At last Marc Webb‘s Spider-Man reboot is finally here. The Amazing Spider-Man is without a doubt one of the most anticipated comic-book films of the year and mostly because everyone wants to know if his reboot isn’t just better than Sam Raimi‘s original films, but if it serves a point and offers up a new take on the popular character. I’m here to tell you that it does, but slightly. There are things that work almost flawlessly in Webb’s adaptation, but there are also a few things that sell the film short and keep it from being that perfect Spider-Man film. As it stands, The Amazing Spider-Man is an excellent addition to the Spider-Man series and I’d almost say it’s better than Raimi’s efforts.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) should be a household name at this point. The story of his transformation into a web-slinging superhero is almost universal at this point, but I guess we’ll run through it once more. This version of the character follows the life of a teenage boy named Peter. His parents abruptly left him when he was a child, leaving him in the hands of his aunt and uncle. Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) has been more than a father to Peter, yet he still searches for answers. These answers have been left in an old briefcase that Peter finds in the basement.
It leads him to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Connors worked with Parker’s father up until the day he left and Parker wants to know why. While searching for answers he’s bitten by a spider that gives him a unique set of powers that allows him to do things like crawl on walls and have super-fast reflexes. Peter also inadvertently turns Connors into The Lizard.
Peter’s new-found powers helps steer him in the direction of the man he’s meant to be; a crime-fighting superhero that protects the innocent and helps bring the bad guys down into the hands of Captain Stacy (Denis Leary). When Peter’s not catching crooks he’s busy flirting with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone); a classmate and a person of interest.
I’ve wasted too much time discussing stuff that you already know and for that I’m going to apologize and just cut to the chase. Is The Amazing Spider-Man any good? Is it worth a reboot, especially this early in the series’ life? Yes… well mostly yes. There are things that director Marc Webb does in The Amazing Spider-Man that outdoes Sam Raimi and those things make this version of Spider-Man much closer to the one we’ve (or at least I’ve?) been waiting for.
Webb creates a wise-cracking Spider-Man this time around, one that’s not afraid to be a complete dick when apprehending a car thief. Garfield embodies the role with a specific set of character traits that makes Peter Parker feel more like an average guy, just trying to get by in life and in school. He’s not obsessing over a pretty girl, although he does show an interest in Gwen Stacy. He’s also not too spiritless or constantly down because of his parents leaving him at a young age. He’s more or less full of a lot of anger and energy and now he finally has a place to let it all out.
The character of Spider-Man is much more playful than the previous one, which works because Parker is just a kid after all. When he first discovers his powers he has no problem beating up a few thugs and then scaling a few buildings for some trial and error jumping. He showboats at school for a while, but when things start to heat up he’s quick on his feet and ready to take down whatever NYC has to throw at him.
I think this refreshing take on the character is mostly Webb’s doing, but Andrew Garfield fits into the suit perfectly. His Peter Parker is kind of all over the place, but his Spider-Man is exactly where it needs to be. He’s a bright individual that is family oriented and respectful, but he’s also alone and lost in a world that just doesn’t seem to make sense. When he puts on the mask he becomes something else and that transformation provides him with a cause.
Garfield’s interactions with Emma Stone‘s Gwen holds up the first act. The two show natural chemistry that feels very much like a high school relationship that gets smashed together because of recent events and this urgency keeps the interest high. There’s not a lot of Spidey action until the middle/end, so Webb relies on his cast of strong actors like Garfield, Stone, Sheen, Ifans and occasionally Leary to brighten the mood and keep you invested in the characters.
Stone’s Gwen is a bit of a wildcard, taking a strong interest in Peter despite his borderline nutcase behavior at school, especially after his uncle’s tragic demise (which shouldn’t count as a spoiler!). Webb does a good job of keeping the sad stuff grounded after Ben’s death, with only a few dreary interactions between Peter and his classmates/Gwen.
Leary and Sheen provide some of the best comedic relief and dramatic tension. Leary only drops in every other scene, but his back-and-forth with Peter makes for some great dialogue and Sheen’s brief bits help drive Peter into the man he becomes by the end of the film.
The biggest disappointment of the film is Rhys Ifans‘ The Lizard. Ifans is a usually a fantastic actor with a lot of range, but his Lizard is generic and rarely feels like a threat. The CGI is fine, but the design is too plain. His Dr. Connors isn’t that much of an improvement either. I would have much rather preferred a film where Spider-Man deals with his own personal demons as well as cleaning up the streets, without an actual main villain, but Sony just couldn’t have that, which makes the inclusion of The Lizard feel like a rushed last minute addition.
The Amazing Spider-Man works more than it doesn’t, but there are parts that leave you wondering if the film was really necessary. Almost all of the untold story bits shown in the trailers have been removed, which makes this a straight-forward approach to the character. A lot of the stuff plays out the same as the previous adaptation, with minor detail changes.
Marc Webb knocks it out of the park in terms of the action though. The web-slinging stuff is shot with more practical effects this time around, making the film flow a lot smoother and generally look a lot better. The fighting is also creative, with Spidey using lots of different moves to take down his enemies and not simple web jobs. It feels more comic-book-ish and generally makes for a fun experience. I’d suggest paying the premium to see this in 3D on an IMAX screen; because a lot of the web-swinging through the city is beautiful to look at most of the shots seem to cater to the added depth.
If I’d have to pick bones with the film I’d really have to question the inclusion of The Lizard and the lack of focus on the character. He serves almost little to no purpose, despite conveniently coming in at the right moment when Spider-Man needed something bigger than city thugs to beat on. Ifans isn’t to blame though, it’s more of a writing thing, because there’s just no direction for the character to go in.
If you go into The Amazing Spider-Man with an open mind chances are high that you’re going to like the film, but if you go in wanting to hate it (like most) then you’re probably not going to like it. It does feel a bit strange seeing an origins tale this early, but Webb does his best to mix things up and change the focus, if only slightly (when appropriate). Garfield gives us a younger take on the character that feels a lot closer to the cartoons and comics and Emma Stone makes Gwen Stacy a fully developed character and not simply the love that Peter can never have. I’m glad they skipped out on the MJ nonsense, because she was just a constant annoyance.
I’m looking forward to seeing where they take the characters next, especially now that they’ve gotten the origins out of the way. Webb has retooled a character that we’ve all grown to love and I can’t wait to see where he takes him now that the table has been set.
The Amazing Spider-Man – 8.5/10