Editor’s Notes: For an additional perspective on The Amazing Spider-Man, check out Umar Shameem’s review.
One can’t discuss The Amazing Spider-Man without putting it into the proper context. In a cinematic climate where franchises rule the year and superhero adaptations rule the franchises, we are starting to see an increasing amount of franchise reboots. Batman was retooled multiple times until they finally got it right. The Hulk was revisited once and then again in The Avengers. Now comes Spider-Man Redux, arriving five years removed from Sam Raimi’s Spidey flicks, which, for a five-year span, ruled the Franchise World. Raimi delivered two modern classics and one overambitious dud, but there nevertheless remains a luster on those films that is challenging to eclipse.
…a sparkling new franchise-in-the-making and the most wholly engaging of this summer’s blockbuster hero spectacles.
It is with great respect and fond memory of that great original Spider-Man franchise that I submit that The Amazing Spider-Man, in very different ways, is every bit its equal, a sparkling new franchise-in-the-making and the most wholly engaging of this summer’s blockbuster hero spectacles. Director Marc Webb’s origin story – like Raimi’s first film from 2002 – is not a perfect film, but that’s sort of the perfect reflection of its very imperfect adolescent hero, and it sets the tone for the franchise to come better than any origin film in recent memory. For this version of Spidey, it truly feels like the best is yet to come.
Andrew Garfield takes on the Peter Parker role, not referencing Tobey Maguire’s portrayal in any way, and establishing his own singular presence as the iconic hero – young and feeble but also angry and defiant in the face of a mysterious past and unexpected arachno-powers. Abandoned by his parents at a young age thanks to the secretive demands of his father’s work, Peter was raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt Mae (Sally Field), who raise him as their own and do a good job of instilling good old-fashioned values into the boy. Yet still Peter is haunted by the mystery of his now-dead father (played in flashbacks by Campbell Scott) – who he really was, what he really did. His curiosity leads him to the Oscorp laboratories, where he meets his father’s former partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), and where he inadvertently stumbles upon the fateful spider bite that will define his future.
Garfield is categorically perfect as Parker, burying a deep-seated fury underneath his earnest do-gooder surface nature. He’s a nerd, sure, but in a more natural manner, spurned by bullies but also full of infectious joy that is buoyed by Stone’s luminous Gwen Stacy, another of the actress’ irresistible performances.
The ever-present family dynamic in the Spider-Man origin is, oddly, at once thinner and yet more pivotal than it was in Raimi’s films, with the fatherly presence looming over the proceedings with the promise of deeper impact on subsequent films. At the same time, Peter’s relationships with Uncle Ben and Aunt Mae, while serving their intended purpose, don’t make the kind of distinct impression one might expect (especially with Field, who is essentially window dressing). Nevertheless, relationships become the core engine that powers the film’s drama. Most prominent, of course, is Peter’s relationship with classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), which vibrates with irresistible chemistry from the moment their eyes meet. His interactions with NYPD Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) – aka Gwen’s disapproving father – provide staunch friction that further fuels Peter’s rebellion. And his relationship with one-armed scientist Connors is what develops the film’s super-conflict. Peter discovers an alteration to Connors’ fledgling long-term experiment – using reptilian DNA to give humans the ability to regenerate limbs. The alteration is successful to a fault, giving rise to supervillain The Lizard. Most powerful is how The Lizard is more an unconscious alter-ego for the otherwise genial do-gooder Connors, and how the villain was essentially created by our hero, adding an extra kink to the Spidey mantra, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Responsibility becomes the story’s central thrust, as Peter must not only neutralize the monster he helped create, but also harness his powers for the greater good rather than functioning as a selfish vigilante.
Garfield is categorically perfect as Parker, burying a deep-seated fury underneath his earnest do-gooder surface nature. He’s a nerd, sure, but in a more natural manner, spurned by bullies but also full of infectious joy that is buoyed by Stone’s luminous Gwen Stacy, another of the actress’ irresistible performances. Word is that Garfield and Stone are a real-life couple, and we see the sparks form around them every second they share the screen.
Of course, the requisite visual bombast is on display here, but what drives The Amazing Spider-Man is the wrenching emotion that stirs inside its titular protagonist. Spidey has always been the most introspective of all the iconic costumed heroes, and the indie-emo treatment by director Webb (whose vibrant and creative (500) Days of Summer was an unlikely perfect try-out for this job) adds the ideal hook to turn this story away from its past incarnation and into intriguing new cinematic territory. More than any other movie in this summer of 2012, I can’t wait to see what happens next for this friendly neighborhood hero.
[notification type=”star”]81/100 ~ GREAT. The Amazing Spider-Man is one of the most successful superhero reboots ever, and is the most intriguing new superhero franchise in the summer of 2012.[/notification]