike anybody as ironic that we pour scorn on 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man for being a soulless cash-grab of a movie but we heap praise upon 2008's The Dark Knight for being a stellar film? It's certainly worth observing the respective films' effect on the movie going public considering both are pure examples of corporatism and crass commercial film making. Maybe it's because The Amazing Spider-Man is a reboot that only comes five years after the last film. Maybe it's because this particular film is a sign of things to come. It's an omen of decreasing time between film and remake, of soulless film-making and the constant thinning of the line between art and commerce.
Possibly because The Amazing Spider-Man isn't a very good movie whereas The Dark Knight is a good movie. The latter elevates itself from its intellectual property by saying something about surveillance and institution in the post 9/11 world. The former tells an emotionally hollow story about an asshole kid getting his comeuppance.
Make no mistake, Peter Parker in this film isn't a nerd, a geek or even an outcast. Instead, he's a skateboarding photographer who gets friendzoned and stands up to bullies. It's been ten years since I've graduated high school, but even I can recognize the winds of change within the American school system. A skateboarding photographer? Being an outcast? Not possible. That's quinessentially cool.
Let me extrapolate and attempt to answer the very first question of this review. Peter Parker isn't a nerd or a geek, nor is he shown being socially awkward or disgusting or even all that interested in girls. Why, might you ask? Because Peter Parker is a corporate figure and therefore, must appeal to all possible demographics. He must straddle the line between "cool" and "uncool" in order to appease both sides of the (admittedly arbitrary) line.
Thus, The Amazing Spider-Man puts its aims right on the surface. This isn't a film to tell a beautiful story about a child learning how to cope with mistakes or the fickle character of nature. We already had one of those.
The essential question to ask, time and again, is why does this film exist when Raimi's version, albeit not perfect, manages to be true to the spirit of origin while maintaining its own flavour and character.
Rather, The Amazing Spider-Man doesn't even ask anything of its characters other than to be in the right place at the right time and allow the CGI to do its magic. If there was ever a film to dispute the auteur theory, it's this film, where the touch of the corporate hand can be detected in every frame. "Make sure you get a shot of Andrew Garfield's butt to woo the girls and make sure you get a shot of Emma Stone's legs to woo the boys," I can hear them say. The producers must have been on set every single day.
How else then to account for the ludicrous scenes of Peter and Curt Connors "doing science"? Why is it in every American film featuring scenes of science, the group of scientists and technicians are working with outrageously dumb equipment? A computer that audibly announces every movement? The techies would have shut that off immediately. Fuck gene splicing, Peter and Curt are working with holograms that can be physically touched! Holograms that are packets of movable data!
Only somebody without the faintest idea of genetics would include this scene.
Perhaps this is simply nitpicking, something I'm not terribly fond of. Let's broaden our focus to display even further the greasy stains of the corporation's fingers. In a particularly telling scene, Gwen Stacy, a lab technician and high school student, guides a tour (ALSO a tour guide) in which they point to the dangerous MacGuffin that sprays gas into the atmosphere. Even though the audience is told it's dangerous and the project was scrapped, the machine is still running. The screenwriters might as well have had characters say, "REMEMBER THIS GUYS, THIS IS IMPORTANT".
Or how about when Peter conveniently falls through a roof and lands in a wrestling ring. As the thugs shout helpfully, "I've seen your face" Peter looks up at a poster for a luchadore wearing a mask. Again, this is the stink of poor screenwriting that has been tampered with, messed over and poked at by a horde of producers in the hope that the film will have the biggest box office by being safe.
Badass Digest, a film site, has an article in which they take apart the initial trailers and then attempt to figure out where those scenes were when faced with the theatrical cut. There was another film presented to the studio before release date. It might have been worse, it might have been better, but surely we can agree that it was different.
A couple other sites have been wringing their hands about the death of the medium sized film. The Amazing Spider-Man, with its small scope and intimate feel, could have been a solid medium sized film (Peter isn't even in his suit until halfway through the film). However, Spider-Man is far too large of a corporate figure to be underused. Medium films make medium box office.
I'm going to wrap this up, because I actually don't care enough about The Amazing Spider-Man's utter failure in capturing the spirit of Spider-Man (in this film, Peter's just a fucking asshole who deserves to be treated like crap) and its failure in entertaining me (seriously, the Lizard just goes bad because he can?).
From the overly screenplay-y screenplay to the boring direction to the awful character designs, to the boorish behaviour of Peter Parker to the incomprehensible teaser that was added because hey that's just what these films do, The Amazing Spider-Man is an empty vessel of a film without any artistic merit. Fuck this movie.