I saw THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN a couple of hours ago, and since then I've been trying to figure out why I did not enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films.
I mean, it's not a bad film. And I did enjoy the third act -- you know, the one where Spider-Man starts really acting like Spider-Man. And there is some nice acting from Denis Leary as Captain Stacey (not looking anything like the crusty old Captain Stacey that John Romita drew, but still a three-dimensional character) and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey (looking quite a bit like the John Romita Gwen, and far more interesting a character than her occasionally wan comics counterpart -- and hey, her miniskirt and thigh-high boots have come back into style!). And the movie was visually interesting --again, much more in the third act than the first two. Still, I felt an emotional distance from the film. I certainly did not feel the elation and joy that ran through me when I saw how Raimi had captured in his first movie so much that made Spider-Man a standout comic book character.
I could blame the weird casting of Sally Field as a particularly whiney Aunt May and Martin Sheen (who strongly reminded me of the character he played in WALL STREET) as Uncle Ben. I could blame the offputtingly inarticulate Peter Parker portrayed by Andrew Garfield. (The Peter of the comics was nerdy, but he was never inarticulate -- indeed, his mouth often got him into trouble.) I could blame the fact that Spider-Man does not appear to show up as Spider-Man until deep into the movie, whereas the first Raimi film had him appear in full fighting fettle fairly early in the movie.
But I think the biggest problem was that the director (who was essaying an action film for the first time) was fighting the paradigm. The first two Raimi Spider-Man movies, like the best of the Marvel films generally, understand that Marvel Comics at their best are a strange and entertaining cocktail of adventure, realism, satire, and cartoon. The Raimi movie truly looked like a Spider-Man comic (a good one) come to life. It looked something like our world, but it was not our world; it was a far more interesting one. Those movies did not edge over into total camp, but they walked a tightwire between real and cartoon. Here, however, the director seems to be taking every pain to make Spider-Man as realistic as possible. The visual palate he uses for most of the film would work equally well for a family drama or a romantic comedy.
The result, at least for me, is a film that sort of features Spider-Man; but is not quite a Spider-Man film. I hope people enjoy it, just as I hope it will lead kids to read the comics from whence it came. And it wasn't a waste of time to watch. It just wasn't as much fun as the Spider-Man I saw on the screen 10 years ago.