“This version of Spider-man offers enough new insights into the character’s past that the first film didn't, that I think it will keep you interested enough to get to the good stuff.”
Superhero, Fantasy and Action
Starring - Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/Lizard, Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy, Martin Sheen as Ben Parker, Sally Field as May Parker, Irrfan Khan as Dr. Rajit Ratha and Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson
Director - Marc Webb
Writer(s) - James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
Runtime: 136 min.
I bought my first issue of The Amazing Spider-man from the magazine rack of my local drug store in the summer of 1971 at the age of thirteen. I had been buying and reading several different comics sporadically before then (most notably JLA, The Flash and a few others I’ve forgotten), but the cover of The Amazing Spider-man #100 with the John Romita drawn image of Spider-man wall-crawling over a chalkboard-like background of the portraits of all the supporting characters from the past just set my young imaginative mind afire! Most of all, in typical Marvel fashion, the cover blurb announced “At last! The long-awaited 100th anniversary issue! With the wildest shock-ending of all time!” I had to read this comic! I never missed an issue of The Amazing Spider-man after that for many years to come and even when I was a Marvel Maniac throughout the ‘70s – buying almost every Marvel superhero title - Spidy was always my favorite Marvel character!
I bring up my historical relationship with Spider-man, because I think it helps to explain why I was not a fan of the three previous Sam Raimi directed films and why I enjoyed the latest Marc Webb directed film so much. I don’t want to waste time comparing Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007) to The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). I’ll just say that I never liked Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and I didn’t like the many stylistic changes to the character that director Sam Raimi and writer David Koepp made; the worst being making Spider-man’s webs biologically shoot out of his hands (yuck!).
So what is it about The Amazing Spider-man that made me think it was the best film version of the character yet? The most important part of Spider-man’s characterization is that he is a high-school geek, a loner, a quietly angry teenager who has never gotten over the loss of his parents. When he is bitten by the radioactive spider and acquires the proportional strength and agility of a spider, Peter is elated and revels in his new found powers. The Amazing Spider-man establishes all this characterization in the first forty minutes of the film. We see Peter riding his skate board in school, belligerent to school rules. We see Peter being bored in Physics class, because it’s obvious that he already knows more than the teacher. We see Peter watching Gwen Stacy from afar, wishing for a way to meet this beautiful girl. We see Peter being beaten by Flash, despite his best efforts to try and avoid the confrontation. We see Peter’s warm relationship with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May in the form of quiet moment between he and Ben, when Peter attempts to hide the beating from his Aunt.
The performance of Andrew Garfield is amazing – especially when you consider he is a 29-year old, who grew up in England – is playing a 17/18-year old Manhattan high-schooler. Before and after he becomes Spider-man, Garfield plays Parker with just the right balance of darkness and inner strength. He plays Peter as the awkward geek and Spidy as the quippy jerk; making both likeable and identifiable. I can’t say enough good things about Emma Stone’s portrayal of Gwen Stacy. She plays her as a beautiful and smart teenage girl, who still is self-conscious and quiet around Peter, who she clearly likes before he becomes Spider-man. This relationship between Peter and Gwen is very important in making Peter and Spidy the man he needs to become.
I haven’t even mentioned the special effects, because at this point, I expect high quality digital effects in a film of this enormous budget (estimated at $230 million!). There are wonderful scenes of Spidy web-slinging through downtown Manhattan and I really loved how much Spider-man uses his webbing as both a defensive and offensive weapon. One of my favorite scenes is where Spidy is hunting down The Lizard in the massive sewer system of NYC and he sits in a web sling at a central hub after shooting web strands down all the adjoining tunnels. The design of the Lizard is not completely faithful to the comic book version; especially in the area of his facial structure. The Lizard was never one of my favorite Spidy villains, as I always thought he just looked like a giant lizard in a lab coat – and don’t get me started on those magenta pants! So, the redesign of The Lizard didn't bother me and as a CGI-only character, I thought he was fairly effective.
The story of Spider-man is well told, even if we do get his “origin” story again only ten-years removed from Spider-man (2002). I liked the fact that the filmmakers didn't rush to get Peter out of high school, just so we could get to him shooting “pics” for The Daley Bugle and working for his public nemesis James Jonah Jameson. Captain Stacy filled in nicely as Spidy’s new public menace, without feeling too forced. The ending, which I won’t ruin here, did feel a little hokey, but of all the Marvel superhero characters, Spider-man is one character that can pull off hokey.
For anyone who didn't go to the theater to see The Amazing Spider-man because they didn't want to see another re-telling of his origin, I recommend giving it a rent. This version of Spider-man offers enough new insights into the character’s past that the first film didn't that I think it will keep you interested enough to get to the good stuff. The good stuff, by-the-way, is very good indeed!
TECHNICAL: Acting – 10 Directing – 9 Cinematography – 9 Script – 9 Special Effects – 10
VISCERAL: Visual – 10 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 9 Emotional – 10 Involvement – 10
TOTAL - 95