The short review: As long as Spidey was in the suit, it was fine. Too bad 80% of the movie was Peter Parker, who I did not like. I swear, all the scenes with Peter in them felt twice as long as they actually were.
I’m afraid I have to be a curmudgeon about this one. It was too long. The first half draaaaaaagggggggeeed. Also, it was very Roland Emmerichy. Roland Emmerich, the guy who directed things like Independence Day, The Patriot, and Anonymous. (The movie was, in fact, directed by Marc Webb. It only felt like it was directed by Emmerich.) This means the movie was overwrought, full of bombast and self-importance, the plot and emotional arc were very ticky-box — there was a checklist of Things that Had to Happen, and they did. Eventually. Oh, and lots of slapstick. I hate slapstick. I think a serious superhero movie should get one pratfall — one “Hulk punches Thor” moment, as my friend called it. More than that, it’s just yucking it up, and that’s not what I want in a superhero movie.
Most of the action and Spidey scenes were good. Gwen Stacy narrowly avoided being a Manic Nerdy Dream Girl by actually saving the damn day. Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May were great. But boy, was this a long-ass movie.
Writing Workshop 201:
One of the reasons the movie felt long is that it hung lanterns on — spent time explaining — things that didn’t need to be explained, but glossed over things that did. There’s one scene that drove me absolutely bonkers: Peter is off on his first bad-guy bashing expedition. He doesn’t have the costume yet, and he’s being kind of young and stupid, and that’s fine. He gets in over his head, runs away, and falls through the roof into a gym and boxing ring in what looks like an old lucha libre arena, at the exact same time one of the bad guys is yelling, “I’ve seen your face, I know what you look like!” Peter looks at the wall, sees a giant poster of a luchador mask. The scene might as well have animated a light bulb blinking on over his head.
This is a terrible scene. This is two minutes of film that doesn’t need to be there. It’s so on the nose, so artificially timed, and so unnecessary, it hurt my teeth. Maybe the bad guy will yell, “I’ve seen your face!” But at the exact same moment that Peter just happens to fall into a luchador ring? Plus, the audience doesn’t need an entire scene explaining why Peter Parker decides to wear a mask. Superheroes wear masks. The audience will buy that without explanation. Or maybe, you know, he just figures it out.
This kind of scene doesn’t necessarily ruin a movie. It’s forgivable. I imagine a lot of people even thought it was cute. But it very definitely keeps a movie like this from being great. Especially when the movie fails to explain things that are actually important for the plot. “Gwen, go to the lab and formulate the antidote!” Peter yells, and I think, huh? Did we know about the antidote? Why is there an antidote for a genetic treatment that’s supposed to save people? Would that be like having an antidote for, I dunno, coronary bypass? Did I miss something? Where the hell did that come from? Yeah, I think the movie spent way too much time on the first half and not enough on the second.
So, is Trans-Species Genetics Possible?
The movie keeps asking this question. The answer is yes. In fact, scientists have been making jellyfish monkeys for about twelve years now. GLOWING MONKEYS! I am certain they are superheroes among their kind.