"Amazing Spider-Man" Exceeds Expectations
Country: United States
Release Date: July 4, 2012
· Marc Webb
· Andrew Garfield
· Emma Stone
· Rhys Ifans
· Martin Sheen
· Dennis Leary
Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man
by Eric Deters
Published: July 8, 2012
Going into Marvel’s latest reboot, I was expecting to be disappointed; maybe not by the actual quality of this film, but more that it appeared to dilute the essence of what I came to know as Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield seemed to play Peter Parker as more of a total dick than just a playful nerd with the chance to do good, The Lizard didn’t seem like too interesting of a villain, and the fact that the movie was going to retell Spider-Man’s origin story again but also with the twist that it might’ve not been a coincidence worried me. I’m happy to say that I was worried for nothing.
“The Amazing Spider-Man,” directed by Marc Webb (absurdly appropriate last name), delivers a different take on the origin story of your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (which is a line that’s never actually uttered in the film, along with “with great power comes great responsibility”). The film begins with a young Peter Parker being taken to his Uncle Ben (played marvelously by Martin Sheen, and whose fate is known to virtually everyone with a passing interest in comics or the series in general) under strange circumstances. His home is broken into, and his parents seemed exceedingly and oddly disturbed about certain notes that may have been stolen. We return with Peter in high school (now played by Andrew Garfield), where he eventually (after a bit too much not being a Spider-Man film) “infiltrates” OsCorp, meets and discovers his ties to Doctor Curt Connors (played by Rhys Ifans, who eventually becomes The Lizard, the villain of this piece), and gets bit by that pivotal spider. It takes even longer for him to don the famous get-up and webshooters and alias, but I find it forgivable due to the film’s focus on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and her father Captain George Stacy (Dennis Leary). Both characters make for smart and thrilling additions to the dynamic of this film, as Captain Stacy has to balance his dislike of Spider-Man against protecting the people of Manhattan from The Lizard. Gwen’s death is also a foregone conclusion at some point in this reboot series, but it is not my prerogative to say whether that happens now or later.
The problem I have with the story is that, despite how much fun I had, it spends far too much time retreading the origin story we’ve seen Peter Parker deal with not a decade ago in the Tobey Maguire film. It was a welcome surprise seeing Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, but his death had much more poignancy ten years ago. It took about an hour for the film to truly feel like a Spider-Man story, and that’s simply too much time to devote to a story we’ve not only seen told before (and in some ways better), but one that’s not all that complex or complicated.
While the individual performances were stellar overall, I did take issue with the dialogue and direction of most of Peter and Gwen’s scenes, which were arguably the most important for Gwen’s character, but probably not for Parker. I’m led to believe that Garfield and Stone are in a relationship outside of the film, which makes me feel odd saying they don’t have good chemistry on-screen, but every time they encountered one another, it was just awkward. Not funny awkward, mind you, just strange awkward. I feel like the fault must lie with the writing, because I don’t see how it could stem from any other side of production.
Visually, the film looks pretty great, but it doesn’t stand up to the excellence and excitement that was Marvel’s other summer blockbuster. I went in believing that the Lizard would look silly (he’s just too much like the Goombas from the “Super Mario Bros.” movie), but his design was surprisingly menacing and he posed a pretty serious physical challenge for Spider-Man to conquer. Manhattan still looks as good as ever (take that as you will), and Spidey swings around like a true champ when he gets going. I don’t recall anything truly excellent on the audio side, but it was certainly no less than a competent production.
Spider-Man is one of my favorite comic book heroes, and clearly a very popular film character, so I’m proud of the intriguing and straight-up fun reboot Marvel has delivered for us. I didn’t know if it would be possible that “The Amazing Spider-Man” could be a great movie if “The Avengers” was already so damn fantastic, but Marvel struck gold; twice.