There’s a solid argument to be made that this is the best “Spider-Man” movie we’ve gotten yet.
I’m not sure that I’m going to be the guy to make it… but it’s immediately obvious to me that the potential is there. I can totally see it.
Spider-Man of the “Amazing” variety has a more serious tone, a great cast, and some fantastic fight scenes. It’s a first-rate summer blockbuster, a top-notch superhero movie, and well worth your ticket dollars and a trip to the theatre.
This incarnation of Spider-Man begins with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as a young boy being brought to stay with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) by his parents, due to the dangerous nature of the research that his father has been doing. Their home had recently been burglarized in an attempt to steal his work, so it’s decided that Peter would be safest at his Aunt and Uncle’s. Of course, tragedy soon befalls his parents, and Peter winds up living with Ben and May permanently and being raised by them.
Flash forward to the high school years, and Peter is a super intelligent, but scrawny teenager with a great sense of right and wrong, but lacking the muscle to stand up for himself. When he discovers some of his father’s work, it leads him to Oscorp and Dr Curt Connors. Connors worked with his father trying to solve scientific issues related to cross species genetics. If humans could be given the regenerative capabilities that lizards have, for example, then amputees like Connors himself could regrow limbs.
While at Oscorp, however, Parker is bitten by a genetically modified spider. Within hours, he’s manifesting super powers akin to being a human spider. A Spider-Man.
If all of this sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is. And to me, that’s one of the major (yet few) drawbacks to “Amazing Spider-Man”. A great deal of time in the film is spent on the origin story, and since the Raimi “Spider-Man” was a mere ten years ago, the origin story doesn’t feel that original. Yes, they put their own spin on things, yes, different actors and actresses are playing the parts, but the broad strokes are still the same: Peter Parker is still an awkward teen, he gets bit by a spider and gains super powers, he spends time sneaking off to develop them, his new strength allows him to stand up to the school bully, his new confidence attracts the attractive girlfriend, Uncle Ben meets with tragic consequences, and a mad-scientist from Oscorp who’s been transformed into a monster threatens the city.
The movie is able to overcome the familiarity with the highest quality production values and a much more serious tone. This is the “darker, edgier” Spider-Man. Not that there aren’t humor beats, there are. But over the long haul, “The Amazing Spider-Man” feels far more serious than its predecessors. Peter pays a price for his choice to be Spider-Man, both emotionally and physically, and the movie seems to spend more time there than prior incarnations chose to.
But it’s also an extremely well made and well acted film. The cast is great. Garfield is an excellent new Peter Parker, and Emma Stone has never looked lovelier than she does as Gwen Stacy. Denis Leary is a nice addition as Captain Stacy, her father, and the cop in charge of all things Spider-Man. Martin Sheen is always welcome in any movie, as far as I’m concerned, and no one is better at projecting empathy than Sally Field. And Rhys Ifans generates enough audience sympathy to make for a well-rounded villain. Together they all give “The Amazing Spider-Man” a high calibre feel to its dramatic segments. This is a cast of heavy hitters, and they help lend the concept - which could be very silly when you think about it – gravitas.
They’re supported by some great, great special effects work and some incredible fight choreography. This Spider-Man features the best fight scenes the character has ever had. He twists and flips and slides and uses his webbing in imaginative ways. It’s the closest thing to how Spider-Man actually fights in the comics that the big screen has ever seen. Of course, the movie also fills its quota of web swinging sequences, and the 3D helps them shine like they never have before.
The biggest knock I had on the movie (aside from the too much “familiar ground” aspect) was the Lizard. As Curt Connors, he was fine. Ifans was great, and his desire to be made whole again was understandable. It made for a well motivated and well set-up adversary. Once he became the Lizard, however, the character design and some of the CGI work was a bit disappointing. He looked more than a little goofy to me on a couple of occasions, and lets just say that his larger “plot” (the one that took his threat to a city-wide level) was poorly conceived.
Still, I had no difficulties in overcoming that as an obstacle to enjoying the movie. It may be a story that’s been told before, but they do tell it very well. Garfield is excellent in the central role, and it will be fun to watch him put his stamp on the character as the inevitable franchise unfolds. There’s tons of action, but it’s supported well by a solid framework of well written characters and dramatic elements. Fans of the character will not be disappointed, nor will fans of movies.