" All I ask for with a movie like this is to be taken to a different world where the laws of gravity and physics matter less than the law of creativity, and The Amazing Spider-Man does just that. "
Director: Marc Webb
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Tagline: The untold story begins.
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, was left to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero. Spidey ensues.MY TAKE
As a child growing up in the 80s, I was fortunate that my imagination was not burdened by as many technological trappings that plague kids today. Sure, I had my Atari and Nintendo, but beyond that I had a group of creative friends and a few backyards that became various universes. And while I was blessed to have many real heroes in my life, I still had a fascination for a few superheroes that weren’t limited by the laws of gravity and physics. Batman and Spider-Man were always my favorites, and I may or may not have had the footie pajamas to prove it.
That sense of wonder didn’t end as a child. The magic of the movies can still create a bond with those memories of old when it’s done right. On one hand, Christopher Nolan has found a way to expertly filter the Batman universe through the perspective of my adult mind. On the other hand, my inner child still relates to a character like Spider-Man. Not only did I love the fact that he was just a geeky kid who stood up to bullies, but let’s be honest – his mask is awesome.
But, like many, I was skeptical about a new franchise so soon after the Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire incarnation. Those films had their flaws (particularly Kirsten Dunst and the lack of any semblance of chemistry between her and Maguire), but the first two were highly enjoyable. Was a reboot necessary? Was it needed this soon?
Then I thought about Maguire’s stupid disco dancing in Spider-Man 3 and I began to think, “You know what, why not? Let’s give somebody else a shot at this.” That thought and a couple of promising trailers later, and I was a little more on board. Now I had to be sold.
Consider the sell complete.
Sure, this is familiar territory. So what? Director Marc Webb has found a way to take a story most of us already know and put a fresh spin on it. I have many friends who will probably call me a traitor for this, but I loved Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. In fact, I think he’s even more believable than the aforementioned Maguire. He creates a likable, relatable character who is as awkward with the ladies as most of us guys were in high school, and he gives Spider-Man just enough sense of humor without stepping over the line into cheesiness. The scene where he “cowers” at a small knife demonstrates what I mean.
We also get a better glimpse at just how intelligent he is. For example, we see that Peter’s web-shooting ability is his own creation, as it was originally presented in the comics.
Garfield’s chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is handled with both believability and subtlety. I couldn’t care less about the absence of Mary Jane. In the comics, Gwen was Spidey’s first love, and Ms. Stone portrays her with just the right combination of intelligence and sass.
Rhys Ifans is also a stand-out as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard. He takes a character that isn’t as widely beloved as others in the Spider-Man universe, and he creates a villain that is downright menacing at times and sympathetic at others. We get more than just a one-note bad guy with little more than world domination as his goal. Ifans delivers a character struggling with severe inner conflict who has both evil and redemption at his fingertips.
With a budget estimated at more than $200 million, the cinematography and action sequences are as beautiful as you would expect, providing the excitement and wonder that kids and adults alike desire when sitting down to be taken into a different world. And while the film hits all the right adventurous notes; it’s the relationships and the actors who develop them that give the film its heart.
Call me sappy, but I couldn’t help but feel the film’s climax is as heroic as it is thrilling. Not only was I immersed in what was happening on screen, but I was briefly transported to my backyard when burdens were light, stress was low, and imagination was high.
Complain about reboots if you want. Whine about inconsistencies with the original comic if it makes you feel better. As for me, that stuff never bothered me as a child, and it’s not something that bothers me now. All I ask for with a movie like this is to be taken to a different world where the laws of gravity and physics matter less than the law of creativity, and The Amazing Spider-Man does just that.
Batman is still my all-time favorite superhero, but Spider-Man is close behind. Even if I don’t still have the footie pajamas to prove it.
Honestly, I don’t! But I will take the mask…
ODDS & ENDS
- Dr. Curt Connors appeared in the original Sam Raimi films (portrayed by Dylan Baker), but this is his first appearance as The Lizard.
- J.K. Simmons’ performance as J. Jonah Jameson is the biggest component missing from this film that was in the previous versions. The character was in the original script but was removed because of the focus on Peter in high school.
- Denis Leary is hilarious as Captain George Stacy.
- Emma Stone is in Gangster Squad with Josh Brolin who is in Hollow Man with Kevin Costner.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, The Amazing Spider-Man contains only a couple of mild obscenities (d**n, h*ll, a**) and a couple of uses of the Lord's name in vain. This is fairly safe for the whole family and wouldn't have trouble meeting mama's approval.