Superhero Summer 2012 rolls on with a new Spider-Man slinging his way across the city. Less than five years after the dreadful Spider-Man 3 and only 10 years removed from the first Spider-Man, the powers that be decided it was time to give the red and blue arachnid a reboot. As soon as The Amazing Spider-Man was announced, fans were crying foul, insisting that it was too soon for a reboot and that this was just an obvious money-making scheme by Marvel. I was part of that majority, but now, I’m seeing things differently. Primarily because The Amazing Spider-Man is really good.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a high school student with a high IQ. He’s bullied at school and doesn’t have the strength to fight back, but that won’t stop him from intervening when another student is being bullied. Peter lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben (Sally Field and Martin Sheen) after his parents were killed when he was a young boy. His father was a scientist working on a way to successfully combine human and animal DNA in hopes of ridding human beings of weakness. One day, Peter pays a visit to the lab of his dad’s old partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), where he is bitten by a genetically altered spider.
Soon after, Peter finds himself with heightened senses and the unusual ability to cling to walls. When his Uncle Ben is killed (not a spoiler, Uncle Ben always dies; that’s a rule), Peter resolves to use his new powers to find the killer. But Peter soon must give up his quest when a threat to the city emerges in the form of Dr. Connors, who has injected himself with his own experiment, transforming him into The Lizard. On the run as a vigilante, Spider-Man must stop Connors before he unleashes a toxin all over New York City, which will turn everyone into lizards as well.
The Amazing Spider-Man has been advertised as a “darker” version of Peter’s origin, but I think that may be a misnomer. There is more realism to be found in this film compared to the first Spider-Man, with more moments of authenticity sprinkled throughout. In the first film, I always felt that Peter got used to his powers a little too quickly. In The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter becomes a one-man wrecking crew when his powers first show up. He inadvertently beats up a subway car full of people after accidentally ripping a woman’s shirt off; he destroys his bathroom just by touching things; and when he types on his laptop, the keys stick to his fingers. I’ve always felt the story of Spider-Man was an allegory for going through puberty, and I think this film captures that with Peter getting used to his new body. Things are happening that haven’t happened to him before, and he’s not sure how to deal with them.
There are more genuine moments to be found in Peter’s relationship with the beautiful and intelligent Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Despite the fact that Garfield is 28 and Stone is 23, the two are still convincing that they could be in high school. Garfield is gawky and lanky, and he’ll have to be well into his 40s before his face stops looking boyish. He carries himself in the age-appropriate way, and he perfectly matches the clumsy speech patterns of a “nerd” trying to talk to a pretty girl. Stone is great as blonde bombshell Gwen, particularly when she’s playing off of Garfield. Their chemistry is undeniable, and in several scenes, you’ll be sure you’re watching a romantic film.
For those passive Spider-Man fans, you may be wondering where Mary-Jane Watson is in all of this. She’s absent in this film, replaced by Gwen, who many comic fans will argue is Peter’s real true love. From a film standpoint, audiences will love Gwen. Mary-Jane was always a damsel in distress, an object for Spider-Man to rescue time and again. Gwen is strong female character, who is just as courageous as Peter. She even boasts that she’s a better science student than Peter (she is the head intern for Dr. Connors). There’s only one scene where Gwen approaches becoming a damsel in distress, but she proves that she wasn’t willing to go without a fight.
Director Marc Webb (seriously, the guy who directed this movie’s last name is Webb), who has only directed (500) Days of Summer in the past, does a very good job with his first action blockbuster. There are times when the action gets away from him and he loses grip of the tone, but overall, he was able to construct an exciting film with sweet, romantic elements. The only sequence of the film I truly disliked was when Peter first dons the red and blue spandex suit and starts searching for his uncle’s killer. We get the impression that Peter is on a serious hunt to bring the killer to justice, but the writers took this opportunity to have Spider-Man become a wise-cracking joker who likes to humiliate car thieves. This is played up for laughs, but it’s uncharacteristic of Peter and feels out of place. The humor in The Amazing Spider-Man is found in the scenes when he is first discovering his powers and he keeps destroying things around him. This comedy blends smoothly with the overall plot and thus works better than outright jokes.
The Amazing Spider-Man provides justification that a new Spider-Man film was, in fact, necessary. The amount of fun you have watching it is proof of that sentiment. After Spider-Man 3, it was clear that a change was needed. If you need any evidence of that, please click these links. What The Amazing Spider-Man provides is a clean slate for a new artist to paint on, and Marc Webb is a fine candidate. Both Garfield and Stone are improvements on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, providing unmatched chemistry and great performances. This Spider-Man may not be amazing, but it’s a very good film, with dashes of greatness. The future is bright for this franchise.
My Rating: (7.5/10)