I'm with our own Brian Clark -- as far as it goes, Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man isn't terrible so much as painfully slight. You could come up with less inspired ideas than rebooting a film franchise that's only a decade old, but just barely.
And gifted with a terrific cast and rafts of money, 500 Days of Summer director Webb (and writer James Vanderbilt, Zodiac) chose to reinvent hard-luck hero Peter Parker as a painfully mopey, moody teen -- one who's in parts cruel, capricious, and selfish while never really nailing any sort of message about the character. "With great power comes great responsibility" becomes smoothed away to "you're my hero, Peter."
Again, Mr. Clark considers the movie:
Jammed in-between it all are Parker's parent-issues and his by-the-numbers romantic relationship with the brainy blond Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). This is probably where director Marc Webb was supposed to excel, but the oh-so-precious teen angst sensibility of his previous film, 500 Days of Summer, feels even more forced here, and while Garfield and Stone have nice chemistry in some scenes, the script never raises the stakes enough to make it feel at all genuine or affecting.
There's plenty about the film that's decent -- the cast is all game and, yep, CGI has come a long way since the last Spider-Man movie. The script certainly does have action, emotion, drama and comedy all rolled up into a summer blockbuster spectacular... at least on paper. But the end result is like listening to a robot playing live jazz (at least, what I imagine that's like) -- the notes are all there, but there's no heart or soul behind it to make you care. And yeah, it's a $215 million robot.
It's not terrible (it's hard for most mainstream releases to have enough idiosyncrasy to be weird or problematic enough to be outright bad), but it's hard to nail down what it's about or really even who its characters are--maybe the greatest foe for a young hero.
Special Features and Presentation
Sony Home Pictures Entertainment has packed quite a bit of content into their four-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo. The 3D Blu-ray contains the feature film and a pair of short featurettes on the 3D process along with commentary with the director and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach; two separate Blu's hold the feature in 2D, with the first containing the commentary track, a pitch for the film's second screen app, and previews for recent Sony releases; disc three is where the meat of the features are, and I'll be considering those in a moment; finally, the DVD contains the feature, the commentary track, eight stunt rehearsals (12:02), 11 deleted scenes (17:01), and "The Oscorp Archives Production Art Gallery, the last three features all come packed onto the second 2D Blu-ray.
Like the Prometheus disc from Fox, Sony spends a bit of time explaining the curious why of a reboot in their Blu-ray release of The Amazing Spider-Man on home video. The most prominent feature to this effect is "The Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn," (01:49:49), a seven-part doc which breaks down the genesis of the film and the why's and wherefores of an all-new origin story. Marc Webb, in particular, is front and center here, talking about everything from the revamped origin to the new look of the character. This is where you're either on board with ASM or you're simply ready to bail--watching some of the producers speak about the movie and the clunky, often confused rationale for revamping the whole franchise is both fascinating and deeply depressing in a way.
The Image Progression Reel (11:51) presents three scenes and an overview of Spider-Man's poses and acrobatics from basic CG to finished film. The presentation here is far from dryly academic and might be a fun watch for some younger, curious viewers who like to learn more about how movies get made. In a similar vein, 16 pre-visualization sequences (39:08) are presented as a combination of storyboards and rough CG with background music--this is a little less engaging and will only appeal to someone who just can't get enough of The Amazing Spider-Man. Finally, the 3:30 featurette "Developing The Amazing Spider-Man Video Game" takes a look at developer Beenox who were behind the recent 360 and PS3 tie-in (they've made some pretty good Spider-Man games in the past, but I understand this isn't one of them).
Visually, both the 2D and 3D Blu-ray are as slick as you're going to get with a major home video release, although the low-key 3D in the film isn't precisely spectacular. The impressive and immersive 5.1 DTS HD English audio track is another matter, presenting the movie with a discrete, clean dialog without an excess of noise (I don't mean digitally, I mean in the sense that everything sounds clear, separated, and directional rather than overwhelming).
And there you have it. An impressive disc for a movie that's not quite that. The Amazing Spider-Man certainly has its major detractors, but I there are enough bright spots that a sequel doesn't exactly fill me with dread. Consider it at home without the burden of opening weekend expectations and you might find a movie that occasionally works.
The Amazing Spider-Man is available on DVD, Blu-ray on November 9 and is available now on VOD from Sony Home Pictures Entertainment.