The Amazing Spider-Man Review
by Daniel Rester
Marvel’s web-slinging hero is swinging back into action with The Amazing Spider-Man, a reboot film of the origins of the character. Though Spidey made his major debut on film only ten years ago with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, director Marc Webb thinks he can bring something new to the character not explored before. So has he, or is this just déjà vu?
This update has much of the same story material as Raimi’s first, but with a few alterations. This version has Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) once again living with his aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen) after his parents die, visiting Oscorp Industries and getting bitten by a strange spider, and turning into the masked hero Spider-Man after his uncle is murdered. Like the other, it mostly deals with how he must learn to accept the responsibility of dealing with his new-found powers.
What is mostly different here is the love interest and the villain. This Spidey flick has Parker falling for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and battling Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), an Oscorp scientist and old friend of Parker’s father whose experiments turn him into The Lizard. Also in this Spider-Man is George Stacy (Denis Leary), Gwen’s father and a police captain who is on Spider-Man’s trail.
Webb’s Spider-Man is decidedly darker in tone than Raimi’s. Webb still finds the wittiness of the hero too, but drops (most of) the cheesiness that was found in much of the humor in the older film. He puts more emphasis on the drama of the character, and shows in more detail how Parker is affected by his parents’ passing. Webb’s version is also reportedly more faithful to the origins story in the comic-books.
Let’s get this out of the way: I do not think a new Spider-Man reboot was necessary after such a short amount of time of being away. Releasing the film now makes viewers draw a lot of comparisons and also makes the movie seem more like a cash-grab. That said, this is still a good film and great for summer escapism.
Webb seems to struggle a bit with the pacing of the film (with a slow beginning, awkward middle, and fast ending), but he and the screenwriters ultimately tell the story well—even if the story isn’t as “untold” as trailers would lead one to believe. The backstory on Parker here is quite strong, and his relationships with both Gwen and Dr. Connors are interesting. The darker and more emotional route also pays off fine. The plot does come with some holes (maybe due to editing), but it is mostly serviceable.
The visual display by Webb is marvelous. The director really knows how to bring the most out in shots, with many wide-angle shots of the city that truly evoke awe. The special effects are also stunning (with a great looking Lizard), aiding the action scenes in being more exciting. Two particular scenes involving a library and then a tower really stand out with the effects. James Horner’s music score also aids the visuals, though some of it just sounds like an imitation of his Titanic themes.
Garfield and Ifans (though his character could have had a much better arc) give the strongest performances in the film, while Sheen brings most of the heart as Uncle Ben. However, both Leary and Field’s talents seem to be wasted here. And then Stone is good but her part feels underwritten. This mix in the acting department is somewhat aggravating, but Garfield mostly holds it all together. The actor has a wide emotional range and is very likable as both Parker and Spidey.
Some feelings of “we’ve seen this before” do arise when watching this new Spider-Man, but Webb does manage to bring some newness in as well–and people coming in completely ignorant to Spider-Man’s story will likely be more satisfied as well. I have a feeling that if the film was fleshed-out a tad more (some people have made complaints of possible cuts) then it could have been great. As is, it is a passable, fun summer film with high-quality visuals and an impressive central performance by Garfield.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.