Director: Marc Webb
Writer: James Vanderbilt (screenplay & story), Alvin Sargent (screenplay), Steve Kloves (screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book), Steve Ditko (screenplay)
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary
This reboot of the comic book character sees Peter Parker explore the disappearance of his parents, which leads him to his father’s former partner, Dr. Curt Connors.
It’s been five years since we last saw Spider-Man on the big screen with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. Originally, The Amazing Spider-Man started out as Spider-Man 4 with Raimi and Toby Maguire set to return, but Sony eventually scrapped those plans and instead opted for this reboot which would is directed by Marc Webb and stars Andrew Garfield as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Would their decision to reboot the character and start over just five years after the last film pay off?
After watching the new rebooted Spider-Man, I’d have to say that Sony did a smart move to reboot the character. They made a really good film, albeit one not without flaws and one with many oddities to nitpick.
Now with this film being a reboot, one of the first complaints that I recall having was that this movie would be yet another origin story. How much of a retelling of Spider-Man’s origins would we see after already having gone through with the origins in 2001’s Spider-Man? The manner in which writer James Vanderbilt tackled this issue was the inclusion of Peter’s parents into the story, which was something never taken into account in the Sam Raimi trilogy. The way Vanderbilt wrote them into this film sets up an interesting sub-plot that looks to figure more prominently in the planned sequel, with the mystery of their death and Richard Parker’s work at Oscorp not yet being fully revealed. It is also through their inclusion that the film’s tone is established as a slightly darker film, while keeping true with the spirit of the comic book.
To play the two leads of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy—instead of Mary Jane—we were given Andrew Garfield, whose most prominent role to date was as Eduardo Saverin in 2010’s The Social Network, and Emma Stone who made her mark in Hollywood as a red head despite being a a natural blonde. The two were great on screen, with a natural chemistry between the two, which would eventually lead to them becoming a real-life couple.
Andrew Garfield in particular gives an amazing performance as Peter Parker, portraying the emotional, humorous and shy aspects of his character. Emma Stone on the other hand—whose performance I did enjoy—felt like she was playing herself (once again) more than playing the character of Gwen Stacy. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing since there is charm in how Emma Stone carries herself, but it just felt like she was Emma Stone in the movie and not Gwen Stacy.
Also, new actors playing roles we’re already familiar with are Martin Sheen and Sally Field, who play Ben and May Parker respectively. The way their characters are tackled in this reboot feels entirely refreshing. Martin Sheen and Sally Field make the characters their own and both have memorable moments in the movie thanks to their brilliant performances. Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben in particular is given more than enough screen time to give audiences the proper understanding of just how much of an impact he’s had on Peter’s life as his surrogate father.
My only complaint with what this film decided to do with this version of Uncle Ben is not having him say the iconic line “with great power comes great responsibility.” That is the one iconic line that essentially defines Spider-Man, both as a character and as a superhero, and yet they decided to instead use a variation of it that is completely forgettable. I was incredibly disappointed by this change, and though I understand that they want this series of Spider-Man films to be its own thing, you just absolutely cannot tell a Spider-Man story without uttering that line.
Then there’s Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curtis Connors, a.k.a The Lizard, as the film’s antagonist and villain. Needless to say, this was an interesting choice for the movie. Normally, one would expect one of Spider-Man’s more prominent villains to be his first adversary in a reboot, so when it was announced that Lizard was the villain I was left a bit skeptical. Though I liked the casting of Rhys Ifans following his incredibly performance in Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous, I was left wondering what they could do with Lizard. What they did do was more than I expected. On the Connors side of his character, he’s already a sympathetic character in that he’s just an idealistic scientist looking to cure the world of imperfections, including regenerating his amputated arm. It’s through that idealistic search that we see him fall down a dark path to becoming the Lizard.
The Lizard himself was beautifully re-designed from what I’m more familiar with. Instead of resembling a humanoid creature with a crocodile’s head, this version of the Lizard looks like more of a cross genetic mutation of a man and a reptile. Another aspect I liked was that they changed the Lizard from simply being a mindless rampaging beast to being a sort of Hyde to Connors’ Jekyl. This dual personality that’s developed from his serum also serves another purpose in establishing a possible side effect to the serum he helped develop to help the dying Norman Osbourne that is referenced in this movie. As for action sequences, what Marc Webb does using the Lizard against Spider-Man is incredibly filmed.
Finally there’s Denis Leary as Captain Stacy. I really liked Leary in the movie and felt he provided the right amount of antagonism to Peter as a law enforcer. The only problem I had with the character was how little he was used in the movie. I felt as if they could have introduced him much earlier into the movie and built up the tension between him and Peter over the police having yet to capture Uncle Ben’s murderer. Denis Leary still gives a good performance, but I felt he was underused.
Like I stated earlier, though, The Amazing Spider-Man is not a movie without its fair share of faults. Now some of you may take this as me being nitpicky, but there are numerous oddities in the movie that just didn’t make sense at all, no matter how you try to explain them. There are minor complaints and there are major ones, and I’ll highlight what was the biggest problem I had, which is the amount of times Spider-Man removes his mask. As much as Sony is trying to market Andrew Garfield as the star of the film and needing his face on screen as much as possible, it just became annoying with the amount of times his mask gets removed. Essentially by doing this, the movie becomes more of a Peter Parker movie than a Spider-Man movie, which took away from the feeling of it being a superhero film.
Lastly, the only other aspect of this movie that needs to be addressed is the use of 3D. This is by far the best superhero film in 3D because director Marc Webb actually finds a use for it. Particularly, the first-person web-swinging perspective stands out as among the film’s other sequences as the ones that use the addition most effectively.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is a strong entry into a new series of Spider-Man films held together by strong direction and great performances. Marc Webb spins together a strong follow-up to his feature length debut in 500 Days of Summer and Andrew Garfield establishes himself as a bonafide Hollywood star. Though not as good as Marvel’s The Avengers, this nonetheless adds another strong comic book film to this summer and I look forward to seeing how the series progresses.
GO Rating: 3.5/5