The Amazing Spider-Man
After three successful movies from director Sam Raimi (though just two were great), Spider-Man has been rebooted and now the fourth film of the franchise, The Amazing Spider-Man has hit theaters. This time around the film is led by Andrew Garfield (Never Let Me Go, The Social Network), Emma Stone (Easy A, The Help), Rhys Ifans (Anonymous, Notting Hill), and Denis Leary (TV’s Rescue Me, The Thomas Crown Affair). This reboot was directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer).
The Amazing Spider-Man begins with Peter Parker (Garfield) living the regular high school life. Though not the most popular in his class, his classmates still recognize him though sometimes take advantage of him when it comes to his photography skills. After an incident at the school, Peter begins associating with Gwen Stacey (Stone) and the two begin to hit it off quite well. Back at home, while helping out his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) clean the basement, Peter comes across a briefcase belonging to his father who, with his mother, left Peter when he was younger. Peter finds some confidential papers which he tries to decipher and leads him to Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans) who use to work with Peter’s father. Peter learns that the two had been working on cross-species transformation to help improve human and animal growth. Peter’s first time around the offices of Dr. Connors also leads to him getting bitten by a certain kind of spider which gives him more power than he imagined. As problems at home grow along with the growth of Dr. Connors alter ego The Lizard, Peter transforms into the neighborhood webslinger Spider-Man in hopes of saving the day. Though not everyone enjoys Spider-Man’s routines as the police force, headed by Gwen’s dad (Leary), want him behind bars just as much as any other criminal Spider-Man stops.
This version of Spider-Man is truly a fantastic piece of film. Many became concerned when the first trailer came out that it was trying too hard to take the “dark” story approach and act in the same vein as The Dark Knight had. While there are some darker elements in this film compared to Raimi’s trilogy, the element is not overdone and finds a way to sustain itself. What was surprisingly impressive was the fact that even with a darker tone, the film still found time for accurate and very amusing humorous moments. This balance between the feels of the film gives it a light that helps it stand out against other blockbusters.
When it comes to story, the film is just as impressive. Putting Spider-Man in high school and leaving him there throughout the film (and most likely in the next one) allows this film to explore more of Peter’s story, particularly his smarts. Speaking of smarts, the way this film approaches the true intelligence Peter has completely outdoes the way the character had been approached originally. Instead of throwing the newspaper The Daily Bugle into the picture this time, it was nice to see little snippets of the Peter Parker that would eventually come around as he grows up. This take is especially noticed in his couple, brief moments behind the still camera. Allowing him to be in high school also adds in more comedic moments while also showing the restraints he has still being at home and trying to be the effective superhero he wants to be.
The plot of the film is also well put together. Although it took until about an hour into the film to pick up on Peter’s time as Spider-Man, this allowed for strong character development which was stronger than some other blockbusters. Not only did the film make the Peter and Gwen relationship more effective in this first hour, this take on the plot also allowed viewers to get a strong look at the downfall that was beginning with Dr. Connors. This take on story can be contributed to director Webb’s already strong approach in (500) Days of Summer. Once the film does take on the role of following Peter as Spider-Man, it does a good job mixing in his time as a hero and also one that is wanted by the police. Neither of those aspects takes up too much time and shows the struggle, even still going into the next film, of what Peter will have to face as Spider-Man in a town as big as New York City. The final battle scene also finds time to still communicate the story while not falling into an overdone action event.
When the story is all finally told it is made pretty clear that this film is not the same as Raimi’s first film in his trilogy. Sure, there are a couple of the same elements in play at the beginning but they have to be there because of Spider-Man’s origins. The way these elements are approached are done in a much different light than the one in the 2002 film that the similarities are miniscule. Once the film really takes off, if one were to say that this version of Spider-Man was the same as Raimi’s first than there are serious issues at play when they try to find differences between any films. The fact that this film feels and is so much different from Raimi’s trilogy is good because it allows this series to go on its own merits and be something truly different, but still as innovative, from Raimi’s.
The effects and the way the film is shot this time around are just as impressive if not a little bit more. The first-person perspective from Peter as he is swinging around town is truly breathtaking, adding another fun element to the film. Spider-Man’s outfit this time around is much more slick and more enjoyable to see swinging around town. The transition from unlimited webbing to Peter having web shooters was another good one and the webbing looked just as impressive. With this change, it also opened up new problems for Peter which were communicated well. When it comes to the 3D, shooting in the dimension works well adding an impressive amount of depth and allowing more exploration with Spider-Man. It was nice to see the element used for depth instead of for more of the “in your face” 3D which it could have easily happened.
The score this time around, composed by James Horner, leaves quite an impact similar to the original trilogy’s. From the opening scenes, the actions sequences, and even just between pieces of dialogue, the music fits in perfectly making the experience more rewarding.
None of the high power of this film could have been effective without the great performances at hand. Martin Sheen and Sally Field, who plays Peter’s Aunt May, are both able to stand out and make an impact in their smaller roles. Rhys Ifans makes a good transition as Dr. Connors and The Lizard making the menace a good scare to the city while also dealing with the psychological aspects of Connors’ situation well. Denis Leary, who is a bit underused, still makes a solid impact. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are the true stars here. Already respected actors in their own merits, both of these actors should truly skyrocket after this film. The chemistry the two of them share really keeps the film going and the chemistry is much stronger than that of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Garfield, in particular, grasps every element of Peter Parker well and justifies completely rebooting the character based off his performance. For both actors, it is unsure where their role would rank compared to the rest of the ones they have had, but they are definitely near the top.
The Amazing Spider-Man proves that the series will live on quite well under new direction and new leads. This film sets off the series to take off in an even better direction that could make this series truly special and possibly even better than Raimi’s as this one ranks up there with the first two. Still not sure if the film ranks as the top film of the year, but as far as big blockbusters go this year it is the best and The Dark Knight Rises is going to have some competition.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
Runtime: 136 minutes
(ratings on a 4-star scale)