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The Amazing Spider-Man Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

Put simply, Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man is an entertaining superhero movie, and if that’s what you’re looking for during the sweltering summer months, you’ll get your money’s worth. Of course, the film has the added burden of proving to audience that its necessary to reboot the Spidey series just a decade after Sam Raimi first unleashed him on the world. In the respect, it fails—origin stories in general are just so played out. Beyond that, the film makes very few wrong moves. There aren’t really any standout moments or scenes, but that’s acceptable when, by the end of the film, you’ve got a big smile draped across your face.

The film opens with a bit of new material: Enigmatic scientist Richard Parker, father of Peter, gets his study trashed one stormy night, so he packs up a few essentials and delivers his son to the safekeeping of Ben and May Parker (Martin Sheen and Sally Field), Peter’s aunt and uncle.

Fast forward a dozen years or more, and Peter (Andrew Garfield) is the picked-on high-schooler we all know. Hopelessly, but silently, in love with the brilliant and beautiful Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), Peter spends most of his time taking photographs, skateboarding, and trying not to get beat up. And though he loves his aunt and uncle a great deal, his father is never far from his mind—especially when he stumbles upon the man’s briefcase in the basement and notices some clearly secret documents hidden inside. The search to find out what they mean leads him to Oscorp Industries and Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s friend and colleague and a leader researcher on what’s called cross-species genetics, which basically involves combining the genetic material of different organisms to help combat certain weaknesses in humans.

Peter becomes Connors’ right-hand man after he cracks a long-dormant code in Connors’ theory. This leads to the first bit of animal testing, but Peter’s life is quickly thrown for a loop when he’s bitten by some kind of spider in the lab. Later that night, he wakes up on the subway to quite a shock—his senses are extra honed-in, his hands are incredibly sticky, and he’s able to fight back like never before. Might be something to do with that spider…

The Richard Parker stuff, frankly, doesn’t have nearly as much to do with the film as the marketing materials would lead you to believe. This is ultimately the story of a young man learning an important lesson about power and responsibility, and when one puts on the hat of objectivity, The Amazing Spider-Man tells this story quite well. All of it—Uncle Ben’s death, Peter’s transformation, the familiar love complications—is compelling in its own right, and some of it is better-handled than Raimi’s Spider-Man.

The biggest knock against the film is its sometimes sluggish pace, which will cause a few impatient viewers to start checking their watches during the film’s middle third. And during the finale, it seems the screenwriters (Zodiac‘s James Vanderbilt, the original trilogy’s Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves of the Harry Potter franchise) all swallowed stupid pills. Though the action looks great, the suspense we’re supposed to feel is over whether the giant cloud that covers New York will be blue (good) or green (bad). I knocked The Avengers for mumbo-jumbo like this, and it only seems fair to point it out in The Amazing Spider-Man, as well.

Webb does establish a nice tone to the film’s quieter moments, and the (500) Days of Summer director gets the Peter-Gwen romance just right. Andrew Garfield gives a bit of a weird performance; His Peter is never clearly defined, and he definitely oversells his character’s nerdy sense of aloofness. But he and Emma Stone (who’s great) have tremendous chemistry and are a pairing I’d be more than happy to watch again in the film’s inevitable sequel.

These filmmakers had the unenviable job of working on a big, expensive project that much of the public thought was simply a dumb cash grab. And really, it is, but that doesn’t mean one should ignore the merits of a generally successful summer action movie. The Amazing Spider-Man does exactly what it promises and, for the most part, exactly what it needs to. It re-establishes the relationships this incarnation of Spider-Man has with those around him for a new decade. It shows how the character came into his own, both as a superhero and a young man. And it provides action and thrills in both an artful and a commercially-viable way. For that, I applaud them. I went into The Amazing Spider-Man incredibly skeptical, but both Webb and his famous web slinger won me over.

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