This movie. Jesus Christ. This movie. I’ve been working on this review for about 2 days. It’s been that difficult to put my feelings into words. Spider-Man is a really, really big deal to me, so I went in with extremely high expectations. Were those expectations met? Sort of. Yes? Not fully, but mostly. Bleh, this is so difficult to write.

If I had to use one word to describe this movie, it would be this: Disjointed. I know that sounds negative, and it is, but overall I actually really enjoyed this movie. Ugh. Strap in, we’ve got a lot to discuss.

Do you know what happens to a spider when it gets struck by lightning?

Do you know what happens to a spider when it gets struck by lightning?

First of all, let’s establish two things I see in a lot of reviews that I refuse to hold against this film: “We didn’t need a reboot” and “Too many villains.” Anyone who knows Spider-Man’s comic knows we totally did need a reboot. Sam Raimi had no idea if he would get to make more than one Spidey film, so he took the best parts of the early comics and mixed them into one film, which worked beautifully for the film as a stand-alone work, but presented huge problems in respect to laying a foundation for a long-term franchise. Raimi painted himself into a corner pretty badly, and this reboot has fixed those problems. Yes, it’s weird to already have a new series with the old one so fresh in our minds, but I’m over it, because I know Raimi’s stories really had no place left to go, and had we gotten a Spider-Man 4, it would most likely have made Spider-Man 3 look like Oscar bait. And as for the villain complaints? This is a two villain movie. Electro and Green Goblin. Rhino is just a minor villain that bookends the film, and is in no way a part of the overall plot. Anyone who thinks two villains is too much needs to take another look at the Dark Knight Rises.

Practicing Jews be warned: Pictured above is a lifetime supply of ham.

Practicing Jews be warned: Pictured above is a lifetime supply of ham.

Anyway. On to the film. Despite my defense of the number of villains, I do think there is way too much going on in this film. We have plotlines involving Peter’s parents, Peter’s romance with Gwen, Harry’s return to and inheritance of Oscorp, Max’s transformation into Electro, and Aunt May’s role in Peter’s life, yet for the most part, these plots barely cross paths at all. The result is feeling like trying to take in an entire season of Game of Thrones in a two-hour sitting. I felt exhausted upon leaving the theater, and couldn’t even voice my thoughts for several hours.

One of the funnier aspects of the film was that we needed a full explanation of where Electro got this hoodie from, yet he has a much more elaborate costume change later on that receives no acknowledgement whatsoever.

That’s not to say these plots are bad. On the contrary, I actually enjoyed each of them. I even liked the extremely controversial plot involving Peter’s father as an Oscorp scientist, because while it may somewhat reduce the impact of Peter’s powers being a total accident, it does explain why Oscorp can’t just recreate the results with a new subject. However, as much as I enjoyed the plots, not all of them are equally deserving of screen time, and I think the film would have benefitted from some trimming to make room for the more important plotlines. Max’s transformation into Electro is told with such little screen time that it comes across as extremely forced and kind of silly, which is absolutely maddening when all the information we learn from Peter’s father could have easily been reduced to a five-minute sequence, yet not only is an elaborate scene involving Richard Parker trying to flee from Oscorp via private plane while uploading his data from his laptop the very opening of the film, it keeps coming up throughout the film, leaving the viewer frustrated that we’re wasting time on this instead of more immediate problems. While I understood why Electro turns into a homicidal maniac, I didn’t feel like the transformation was natural, because he comes into this story with so little connection to any other characters that his sudden attachment to Spider-Man feels less like mental imbalance and more like plot contrivance. Meanwhile, Harry Osborn gets a similarly small amount of screen time, but his character is introduced with so many existing relationships and motivations that I had no trouble believing his incredibly quick acceleration into an over-the-top villain. I just find it hard to forgive the lightning pace when we found time for such useless scenes as a pair of airplanes that don’t realize they’re on a collision course thanks to Electro’s city-wide power outage, a plot that resolves itself without any major characters even knowing those planes exist.

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We also found time for Electro to play “Itsy Bitsy Spider” on giant power coils. No, I’m not kidding.

But regardless of how disjointed the plot may be, I still enjoyed myself. Andrew Garfield is slightly too cool to sell Peter’s nerdy side, but otherwise his portrayal of the character is flawless. His chemistry with Gwen is the single strongest aspect of this film, and I found myself incredibly invested in their romance. Emma Stone also continues to completely own the role, making Gwen a thousand times more lovable than she has any right to be. I was never much of a Gwen fan from the comics, so it really shocks me how much Stone has made me fall in love with the character. After Raimi’s trilogy that reduced Mary Jane to an annoying damsel in distress, it’s so refreshing to see¬†Peter involved with a woman who is a full character in her own right. She’s not just here to service Peter’s plot, in fact more than once she manages to save Peter’s life. If I had to pick one single biggest complaint about Raimi’s trilogy, it would be erasing Gwen from Peter’s life (Spider-Man 3’s awful Gwen does not count) so I can’t express how happy I am to see her not only brought to life onscreen, but actually improved. Even if I live to see a superior retelling of Spider-Man’s story, I don’t think I’ll ever see anyone top Emma Stone’s Gwen.

Can we just let Emma Stone return to her natural red hair and let her play Mary Jane as well? Serious question.

Can we just let Emma Stone return to her natural red hair and play Mary Jane as well? Serious question.

And since I’ve gotten my major complaints out of the way, I should note that the visuals in this movie are absolutely spectacular. Electro is a marvel of CG, Spidey’s movements feel more and more like the comic books brought to life with each film, and the use of slow motion to depict Peter’s spider sense never overstays its welcome. I saw this film in 3D IMAX, and it was worth every penny. The film also brings a lot of world-building that will likely go over the heads of most viewers, but hardcore Spidey fans such as myself will be squealing with joy over the inclusion of the¬†Ravencroft Institute, the Vault, the Sinister Six, Ailistair Smythe, Felicia Hardy (even if her last name is never mentioned) and plenty of other nods to the comics. While the plot of this film may be weak as its own story, it’s incredible as a foundation for future films. Hopefully future plots in this series won’t be as overstuffed, because we now have enough plot devices for half a dozen installments. The fight choreography is incredible, and the effects are woven in so seamlessly that you’ll easily find yourself forgetting that people can’t actually swing from webs or shoot electricity from their bodies.

"Jazz hands!"

“I love to sing-a! About the moon-a and the June-a and the spring-a!”

Basically, there’s a really good movie in here. Hell, there’s three really good movies in here. Had they shown a little restraint and cut some of this film to retain the focus on the more important elements, I would have left the theater as excited as I was upon leaving The Winter Soldier. As it is, I can only say it’s a very good film, but not great. This is still high praise, but considering how much love I have for this character, I think we can do slightly better.