Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen

Rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence , 136 Minutes, Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Compare to: Batman Begins (2005), Captain America (2011)

If you’ve read either of these articles I’ve written in the past month, you should know I’m a pretty big Spider-Man fan. Those are here and here. Even after what Sony did to him in The Spider-Man series, specifically Spider-Man 3, I never blamed Peter Parker for what happened. So upon hearing that a new Spider-Man series was in tow, I was in amazement (no pun) and confusion, like many people. Another one? Already? Reboot?

The marketing hasn’t been too kind either. From multiple clips and trailers, to releasing posters that are far too similar to Sam Raimi’s trilogy as well as letting a twenty-five minute version of the movie online only to take it off after a day or so; this new one didn’t seem to have much going for it. Then I was actually able to watch the film that was big-budgeted, yet had a lot on the line; thankfully, it is a solid movie and if another trilogy is spawned from this one, I won’t mind.

Retracing Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) origin, TASM is the version covering many details the majority of people probably aren’t aware of, as well as adding their own spin on Spider-Man’s beginning. Peter parents disappeared at a young age for mysterious reasons, leaving the young boy to be raised by his aunt and uncle(Martin Sheen & Sally Field). After finding out some interesting things about his parents, it leads him to a science showcase of sorts, along with his father’s former work partner, Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). After being bitten by a genetically altered spider, Peter gets him famed abilities of a spider, as Connors’ choices have led him to become a supernaturally powerful creature resembling a giant lizard, bent on the destruction of the human race.  Spider-Man now races to defeat the monster he had a hand in creating, all while trying to capture Gwen Stacy’s (Emma Stone) attention and just be the good kid his aunt wants him to be.

One of the toughest things this movie has had to deal with from many standpoints, is that they’re retelling the story to a story that wasn’t told that long ago. How do you make things feel new and exciting without changing everything about the character’s origin? This is what begged the question on whether or not they should have made it at all. The original was released on May 3rd, 2002. Hard to believe it’s already been a decade now. Being that the Sam Raimi original was released even that long ago, I thought it crazy to start over already. Many of the same plot points are revisited because in keeping the character, there’s no way around it. This isn’t too much of a problem, as it seems director Marc Webb is fine with moving things along in areas you’re acquainted with, and keeps a nice pace for things you might not have considered before. Many of Parker’s powers are realized all at the same time, coming together for disastrous results. Getting ready in the morning after gaining superhuman strength becomes a chore to not destroy the entire room.

You’ll also notice there’s no Mary Jane in this one. The red-headed popular girl has been replaced by Gwen Stacy, Peter’s fellow science nerd, daughter of the police captain, and all around more substantially filled out role than Dunst’s. Emma Stone, who plays Gwen, is still reduced a role that’s swept to the side, but there’s no particular problems with her performance. It’s hard to have anyone else shine in your story when you’ve got guys crawling on walls and men turning into crocodile people, so anyone being overshadowed is not a fault on their side. Denis Leary plays the police captain, a man trying to protect the city while his daughter is dating the man he’s been trying to catch. A dinner table argument comes up between Garfield and Leary which was actually more fun to watch than awkward as both explain things from their viewpoints. We’re already on Spider-Man’s side, so Leary has a lot working against him in this role. He stands his ground and if there is a standout role aside from Garfield, it’s Leary.

As for Andrew Garfield, whose biggest acting credit goes to his role in 2010’s The Social Network, Garfield deserves a major ton of recognition for this part. Compared to Maguire’s shy and awkward ways, Garfield’s transition from loner to superhero is a nicely timed and natural transition. While still awkward in his own right, Garfield comes across more as a kid in his own head, rather than wanting to be one of the cool kids. While I was fine with Maguire’s portrayal in the original movie, his role became one of overly feeling self-analyzing, often crying it seems and sucking the fun out of the films as they went on. Garfield is a little angrier while retaining his humanity throughout. His self assurance comes across fittingly, seeming to actually become more confident as his powers increase, rather than stay the same blubbering kid, something the original trilogy suffered from.

Martin Sheen appears comfortable in the role of Uncle Ben, dealing out punishment where he sees fit in Peter’s life while giving him the mentoring he needs. Sally Field isn’t a weak link as Aunt May although her character comes across more clingy and shrill than necessary. One scene where Aunt May reprimands Garfield might take you back to any of Field’s earlier dramas. I cringed at the thought of Field getting her way with this scene, the idea that she would begin screaming and crying into a broken mess. Thankfully once again, Director Marc Webb has timed this well, including where to end a scene.

This year’s The Avengers had a lot riding on it in that build up films were all decent. The Amazing Spider-Man has had a lot working against it for the reasons mentioned earlier, but in the end, it works. The fight scenes are great, the special effects exceptional, the acting is on par, which adds up for a film much more serious and much closer to it’s comic book origins. Certain minor plot points may stand out and similarities to the original get in the way, but we’ve got more Batman Begins here than Superman Returns.

Grade: B

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