What You Need to Know:
Marc Webb reboots Sony Studios’ Spider-man franchise. British actor Andrew Garfield (Social Network) plays the titular Spider-Man and his nerdy alter-ego, Peter Parker. Emma Stone (The Help, Superbad) is Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s first love interest from the comic books. Rhys Ifans (Anonymous, The Replacements) plays scientist/mentor, Curt Connors, who also becomes the villainous Lizard. This film establishes the origin of Spider-man.
What I Thought:
Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man suffers from the reboot syndrome currently plaguing Hollywood, but standing on its own merits, it is an enjoyable superhero film. Some have tauted this as a superhero romance movie, but the romance kicks and starts throughout the course of the traditional superhero origin. The film isn’t perfect, but the performance from Andrew Garfield and some great character moments in the script make this film shine on its own.
This reboot film follows the standard origin format. Protagonist gains powers. Tragic event sets them toward a quest for justice. Fun and games while the protagonist establishes himself as a hero and gets control of his abilities. Antagonist arises to counter hero. Hero fights villain. Hero beats villain. Pretty basic, right? Add in some of the elements that made the 2002 film a success such as a romance that drives the story equally and a city that comes to the rescue. It’s not surprising that this story is not surprising, but there are little hints of novelty.
The relationship between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker starts strong enough. The chemistry between actors Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield goes a long way to sell the awkward relationship between the romantic leads. So much of both characters is said by their silences in a scene that sets the ground for a tragic event. But as we find ourselves barrelling into the second act, the relationship between the duo seems to jump from milestone to milestone. By the end of the film, I am left questioning Peter’s motivations in the relationship.
One of the major downfalls of the movie was telegraphed in very early trailers. Quick cuts to Spider-Man’s POV as he swings through the city are jarring. There are small plot holes toward the end of the film as the threat goes citywide. The design of Curt Connors as the Lizard is a bit disappointing. It does have an evolution over the course the film that ranges from Ditko’s original to slightly past Ditko’s original. The final stage of the Lizard seems like a cross between a velociraptor and the Goomba’s from the ill-conceived Super Mario Bros. movie. Connors motivation toward villainy is also only hinted at by an article briefly viewed by Peter early in the film.
The saving grace of the film lies firmly in Andrew Garfield’s hands as Peter Parker. While he seems a little too cool at times, he play a shy and awkward nerd when it really matters. Andrew Garfield’s performance is only improved upon by wonderful character moments in the silm. Early in the film, the soft-spoken Parker defends a fellow victim of Flash Thompson’s torment in which he’s met with violent retribution. Another moment glimpsed in some trailers, Spider-man saves a child from a burning car. I won’t give away too much, but it proves Spider-man is an everyman hero. Anyone can be behind that mask, but I’m glad that Andrew Garfield, with all of his talent, is the one behind it now.
As a comic book fan, dedication to the source material is paramount to the success of a superhero movie. The bar has been set high by The Avengers and The Dark Knight, and The Amazing Spider-Man does a fine job in aiming high. Some liberties are taken, of course. No wrestling career for Pete in this new franchise. (Sorry… spoilers.) The importance of OsCorp is upped, but Norman Osborn is only glimpsed in silhouette and mentioned as a loose plot thread for future films. Spidey’s webbing is a product of OsCorp, but Peter develops and designs the web-shooters on his own. Where Tobey Maguire played an old-fashioned Spider-man, Andrew Garfield plays a more modern version of the character. The Spider-man of this film is wise-cracking yet tragic character which, if you flip open a comic today, will be the Spider-man you read.
Was this “retold” story worth retelling only 10 years after the original? The simple answer is “no”. BUT — and that is a Sir Mix-A-Lot sized “but”– is it worth watching? If you are a die-hard fan of Spider-man or didn’t like Sam Raimi’s campier version, I would tell you to absolutely watch it. For others, it isn’t a must see, but you’ll have fun watching the movie. The Amazing Spider-Man hits a lot of the same notes as the Sam Raimi original, but it does it in a subtly different and more modern way. Andrew Garfield’s performance is on par with his work in The Social Network and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and the very least, he is someone to keep an eye out for in future films. The movie isn’t without its faults, but it remains true to the source material. Isn’t that what we want out of our comic book movies? That’s why we loved The Avengers and The Dark Knight. This film doesn’t quite reach that height yet, but it is on its way.