The Amazing Spider-Man
Our thanks to guest blogger Cory Milles (not pictured above) for this web(site)-slinging breakdown.
I love the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, and so I was skeptical when I discovered that the studio was doing a reboot of the franchise. Deep down, part of me wanted to remember the story that had already been told, but a friend prompted me to see the new movie, telling me that it was a well-plotted journey with heart.
After seeing it, I agree. The film follows the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet perfectly, giving us a wonderful hybrid of what I feel is a Superhero/Dude With a Problem/Rite of Passage story. The Peter Parker in this film, played by Andrew Garfield, is an angrier, darker character, one who struggles with his identity in the wake of his parents’ abandonment. As a result, the story infuses emotion with every scene. I believe Blake would have liked this movie, and not just because Alvin Sargent was one of his favorite screenwriters. The story seems to imbue all of the principles that Blake teaches in his books, and I think that’s why it resonates with audiences. We want Peter to find what he’s looking for, and as he goes through The Transformation Machine, he will definitely come closer than he ever has before.
Written by: James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves
Story by James Vanderbilt
Based on the original comic book characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Directed by: Marc Webb
1. Opening Image: A young Peter Parker plays hide and seek with his father. Searching through the house, he finds his father’s glasses and picks them up with curiosity, a beat we will also see later. Peter’s search for his father foreshadows much of the rest of the film, which follows Peter’s quest for answers about his parents. Peter’s father discovers that his study has been broken into, and they rush him over to his Uncle Ben’s and Aunt May’s, leaving him there without answers.
2. Theme Stated: Now a teenager, Peter is an outcast from the rest of his peers. Reclusive and quiet, he is an easy target for those who would take advantage of him, especially Flash Thompson. While seeing Flash picking on another student, Peter intervenes and gets into a fight in a clear Save the Cat! moment. Afterwards in class, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) notices that he is hurt and suggests that he see the nurse. She asks him, “Who are you?” He’s surprised at this statement, but Gwen clarifies, saying that she knows who he is, but does Peter know? She’s checking to see if he has a concussion, but this is also the theme of the story, Peter’s search for his own identity in light of his parents leaving him behind. It will be echoed and explored throughout the film.
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.
3. Set-Up: During the Set-Up, we meet most of the principal characters necessary to carry the story forward. We know that Peter lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, that he is somewhat of a loner at Midtown Science High School, where his crush Gwen Stacy is. We know Peter wants to stand up for others, but that he is also a typical teenager struggling with his identity. We also get a glimpse into Peter’s brilliance when he arrives home and helps Uncle Ben examine something broken and leaking in the basement. During the Set-Up we can see the “Things that Need Fixing” in his life, and we also know that it is a clear “stasis=death” situation for Peter. We can feel it ourselves.
4. Catalyst: As Peter cleans up in the basement, trying to salvage old items from the leaking water, he stumbles upon a briefcase with his father’s initials on it and takes it upstairs. Aunt May and Uncle Ben freeze when they see it, with Uncle Ben saying that Peter’s dad asked him to keep it safe. This is Peter’s catalyst that begins his journey; his life will never be the same.
5. Debate: Peter searches through the contents of the briefcase, finding his father’s glasses. He puts them on, a way to remember and to identify with his father. He finds a hidden file folder in the bag and begins reading it, searching for answers. Who was his father? What did he do? Can this information help Peter understand himself better? He finds out that his father had a lab partner, Dr. Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans), and searches for information about him on the Internet. He discovers that Connors works at Oscorp, and he sneaks in to try and find answers. At Oscorp, the receptionist sees him looking at the nametags, none of which are his, and asks Peter if he’s forgotten who he is—another echo of the theme. Peter meets Dr. Connors during the tour and learns that Gwen Stacy is his assistant. He also learns that one of the main fields of study Dr. Connors is working on, and that his dad was possibly a part of, is cross-species genetics.
While searching for answers to what a notation in his father’s files meant, he enters a room where Oscorp is using genetically-modified spiders to create powerfully strong “biocable.” He is bitten by one of the spiders and takes the subway home, where some of his new abilities begin to manifest themselves. At this point, Peter is even further away from knowing who he is, wondering what is happening to him and why. He takes his father’s files to Dr. Connors’s house and learns a bit more about what his father and Dr. Connors were trying to accomplish. At school, Peter stands up to Flash Thompson on the basketball court and breaks the backboard in a display of his new skills. As a result, Uncle Ben has to leave work early and come to the school to speak to the principal. Ben tells Peter that it’s now his responsibility to pick up Aunt May. When Peter forgets, Uncle Ben yells at him, telling him that he was just like his father, but that his father also believed if someone had a chance to do what was right, it was also their responsibility. Peter storms off, with Ben following after him. After watching a convenience store get robbed, Peter watches as the thief shoots Uncle Ben.
6. Break Into Two: With his only father figure dead, Peter decides to hunt down Uncle Ben’s killer using the police sketch. He has completely stepped into the “upside-down world,” the antithesis of his life as he knew it.
7. B Story: After Uncle Ben’s death, Gwen Stacy confronts Peter at school, telling him she’s concerned for him. Their relationship is the B Story. Through Gwen, Peter will discover who he is.
8. Fun & Games: Peter is now fully into his journey of self-discovery. He uses his abilities to fight thugs as he tries to find his Uncle Ben’s killer. This is where we see the “Promise of the Premise.” To protect his identity, Peter wears a mask and eventually uses a spandex costume to increase mobility. As time passes, Peter uses materials he obtains from Oscorp to develop his own web shooters. Peter begins to take on the identity of the crime-fighting, wise-cracking Spider-Man. He also becomes known as a masked vigilante, someone that police Captain George Stacy wants to stop and apprehend. At the same time, Dr. Connors is being pressured by his own boss to use the limb-regeneration formula in human trials, something Connors isn’t ready for. His boss takes some of the formula to test at the Veteran’s Administration hospital and Connors is fired. Desperate, he tests the formula on himself.
9. Midpoint: The A Story and the B Story cross paths when Peter is invited to Gwen’s house for dinner. Peter is intimidated by Captain Stacy, who declares that Spider-Man is a vigilante who simply assaults citizens. Peter defends Spider-Man, believing that his alter-ego is doing good things for the city. Captain Stacy takes offense at Peter’s statements, and it is clear that he is not liked. He’s defeated internally, knowing that no matter what part of himself he shows, he will not be accepted by Gwen’s father. Yet this is a false defeat, as we will see later. Peter knows that the one person he can trust is Gwen, and he tells her his secret. Just then, sirens ring out throughout the city—a time clock indicating that something will have to be done, and soon.
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
10. Bad Guys Close In: While Peter was facing his false defeat at the Midpoint, Dr. Connors was undergoing a false victory. His arm had regenerated thanks to the formula, but it had also transformed him into a human-lizard hybrid. In his new form, Dr. Connors goes on a rampage, throwing cars off a bridge. Spider-Man saves them, but is still hated by the police. The next day, he visits Dr. Connors, who is an expert on reptiles, to ask him for advice on catching one. Peter has suspicions that Dr. Connors is the one who is changing, and he tries to tell Captain Stacy, who obviously thinks Peter is crazy.
Peter tracks Dr. Connors into the sewers, hoping to get photographic evidence, and engages in a fight with him, barely escaping alive. Unfortunately, Peter’s camera is left behind with his name on it, so Dr. Connors knows Spider-Man’s identity. He shows up at Midtown Science High School, and the two of them fight. Peter saves Gwen, and he sends her to Dr. Connors’s lab at Oscorp to create an antidote. Peter goes back into the sewer where he sees Dr. Connors’s plans to use the Ganali device to turn people into human-lizard hybrids like himself, believing that humanity is weak and cannot be improved. Peter realizes that he has just sent Gwen right to Connors, and he races to save her.
11. All Is Lost: The Lizard emerges, using some of the formula to infect police officers who encounter him. The police mobilize to stop him, and in doing so, they want to catch Spider-Man as well. Taking aim, they shoot Peter with a device that shocks and stuns him, bringing him down. They have him on the ground and unmask him, and while he tries to fight his way out, he is unsuccessful. Captain Stacy points a gun at him. The A Story and the B Story fully meet: Peter’s search for his identity as a hero and the rejection by the father of his love interest. Here, he is at his lowest point in the journey, the furthest from his goal. The whiff of death is in the air… he could be killed, but even if he is simply detained, Gwen might die at the hands of The Lizard.
12. Dark Night of the Soul: Peter reaches deep down, knowing what he must do to become the hero he is meant to be and to save Gwen. He turns, his face fully illuminated, and reveals his identity to Captain Stacy. Peter tells him that Gwen is in danger, and he needs to help her. Captain Stacy lets him go, but an officer fires, wounding Peter in the leg.
13. Break Into Three: Wounded, Peter presses on to save Gwen and to stop Dr. Connors at Oscorp Tower.
Gathering the Team: Peter is alone, and he is wounded. He might not make it in time; many of the buildings are far apart and difficult to reach with his web shooters.
Storming the Castle: Peter races toward Oscorp Tower, struggling. The father of a boy Peter saved earlier sees this on the news, and he rallies his friends who are crane operators, having them all position the cranes so that Spider-Man can use them to swing from. Peter sees them align, and he realizes that the city has accepted him. He arrives at the tower and tries to stop Connors. Captain Stacy also arrives as Gwen comes out and gives him the antidote she formulated. Meanwhile, Spider-Man and The Lizard fight…
High-Tower Surprise: … but Connors has grown too powerful for him. He crushes Peter’s web shooters, the one advantage that he could use to slow Connors down. Connors is about to crush him, taunting him for being alone in the world and without parents.
“Dig, Deep Down”: But Peter isn’t alone. Captain Stacy arrives with the antidote and saves Peter, another father figure to fill the void in Peter’s life. Peter shows his trust, and he teams up with Stacy.
Executing the New Plan: Captain Stacy holds off The Lizard while Peter tries to stop the Ganali Device from turning everyone into hybrids. He uses the antidote, and The Lizard is defeated. Unfortunately, Captain Stacy is also killed. He makes Peter promise to stay away from Gwen to keep her safe.
15. Final Image: After the ordeal, Peter listens to the final voicemail his Uncle Ben left him, one in which Uncle Ben declares how proud he is of who Peter has become. As he stumbles into a class late, the teacher says that in literature, there is truly only one story: “Who am I?” This is the theme of the film, and as he takes to the city streets in the Final Image, it is now clear to Peter who he is. He’s Spider-Man.