Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

With 5 years separating the final Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, Sony received unabashed grief for their idea to scrap the old and reboot the universe. From every corner of the nerd-verse we heard how this was a terrible idea and was a total waste. This response was rather odd to me considering how much people loved the new Christopher Nolan Batman movies that were created after only 8 years from its previous series. The internet is an odd place that facts and rationales don’t always go over well, but I digress.

The Amazing Spider-Man (TASM) is a retelling of one of the most familiar superhero origin stories we know. Boy gets bit by spider, boy gets powers, boy’s uncle dies, and boy becomes hero. This is so familiar that my mother could probably recite it and I know she has never even seen the Spider-Man movies. With that being the case why even bother telling this story again? Just start with him already performing adventures and get right to the stuff we want to see. I think it was important to take another stab at how Peter Parker came to be. The director, Marc Webb, takes some leeway with Parker/Spider-Man’s origin by modernizing him and making his teen angst rooted in the lack of knowing his parents. Webb is careful not to dismiss the powerful presence that Uncle Ben and Aunt May play in Peter’s life, which was something that I was afraid was going to happen. Parker’s parents are used more as an emotional MacGuffin to get the plot moving. Both Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Fields) bring real depth to their characters. Unlike in Sam Raimi’s interpretation were they felt very campy and like placeholders. When Uncle Ben dies you actually feel a sense of loss for Peter, and you get to see Garfield actually emote! With the culmination of his parental loss we get to the making of a hero.

When Marc Webb, who is most famous for his work on 500 Days of Summer, was selected as the helmer of this reboot I was skeptical. How does a new director go from a quiet anti-romcom to big budget superhero movies. However, it's those emotional quiet moments that Webb really shines. The ability to capture teen awkwardness between Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) was great to see. The onscreen chemistry between the two was a nice relief from the very wooden acting of Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire. I think the amount of thoughtfulness in developing their relationship is what really made it work.

So now that the boy has his powers what does he do with them. Well, he does what Spider-Man is suppose to do...be awesome. The practical web swinging used in the film is stellar. The acrobatics used by the character are really shown off and look pretty flawless. There are a few times where the CGI fails slightly but these are few and far between. When Spider-Man is onscreen his suit shines and so does the action. When he is taking on the Lizard/Kurt Conners (Rhys Ifans) things move very fast but deliberate. The fight scenes are pretty intense and they feel like a battle out of the comics. Spider-Man is constantly making quips while sliding, flipping, and jumping to avoid being defeated. Ifans’s Lizard is my least favorite portion of the movie. I think the CGI was good, but I didn’t think he needed to speak. I think the Lizard is more effective as a wild animal persona. Other than that he was played well. The Lizard’s ultimate plan was pretty lackluster, but so are most plans of evil villains in these comic book movies. Even with something so highly regarded as Batman Begins, the master plan is just silly. This is the nature of comic books being translated to the silver screen.

Overall, TASM is a great ride and is the best Spider-Man movie we have to date. With a great cast headed by Andrew Garfield this is an entry that has emotion, energy, passion, and action. Webb does wonders in breathing new life into the all but familiar character. This year we have seen Marvel’s blockbuster, The Avengers, set the bar pretty damn high. The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t reach that bar but it gets points for trying. For a movie that tons of people didn’t want, TASM manages to not only meet the, unfairly, lowered expectations but far surpass them as well.

Spider-Man is back!

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