By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 7 out of 10
After a widely despised existence from conception to post-production, The Amazing Spider-Man ends up being a faithful and surprisingly enjoyable re-imagining of the franchise that Sam Raimi has defined in the last decade. A strong cast, streamlined plot and pure summer popcorn enjoyment all come together to make one of the better movies in 2012, although it is very unlikely that this film will be as widely loved and revered as the original trilogy due to the redundant plot.
The film tells the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), who, after being bitten by a genetically enhanced spider, gains abilities such as super-strength and the power to wall-climb. He takes on the moniker of Spider-Man while starting a relationship with Gwyn Stacy (Emma Stone), daughter of NYPD Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary). Meanwhile, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) becomes “The Lizard” after experimenting with a serum that Peter’s father helped develop.
The first Spider-Man trilogy derailed after the third installment tried to squeeze two films worth of material into one two-hour picture. After a massive dispute between Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire and Kristen Dunst, the studio decided to move on and start the franchise over again. I will admit that I have been one of the many that were highly critical of Columbia rebooting the Spider-Man franchise, although the recent track record of reboots has seemed to work, as the Batman and X-Men series have been re-imagined to a high degree of success. But to mess with the fabric of such a strong series that also happens to include one of the best super hero movies ever (Spider-Man 2), going back to square one didn’t seem to be a smart move.
And immediately, that is the primary problem of The Amazing Spider-Man. It feels like we’ve seen this movie before. Peter gets bitten by the spider, gains powers, his Uncle Ben gets shot, Spider-Man gets chased by the police…unitard joke there…web joke here…villain comes in…and curtains. That is a crude and mostly satirized way to describe the main plot, but the lack of originality hurts this film. This makes the first act of the film very slow and the film takes a while to really get up to speed, but luckily the second and third acts more than make up for the lack of originality that we get early on.
A lot of attention has been paid to whether or not Garfield would be able to match Maguire’s performance as Spider-Man. I find that to be a very difficult argument to make, unlike James Bond or Batman, Garfield and Maguire are the only two actors to ever done the Spidey outfit and they both bring their own pieces to the table; whereas Maguire was more of a complete nerd in the film, Garfield is socially awkward as well as incredibly smart. Director Marc Webb also decided to take a different route towards the development of Parker as a super-hero, specifically in how he tackles the way that Parker reacts to his Uncle’s murder. It was definitely an interesting choice and this also was a very wise way to tackle a very complicated plot line, separating The Amazing Spider-Man from the original trilogy and doing so in a very realistic and acceptable level.
Parker’s relationship with Gwyn defines the film and seeing Stone and Garfield pull it off was easily the most enjoyable part of the film. Stone blows Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance as Stacy in Spider-Man 3 out of the water, as her chemistry with Garfield is prevalent throughout. Simply put, these two actors go well together. Gwyn ends up having a very rounded character, which helps later on in the film when everything starts to go down the drain and she becomes a major player in the climax. As Parker becomes Spider-Man he brings Stacy in on his secret identity, which I thought was a major move to make and ended up working well instead of fizzling out, mostly due to the chemistry between the two characters.
Ifans is a moderate villain – he’s no Joker but he’s not as bad as some of the villains we’ve seen over the last few years (I’m looking at you, Dr. Hector Hammond from Green Lantern). The best move in this film was directly tying Peter to Connors through his father, bringing in a random villain with absolutely no directive would have easily been the nail in the coffin for this film. The Lizard himself is nothing sharp to look at, I for one wish that he kept his lab coat on as he is so famous for that look in the comic books and TV series, but as a villain Ifans manages to pull it off. This is the villain that many Spider-Man fans have been speculating would come along for a long time, and fans will be pleased with how the character translates to the big screen.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a visual spectacle, as the film is at its best when the action is at its heaviest. The film is gorgeous, as I viewed the film in 2D and the colors were bright and vibrant. The special effects look great, especially when Spider-Man and The Lizard are slugging it out. The action is not a hindrance in this film whatsoever, as Webb succeeds in procuring a completely different Spider-Man than the original trilogy in how he fights, using much more flexibility and acrobatics to move around than Maguire’s character. Also, Stan Lee’s cameo in this film is probably the best one he has ever had and definitely got the most laughter and even applause during the screening that I attended.
All in all, the film comes close to being “Amazing”, but ultimately falls short simply because we’ve seen this all before. The Amazing Spider-Man is a good film, it is sure to entertain throughout the summer and during its initial release on home media, but I strongly doubt that this film is going to carry any further than that. There is simply not enough new material here to mask the fact that this is the same origin story that we saw in 2002, only with The Lizard as the villain instead of the Green Goblin. A sequel, which has already been announced, can be the difference maker in ensuring that this film turns into a series, but for now, The Amazing Spider-Man is a great summer movie that ranks among the best so far this year, but lacks the staying power that the original trilogy had.
Also, the film brings up a great deal of telling “The Untold Story” of Peter Parker, despite the fact that most of the story has already been told before. Most of this comes to the fact of why Peter’s parents left, which we don’t learn. A post-credit scene (not-surprising) gives a possible lead towards a much darker and deeper revelation about Peter’s parents but for the most part we learn a bit in the beginning and end about Peter’s parents but that’s about it.
The Amazing Spider-Man succeeds where many thought that it would completely fail. It tells a great story, mostly due to the two actors headlining the film. Garfield and Stone are great together, as Ifans makes a great villain with a good back story. The action is great, the story is great, Peter Parker is great, if the film only found a way to stay away from “The Untold Story” of Peter Parker’s origin, we might be talking about a new superhero classic on our hands. Definitely check out The Amazing Spider-Man as it is a great summer movie, but for hardcore Spidey fans, you will be pleased and enthralled by this film but you will also wish that there was just a bit less of the road already traveled.