The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

FilmThe Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field

Directed by: Marc Webb

Produced by: Avi Arad, Laura Ziskin, Matt Tolmach

Written by: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves

Music by: James Horner

Running Time: 136 minutes

Rating: PG-13

So the question that’s been asked a million times — including by me — is, “Why so soon?” Why make another Spider-Man movie just 10 years after the first of director Sam Raimi’s trilogy that starred Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, and just five years after the most recent film in that series?

Well, I guess it starts with the fact that there was supposed to be a Spider-Man 4 with Raimi and the same principal cast members returning, but disagreements between Raimi and Sony (mainly over completing the film by Sony’s intended release date, and Raimi’s stance that he could not do so while maintaining the level of creativity he wanted) led to the ultimate cancellation of the film. Thus, it was time to start anew.

To me, however, I think an equally valid reason for the existence of The Amazing Spider-Man is that Spider-Man is one of the most culturally recognizable superheroes of all time. As such, the stories of Spider-Man and his various adventures and tribulations are things that will always be retold to generations over time. That being said, I still thought this was a little soon for a reboot, but I ultimately was looking forward to seeing the film. So now we can actually talk about it.

One reason I was looking forward to this new rendition of Spider-Man on the silver screen was the casting of Andrew Garfield as the eponymous hero. I thought Garfield was outstanding in a key supporting role in The Social Network. It wasn’t hard to imagine that that film would catapult him to stardom, and The Amazing Spider-Man is evidence of that.

I was also intrigued that Marc Webb would be directing. He was at the helm for the now widely beloved non-traditional romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer. Obviously, taking on a Spider-Man movie would be a major change for Mr. Webb.

The Amazing Spider-Manends up being a solid display of both these individuals’ talents. Garfield portrayed Peter Parker as slightly more angst-ridden and arrogant. The former aspect added a level of darkness and drama to the film that was not quite as prevalent in previous adaptations. Still, though, the movie piped in plenty of the traditional action and comedy elements we expect to see with most superhero films (except maybe for Christopher Nolan’s Batman series…more on that in upcoming posts).

The latter trait of arrogance actually became rather amusing, particularly when Garfield’s Parker starts talking trash to a thug he subdues with ease. In a movie where so many elements are similar, it was nice to see Garfield put a different spin on Peter Parker/Spider-Man to give us something fresh.

The film’s plot, while similar to the original, has a number of major differences. The Amazing Spider-Man shows a Peter Parker who is more obsessed with finding about his father’s past (his parents had left him with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben when we was young). While finding out more about his father proves to be difficult, Peter gradually finds out more about himself in somewhat of a coming-of-age tale (like many origin stories are).

Parker’s high-school crush in this film is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone in yet another movie). There were numerous scenes devoted to the couple’s budding romance, and that subplot moved along quickly, as (SPOILER!) Gwen even learns the truth about Peter’s alter-ego. Garfield and Stone, a real-life couple, had very good chemistry, as one would figure they would. My only gripe here is that while Stone did a fine acting job like she always does, she doesn’t fit — in my opinion — as a blonde (it’s painfully obvious that that’s not her natural hair color) in general and as Gwen Stacy in particular. To her credit, she did give a solid performance and made the character more than just a traditional damsel in distress, but somehow I just couldn’t get over the fact that she didn’t quite fit as that character.

However, I did like the rest of the casting. Rhys Ifans (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Five-Year Engagement), who is really starting to become more recognizable in mainstream cinema, was excellent as Dr. Curt Connors. Dr. Connors is a good-natured man who worked with Peter’s father; he thus takes a liking to Peter. However, his attempt to repair his flaws (he is missing an arm) goes awry (it’s always science gone awry in these stories!) and transforms him into the villainous Lizard.

While Ifans was great in portraying a sympathetic and desperate character while we was still human, I thought the rendering of the Lizard was occasionally cheesy, especially when he (it?) started to talk. There were times when I was thinking that this was a fairly good example of the prototypical supposed-to-be-scary-but-actually-just-goofy movie monster. Having said that, the rest of the effects were outstanding, and I actually thought the handful of scenes where Spider-Man is web-swinging around New York were done noticeably better than in the prior films. In this one, we really saw and got a better idea of how our favorite arachnid hero was doing all this incredible flying.

Martin Sheen and Sally Field (despite her somewhat haggard appearance) were well-cast as Peter’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May, respectively. Sheen was just as likable as Uncle Ben as Cliff Robertson was Raimi’s series, which made his character’s death (not really a spoiler if you’ve seen the other version) equally difficult to take. And Denis Leary was effective in his switch from the FDNY (Rescue Me) to the NYPD. He played the prototypical stern and stubborn police captain AND father of the protagonist’s love interest — a double-whammy of stubbornness. But Captain Stacy proves to have some depth and understanding by the end of the film.

There was a lot to like about The Amazing Spider-Man, and it’s a very quick and fun-filled two hours and 16 minutes. However, there were a couple of things that bothered me slightly (a blonde Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and a sometimes-cheesy villain). To be sure, however, they were not huge enough factors to make me dislike the film. I did enjoy it, but while I accepted the quick reboot of the Spider-Man cinematic franchise, I felt like there still weren’t quite enough differentiating elements in the film to make it break out of the clutter that is the oftentimes formulaic superhero genre. A very solid entry in the genre and a great piece of entertainment — one that even had a few interesting new wrinkles — but in the end, nothing especially groundbreaking.

Tommy D’s Score:

 

 

 

 

3/4 Tommy Ds

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About Tommy D

Clemson and UGA alum with a market research job in LA. And I kind of like movies.

Posted on July 13, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Nice review. I’d rate it even higher. I agree with close to all your points, but heck although it wasn’t groundbreaking, I enjoyed it a lot, more than Ted (which was also very solid).

    • I thought about going with 3.5 Tommy Ds but that seemed too high. I probably would have gone with 3.25 in the old system. But hey, like I mentioned in that post about the change, I want the focus to be on my content more so than my ratings.

      That being said, I’ll still eventually come out with a post updating all of the 0.25 and 0.75 ratings because I feel like I should.

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