Marvel’s favorite friendly neighborhood web slinger is back in The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as his high school love interest, Gwen Stacy. Is this reboot what fans deserve after being disappointed by Spider-Man 3 or should the series be as dead as Uncle Ben?
When Peter Parker was a boy, his parents left him in the care of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May after his father’s home was broken into and ransacked. Peter’s father, Dr. Richard Parker, was a bio-engineer working with Dr Curt Connors in cross species genetics for OSCORP. Fearing not only immediate danger for his family, but that people were after his formulas, Richard disappeared. Peter never saw him again.
Years later Peter is a nerdy awkward teenager in high school. He still lives with his aunt and uncle. He is a photographer, a skateboarder, and loves science. He also has a huge crush on a very beautiful blonde named Gwen Stacy, who is equally as gifted in science, but he is too shy to ask her out. He also endures daily torture from Flash Thompson, the school’s bully.
One day Peter makes a discovery that connects Dr Connors with his father. So he heads down to OSCORP to try learn more about his father. While snooping around, he breaks into a lab that houses genetically altered spiders that are used to make fibers as strong as steel cables. Peter is bitten. He develops super strength, lightning fast reflexes, and the ability to climb walls.
Peter, becoming accustomed with his new powers, decides to stand up to Flash Thompson which leads to him getting in trouble at school. This results in a family fight with Uncle Ben. Peter storms off. Worried, his uncle goes looking for him. Peter runs into a criminal that robs a liquor store that he could have stopped but doesn’t. Later, that same man shoots Uncle Ben after the two get into a struggle. Peter, blames himself and decides to spend each night scouring the dangerous areas of New York City looking for the murderer. Even though Peter is doing good by catching criminals on his hunt, he becomes wanted by the police for being a vigilante, but Peter won’t give up. He develops web shooters to spin webs and catch thieves. But most importantly, to protect his secret identity and loved ones, Peter designs a mask and costume that represents who he has become…Spider-Man.
Meanwhile in the OSCORP Labs, Dr Curt Connors hits a breakthrough in limb replacement on a genetics level that enables test subjects the ability to regenerate arms and legs much like how a lizard can regrow its tail if it is cut off. Being an amputee himself, Dr Connors is overwhelmed with the success, he reports his results to his superiors. They want him to test on humans, but he refuses. So he decides to test the serum on himself. With great success, Dr Connors regenerates his right arm below the elbow, but with grave side effects. The reptile DNA used in the cross genetics research transforms his whole body, turning him into a giant lizard creature.
Ten years ago, Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire did what movie studios didn’t expect: they made a superhero movie that was more main stream and highly profitable compared to other comic book movies prior. It also launched the start of Marvel’s reign of Summer Blockbuster supremacy. Let’s face it, there would be no Avengers movie or Disney’s purchase Marvel Comics if not for both the comic nerds and casual audience coming out in droves to make the original Spider-Man a huge box office success. Now while the Batman and Superman movies paved the way, Spider-Man made seeing a superhero on the big screen more legit and not just for kids.
2012 marks the reboot of the character with The Amazing Spider-Man. Why a reboot? Well it seemed to work wonders for Batman, but in all reality, Sony had a time limit to make a movie and keep the web slinger’s rights or lose them to Marvel’s new parent company of Disney. So the question begs the answer? is it any good? My response…it’s Spectacular.
The story is fundamentally the same: shy nerdy teenager with a knack for science gets bit by a genetically altered spider, gains super powers, has uncle who is fatally shot, tries to impress the girl, defeats super scientist villain, and ultimately accepts great responsibility for great power to help society. But let’s face it, the multitude of comics pumped out a month do the exact same thing. To make the comparison on what makes Amazing better, I use The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo equation: better actors + bigger budget = better end result. The one thing this movie will spark is debate and comparison.
So let’s start, shall we?
The obvious place to start is Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) in the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. It may be blasphemy, but I felt his performance was far superior to Tobey Maguire’s. I’m not at all saying Maquire did a bad job, but Garfield perfected it without coming off as whiney. He came off better as a focused yet awkward teen struggling with being an outcast. He was smart without coming off as a pompous Stephen Hawking. I also liked how the filmmakers showed not only his physical battle scars from his vigilante actions, but also his emotional ones from the loss of his father and uncle. He made Peter Parker more likable and sympathetic. And his passion to be the hero wasn’t based on trying to impress a girl, but on the revenge of his uncle. It’s after a certain moment in the movie that he realizes that he can be more than a vigilante, he can be a hero.
Another huge positive for the movie was the casting as Emma Stone (Zombieland/The Help) as Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s high school crush. My major gripe with the original trilogy was Kirsten Dunst. I hated her portrayal of Mary Jane Watson. She was superficial, annoying, and self-centered. Even when she knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, she still had this “what about me?” attitude. By the end of the third movie, I was hoping Venom was going to kill her. She was also the horrible damsel in distress that she would be screaming for help one moment, but then shitting on Peter the next. With that being said, Emma Stone was an unbelievable breath of fresh air. Now while she would have been fine in the role of Mary Jane, having her be Gwen Stacy was more fitting, since her father is a police captain. She has to show an inner struggle between the love of her boyfriend the superhero and her father the cop. She also was more of an equal to Peter, rather than the high school prom queen trying to win a popularity contest. Stone made Stacy intelligent, funny, beautiful, and strong.
Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Curt Connors aka The Lizard. I thought it was really smart to not start the rebooted franchise with the most iconic Spider-Man bad guy, The Green Goblin, in the same way that Batman Begins did not showcase the Joker. Christopher Nolan saved the big hitter for the second movie which lead to one of the most amazing performances of a villain by Heath Ledger. Think about this, why have a ton of downtime to reexplain the origin of Spider-Man and lose precious screen time between the hero and the villain? As a second tier member of Spidey’s rogues gallery, it almost creates a throwaway baddie so the audience can focus more on the character development of the hero. What Ifans does bring to the character is an intelligent scientist with a Jekyll and Hyde personality. It’s not really made clear what his role was in the disappearance of Peter’s father, but he definitely became successful because of it. But even the Dr Connor character has is own flaws as an amputee searching for a cure to save humanity. Like Williem Dafoe who ultimately becomes homicidally insane when his experiment goes wrong, Ifans has to walk that thin line as to not turning into an over reacting cartoon character that I feel the Green Goblin turned into. Only gripe I had with The Lizard was the CGI wasn’t as perfect as the Hulk’s in The Avengers. Even though at times he wore the iconic torn lab coat, film makers ditched the purple pants. The design also seemed more dinosaur then reptilian and reminded me a lot of the Goomba Troopers from Super Mario Brothers. As a parent, I do want to warn you that if you take smaller children, they may be frightened of the character. My daughters were noticeably scared from some of the intense, well choreographed fights and chases.
The rest of the cast fit perfectly into the mix like jigsaw pieces. Denis Leary performance as Captain Stacy of the NYPD was not that far of a stretch as his character of a fireman in Rescue Me. He is hard-nosed, and gets down to business. As Uncle Ben, Martin Sheen brought his charm and wisdom to the screen that was on par with Cliff Robertson’s in the first movie. While I thought Rosemary Harris as the original Aunt May was ripped right out of the comics, she was eventually turned into a naive elderly female. What Sally Fields did for the character was bring strength to a person grieving over the loss of her husband that I hope develops even more in the inevitable sequels.
I was sad to hear that Sam Raimi (Evil Dead/Army of Darkness) was not returning to direct. He was replaced by Marc Webb who until (500) Days of Summer, was only known for directing Green Day and No Doubt music videos. I want to say that the visuals and characters do not at all suffer due to Webb’s inexperience with big budgets. In fact, fight sequences merged perfectly with the character development down time. I even loved how in some web swinging sections, you are put into the first person perspective behind Spidey’s mask to give you the feeling you were actually flying in New York City.
I walked out of the theater immediately saying I loved it more than the original, and that says a lot, because I am a big fan of the original. From what I overheard from fellow movie goers, their feelings were mutual. The movie is offered in 3D, but I can’t say I absolutely recommend viewing it in 3D. Where it lacked in visual depth in some parts, it was over the top in the web swinging and fighting showcases. I leave it up to you as a matter of preference, but if you choose not to, you’re not missing much. The Amazing Spider-Man will not at all be disappointing to fans of the character and it perfectly sets up the story for multiple future sequels. While it might not have the Michael Bay explosions, it has characters you sincerely care about. I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen. Pardon the pun, but this version of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’s ongoing narrative was simply put…AMAZING!
In Theaters: July 3, 2012
Runtime: 2 hours 16 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of action and violence)
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, with Martin Sheen and Sally Field
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Adaptation
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Official Site: http://theamazingspiderman.com/
What are your thoughts? Comment below. We’d love to hear from you!