In defence of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise
On the 10th anniversary of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, it’s important to look back on these two films and appreciate what was perhaps overlooked the first time around. SPOILERS FOR THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN FRANCHISE AND NO WAY HOME…
Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man franchise seemed like a great new spin on the character when the first film came out in 2012.
Since Spider-Man had never been rebooted like other superhero juggernauts Batman and Superman had, the film felt like a risk. But with a solid box office profit, and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 72%, it seemed like Sony still had a solid grip on the character, even with the growing threat of the MCU.
Unfortunately, things didn’t turn continue this way. Andrew Garfield’s run as Peter Parker was cut short when Amazing Spider-Man 3 and its spin-off were scrapped by Sony. This may have been due to Disney getting more rights over the character in their merger with Marvel, or it may have been due to the poor reception that The Amazing Spider-Man film received. It currently has a 51% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and many mocked the film afterwards for its overabundance of villains and overdramatic backstory.
The Amazing Spider-Man is better than you think
However, opinion seems to be shifting, as Tom Holland’s run as the hero introduced audiences to Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man as a central character. After seeing him shine in the film, people now seem to be looking back at his original franchise with much kinder eyes.
Now, as someone who actually enjoyed the films initially, even the sequel when it came out in 2014, I strongly believe that the Amazing Spider-Man franchise has been massively under-appreciated. I may be somewhat biased, since the Amazing franchise was what got me into Spider-Man in the first place. And don’t get me wrong, the films certainly aren’t perfect. But the opinion that they are the worst in the whole Spider-Man universe is incredibly unfair, as they have aspects that outshine both Sam Raimi’s trilogy and the MCU’s iteration.
So here it is: My defence of the (somewhat failed) Amazing Spider-Man franchise.
The Amazing Spider-Man franchise has some valid criticisms… or does it?
Let’s start with the main criticisms first. A lot of people had issues with the backstory of the franchise, that being Peter Parker’s parents. While Peter’s parents running away from Oscorp – and being promptly killed in a rigged plane crash – does add some extra mysterious flair to the films, a lot of people found this to be overdramatic for a hero who is supposed to be an everyman.
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Arguably the main issue with this is the experiments that Peter’s father did with his own blood, which means that Peter is the only person in the whole world who could ever become Spider-Man. This was even played up in a lot of the trailers, with ominous lines questioning that Peter’s spider bite wasn’t an accident, and it seemed clear that this was going to become a bigger story in the cancelled third film.
People didn’t like this choice of making Peter a quintessential “Chosen One,” (Spiderverse definitely proved that having an “anybody can wear the mask” mindset was the best way to go) but while this was a wrong move on Webber’s part, audiences should at least credit the films for doing something different to the Raimi trilogy. It seems like Webber wanted to take the backstory in another direction, just so audiences weren’t seeing the exact same tale again. And Peter’s dead parents have always been somewhat of a question mark throughout the entire Spider-Man franchise, so why not play with that?
Peter being destined to become Spider-Man, while probably not the best choice, did give the movies a sense of grandeur. And in a world where we can watch a number of films with a million superheroes in them, it is kind of nice to go back and watch a film that solely focuses on one person. It gave Peter Parker a sense of significance that arguably hasn’t been captured since, unless you count No Way Home.
However, people were also mad that this turn of events was also a way to set up other films, with Easter eggs being littered throughout the second film to hint at a cancelled Sinister Six movie.
But a superhero film being littered with hints at other movies is far from uncommon now, in fact it’s the norm. And yet people get really excited when this happens in the MCU – Sam Raimi has even gotten on the Easter egg action, with Doctor Strange 2 – so why was it so derided in the Amazing Spider-Man films? At least these films didn’t require copious amounts of prior knowledge to know who we were even watching onscreen.
Plus, a Sinister Six movie may have been great, considering…
The Amazing Spider-Man villains had some amazing potential
Okay, I admit, the villains of the Amazing franchise are probably the weakest out of all the Spider-Man villains. I mean, who can compete with Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina? Even Holland’s run has an additional Michael Keaton and Jake Gyllenhaal, who have massive gravitas and charisma respectively.
But I don’t think we give Garfield’s villains enough credit. The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), while not super iconic, does have moments of being legitimately terrifying. Electro’s (Jamie Foxx) original run was perhaps a little too campy for the franchises’ tone, but as shown by No way home, he did have potential. So did Harry Osbourne’s (Dane DeHaan) Green Goblin as a tragic figure, which a third movie could have built on.
One great thing about all of Garfield’s villains is that they all had an initial deeper connection with Peter than most of the other Spider-Man villains had. They didn’t turn evil just due to chance, they weren’t messes made by Tony Stark that Peter had to clean up. A lot of the time, they were villains born from Peter’s own mistakes. He gave the Lizard the mutant formula, he “double-crossed” Electro, and he was Harry’s best friend that refused to help him when he was dying.
This made the villains more significant in Peter’s personal arc, especially considering that the Green Goblin kills girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in retaliation. So like the villains or not, they had a massive impact on the trajectory of Peter’s story, so that hardly makes them terrible villains. And I think we can all agree that any villain in the Amazing franchise is better than Topher Grace’s Venom.
And if people are mad that too many villainous characters are crammed into the second movie, again, see the MCU. And at least a large number of villains leads to a large number of action scenes, since…
The action is the best of any live-action Spider-Man movie
Now onto things that people have actually praised about the films, but are still somewhat underrated: The action is truly amazing. Even if you don’t agree that it’s the best action, you have to admit that it’s great. Practically every fight scene is memorable, not just the final climactic ones.
Perhaps the Toby McGuire trilogy is remembered more for its action, but this isn’t always for the right reasons. Raimi’s action was limited by early-2000s CGI, and some of the chorography left it looking like a Disney stunt show.
But in 2012, CGI was much better, allowing Spider-Man to pull off much more intricate moves. And Webber takes full advantage of this; acrobatics are mixed with clever uses of webbing, making every moment in any fight scene worth watching.
We are also shown POV shots during Spidey’s swinging scenes, which gives us the chance to really feel like Spider-Man. And I’d argue that Amazing Spider-Man 2 probably has the best depiction of Spidey-sense ever put to film.
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Not only that, it also has the best Stan Lee cameo, period.
Andrew Garfield shines as the Amazing Spider-Man
Of course, as per the general opinion recently, Andrew Garfield is an amazing actor, and he perfectly fits the quippy fun-loving, and sometimes angst-ridden superhero.
Some audiences complained at the time that he was too cool to portray the nerdy Peter Parker, but in my opinion, his take on the nerd archetype perfectly fit the “adorkable” zeitgeist of the early 2010s, when being nerdy was quickly becoming the coolest way to be.
And one thing to note when you look at each Spider-Man franchise, is that each Spider-Man perfectly fits the time and vibe of their respective films. Toby McGuire acts overly goofy and nerdy, even when he’s trying to be cool, which matches the campy tone of the early 2000s comic book film. Tom Holland ‘s awkward charm matches the John Hughes-ness of his movies, and since he is in a franchise surrounded by older superheroes, he acts much more childlike in comparison.
The Amazing Spider-Man came out in the 2010s, when gritty reboots of properties were super popular, and while the films never go full on dark, they clearly have a more mature tone that feels right when played by such as skilled actor as Andrew Garfield. Even when the backstory of Peter Parker could get too convoluted, Garfield was always able to pull the character back down to earth.
The Amazing Spider-Man has an amazing heart
One criticism of the MCU is that earnest-ness has become something of a forgotten concept. Whether or not that is true, earnest sensibility is absolutely available within The Amazing Spider-Man.
This is clear through Spider-Man’s relationships alone. Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) are the best Spider-Man film couple, hands down. They managed to accomplish and upstage both other Spider-Man film relationships while having one-third less of screen time.
This is partly due to Garfield and Stone – who were dating at the time – and their impeccable chemistry. The screen oozes with charm whenever they so much as look at one another, but more importantly than that, their relationship holds weight within the story, as does its downfall.
Unlike the Raimi trilogy, in which you can easily get frustrated by Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter’s constant back-and-forth, pretty much everyone was rooting for this couple to overcome their issues. And showing by that scene in No Way Home, people are still hung up over Gwen’s genuinely tragic death.
I’d also argue that this Aunt May (Sally Fields) is the best we’ve seen of the role. She seems to be the only one realistically concerned about her child being in danger, and the “You’re my boy” scene is easily one of the best emotional moments in any Spider-Man film. It’s clear from the very beginning that she is the heart of these movies.
While some people go back and forth on the egg plotline in the first Amazing Spider-Man, I’d argue that it shows what the most important factor of any Spider-Man story is. Not flashy suits or pre-destined powers, but him realising that the responsibilities he holds in his regular life are just as important as his superhero ones. Aunt May holds him to this standard, and while it take Maria Tomei’s version three movies to become that figure, Field’s version is there from the very beginning.
Will the Amazing Spider-Man return?
Andrew Garfield, who has been trending on Twitter multiple times in the past few months, finally seems to be getting his dues as Spider-Man. Despite his run as the web-slinger being relatively short, fans have been avidly campaigning for an Amazing Spider-Man 3 movie ever since No Way Home came out.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like a third film will be in the works anytime soon, with Sony even poking fun at the fans.
The Amazing Peter #3!
(Note: Yes, we’ve seen the hashtag. No, we don’t decide which movies get made. We’re just the social team 🙂)#SpiderManNoWayHome is now on Digital, and coming to 4K UHD and Blu-ray on April 12: https://t.co/unUkX9ceZc pic.twitter.com/TCsyk7swLC
— Sony (@Sony) March 22, 2022
Now, while this may be disheartening to hear, No Way Home being Garfield’s potentially final Spider-Man film is much better than nothing.
The MCU film allowed this Peter Parker to complete his arc surrounding Gwen’s death and the subsequent guilt that he felt, and the impactful scene in which he saves MJ (Zendaya) is incredibly satisfying and emotional to watch.
So while there may never be an official Amazing Spider-Man 3, at least now Andrew Garfield fans have a full three movies, so perhaps we should focus on appreciating what we do have, rather than what we don’t.
Because what we do have is a great MCU movie, and two prior films that deserve a lot more than what they originally got.
The Amazing Spider-Man franchise is available to stream on Netflix.