Now that some folks have had a chance to see The Amazing Spider-man, it's time to to talk about its last line of dialogue, and how it turns a so-so movie into a pointless piece of crap.
I referred obliquely to this line in the final paragraph of my published review, but I think it warrants exploring in detail. And to do so will require SPOILERS! So, please turn away now, those who wish to avoid them, and return only if and when you make the unfortunate decision to pay to see the film.
During the climactic battle between Spider-man and The Lizard, Capt. Stacy -- the police-chief father of Peter Parker/Spider-man's squeeze, Gwen -- is mortally wounded. Upon realizing that Peter is Spidey, and that his identity threatens those around him, Capt. Stacy asks Peter to make a promise to stay away from Gwen. Peter somberly agrees, and eventually does break up with Gwen. Scenes of heartbreak ensue, with Gwen eventually getting Peter to admit that he made the deathbed promise.
Cut to the final scene, as Peter arrives late for a class he shares with Gwen. Scrambling to his seat behind Gwen, he promises his teacher that he won't be late again. "Don't make promises you don't intend to keep," says the teacher. Peter replies, pointedly, "But those are the best kind." Gwen smiles.
People are fans of Sam Raimi's Spider-man films for many reasons, including Raimi's kinetic fight choreography and oddball sense of humor. But my passion for them comes from the way they focus on human relationships, and how Spider-man 2 in particular finds a moral center in the sacrifices that comprise true heroism. Part of what makes Spider-man Spider-man is that we know that Peter Parker has to struggle and give things up in order to be Spider-man, and fulfill the sense of responsibility for his uncle's death that came from his selfishness.
Not Peter Parker circa 2012, though. His promise to think of Gwen's well-being before his own interest is, ultimately, a temporary bump in the road. It's a punch line. And it betrays the soullessness at the center of The Amazing Spider-man. It's about a guy who gets powers, and if he feels like it, gets the girl, too.
There have been a fair number of positive reviews of The Amazing Spider-man, many of them praising in particular the performances by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and the relationship between Peter and Gwen. I disagree strongly for the most part, but that's not entirely the point. I actually take stronger issue with some of the negative reviews, many of which have focused on the fact that too little time has passed since the Raimi films to justify a "reboot." This film, in their estimation, is simply redundant.
But mere redundancy would suggest that The Amazing Spider-man actually did the same things as Spider-man. Director Marc Webb and his team of screenwriters did attempt something unique and different in their interpretation: They opted to turn Spider-man not into an example of heroic self-sacrifice, but a case study in simple teenage self-absorption. With great power, apparently, comes the ability to bail on a pledge when it becomes inconvenient.