The Amazing Spider-man movies are over. Basically, buried in the ground alongside Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, the Green Lantern and Tim stories Fantastic Four. So why dwell on them. I think the amazing spider-man movies are kinda interesting. They represent an experiment that went wrong. They represent an entire universe that failed to take off. Millions of people saw them and made a lot of money. But they didn’t make enough money by the standards of a Spider-man movie. The failures of these movies can often tell us just as much about the film industry as its successes.
Andrew Garfield as an Actor
But instead of just focusing on the movies as a whole, I want to point in on one aspect of them, Andrew Garfield‘s performance as Peter Parker and Spider-man. Let’s agree to the fact that, in many ways, Garfield is the most accomplished actor to have ever played the webhead. He’s the only one with an Oscar nomination for his role in Hacksaw Ridge. He wanted Tony this year for his role in Broadway’s Angels in America. He co-starred in David Fincher‘s Social Network and Martin Scorsese‘s Silence, two of the best movies of the decade in my opinion. Not to mention his smaller, underrated, great works like 99 homes.
The guy is a rock-solid actor, and yet his Spider-man is easily the least beloved movie of all three big-screen versions. So why is that? That’s what we gonna talk about in this article.
Why The Amazing Spider-Man sucks?
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to talk about Peter Parker without mentioning the word hipster. Hipster is one of those terms that internet has broadly applied to everything. It has been misused so often that it’s become meaningless. You could call anyone who is young and going through a transformation, a ‘hipper’.
I was always a little confused about what made Garfield’s Peter Parker a hipster. A lot of people keep pointing to this goofy scene where he skateboards and listens to Coldplay. This only makes me more confused. Is skateboarding hipster now? Is listening to Coldplay hipster now? Coldplay has been one of the most successful mainstream soft rock bands in the world for well over a decade. So that doesn’t exactly seem like hipster band material to me. The Peter Parker we know from the comics has this Hisper personality, and the director failed to bring that out on Garfield’s Peter Parker. Instead, Garfield’s personality came out to be very cool and charming.
On one level I get why they did this, to differentiate itself from the Raimi trilogy. But it’s a very tough line to walk with the character who after all started as a neurotic and painfully uncool nerd in the 60s. That’s not to say that he always has to be like that, in fact, the Peter Parker of the comics had grown out of that a lot by his college years in the 70s. But that is still one of the core appeals of the character, and they only superficially gesture at it here with Peter getting bullied in the most cliche ways possible. But you never really get any sense of that anxiety and nervousness that I think is a huge part of Peter, especially at this age.
The only time he doesn’t come off as really confident and self-assured is when he’s talking to Guin early on. For the rest of the movie, this guy seems pretty cool. But even that didn’t need to be a huge problem. It’s when you throw smugness into the equation that this starts to become a character I don’t recognize. Now spider-man has a long history of mocking his enemies. But humiliating a supervillain when he is trying to murder you and doing the same to a high school classmate who’s just kind of a jerk are kind of not the same thing. I’ve always hated the basketball scene in Amazing Spider-man 1 where Peter makes Flash Thompson look like a moron and shatters the backboard of his high school gyms hoop. It’s not because I think there’s something inherently wrong with the idea of the scene, because spider-man has always been a character about growing up, learning from your mistakes and trying to be a right person even when it isn’t comfortable or convenient. So using his powers in an immature way right after he gets them, this makes sense. The problem is in how the scene is presented. There’s just something about the smug sense of satisfaction that Peter has in this scene that doesn’t feel like Spider-man at all to me. It’s a relatively minor thing, but it builds up over time.
Andrew Garfield’s Peter can be funny and likable in some scenes especially playing off of Emma Stone‘s Gwen. But there’s also this real sense of mean-spirited smugness that’s kind of hard to shake. Especially when the movies themselves often seem to view it as cool and funny and not as spider-man acting kind of like an asshole.
Everything that is wrong with Peter Parker and Gwen
Then it’s the amazing spider-man two that messes with the character. Unlike a lot of people, I’m kind of okay with Peter breaking his promise to Denis Leary not to date Gwen anymore. Gwen even says near the start of the second movie that’s not his choice to make. But Peter’s constant back and forth on this issue makes him look selfish at best and kind of stalkerish at worst.
In his notes to Sony on amazing spider-man 2 Kevin Feige wrote, “There is too much back and forth with Peter and Gwen. Can Peter be more honorable and definitive and less wishy washy?” and I think that’s some excellent advice that obviously Sony didn’t follow it.
If Peter can’t live with the guilt of dating Gwen against the wishes of her dying dad that’s okay! But to then have him follow her around as Spider-man, continually going back and forth on this choice, makes him look pretty bad. Even that at one point could be okay if the screenplay recognizes this, but it doesn’t. It’s all played very straightforwardly romantic. I guess this you would expect from the director of 500 Days of Summer and that’s kind of a problem.
In the end, I feel a little sorry for Andrew Garfield. I mean not that bad as he’s still a vibrant, successful actor who gets to star in Scorsese movies. But still he got a raw deal when it came to spider-man. He’s a great actor and he seemed to genuinely love the character. I think he was misscast. It was also the horrible script. Wont deny the fact that it has some of the most poorly plotted screenplays in spider-man movie history.