When it was announced that the fourth Spider-Man film was being canceled so the franchise could be rebooted and retooled with an entire new cast, director and storyline, I was less than thrilled. Even though 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” was a lackluster film that seemed to go in a thousand different directions and was clouded by too many side characters and villains, I was still a comic book/superhero fan.
Well, I can tell you now that decision wasn’t made in haste and director Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” has done a stellar job of taking a familiar story and bringing more to the table to enhance the mythos of this character, including a more emotional connection to our characters and showcasing the true motivation and psychological make-up of each character that we haven’t seen before.
The film mixes some amazing graphics and visual effects that make web-slinging a completely new adventure as you fly through the streets with Peter Parker and, of course, some great comedic moments as well as chemistry between our two leads. So if you were a skeptic, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief, because you are in for a treat.
Taking the very familiar story and adding to it, we meet a young Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as his parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) are frantically rushing to drop him off at the home of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Fields). They then disappear into the night and are never seen again. Years later, Peter is in high school. He has developed a great scientific mind, but is somewhat of an outcast due to the emotional damaged caused by being abandoned as a small child. He has his first real crush in classmate Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), but is too shy to really talk to her.
He is set on a journey of self discovery when he finds his father’s old briefcase in the flooded basement and inside are hidden some secret notes of experiments he was involved with at Oscorp. This leads Peter to his father’s ex-lab partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a brilliant scientist who is trying to blend human and animal DNA to help cure mankind most aggressive diseases and disabilities. Surprising Dr. Connors with a formula written by his father, Peter actually gives the final piece needed for him to have a breakthrough in his work. On one of his excursions to Oscorp, Peter goes into a restricted area and is bitten by genetically enhanced spiders that end up giving him spider-like agility and strength.
While all of these changes are happening to Peter he is growing closer to Gwen and Dr. Connors and shirking his duties at home. When Uncle Ben gets angry and reprimands him, it causes Peter to storm out of the house. Uncle Ben follows him into the night and is killed during a liquor store robbery. Seeking justice, Peter sets out into the night trying to find his uncle’s killer and after a few run-ins with local thugs, he knows he must keep his identity a secret and he creates his Spider-Man costume. Now labeled a vigilante and hunted by the city’s police force run by Gwen’s father Captain Stacey (Denis Leary), Peter must work to become a hero.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” has a lot of the same story points as the first Sam Raimi film and although it starts off slowly to reintroduce us to the origins story of Peter Parker, it succeeds on many points and proves to be worthy of a reboot. The casting is perfect, the writing is witty and sharp, the relationships and chemistry between actors is stronger and more rooted in emotions than we’ve ever seen before, plus it has the added bonus of more amazing visual effects and action sequences than Raimi could have ever dreamed of a decade ago when he first brought “Spider-Man” to the big screen.
Andrew Garfield is pitch perfect as Peter Parker — not only is he completely believable as a young high school scientific genius, but he nails every emotion-filled scene with the greatest of ease and his connection with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey is remarkable. More likeable in every way than Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, Gwen is not a damsel in distress, but has a mind and intelligence that rivals Peter’s on nearly every account. Her rambunctiousness and wild spirit make her not only the love interest, but an ally.
Martin Sheen and Sally Fields make a good pair for Uncle Ben and Aunt May. They are not shown much in the movie and even though we know of the imminent death of Uncle Ben, it is still an emotional shock to see it happen and the repercussions of it on Peter and Aunt May. Rhys Ifans is a unique choice for a villain, but it works in the way Webb constructed the film. Not a single character does anything without a reason and we are shown the motivations behind every major event that transpired. Dr. Connors is not truly evil, unlike other fiends we have seen the web-shooting hero face off before. He is misguided, but there is an underlying humanity to the character, which makes him less threatening, but at the same time more redeemable.
The story itself focuses more on Peter’s plight and journey of self discovery. While still retaining the underdog charm and snarky wit associated with this beloved character, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is one very faithful adaptation and a film that fans will love. There were some interesting choices made to change some of the basic background of occurrences surrounding the origin story, but the film never strayed outside the same premise of events that formed our hero in red and blue. I think the slight alterations — which might anger the most dedicated of Spidey enthusiasts — offer a fresh new take to those of us who love the character but haven’t read every comic book written about him.
Lastly, the amazing visual effects and the use of 3D in “The Amazing Spider-Man” have really gone above and far beyond anything that we have seen in the previous installments. Mark Webb has delivered an astounding new look at web-slinging throughout the city. With crystal clarity, we easily see Spider-Man flying through the air with the glorious city lights illuminating the night, also adding a new dimension is the use of putting the audience in the action with us seeing as if through Peter’s eye during many fight or swinging scenes.
I really believe that the movie benefits from the use of 3D and unlike other films, there is no muting or darkening of colors — the movie is bright and vibrant throughout. Although choosing Marc Webb to direct was a risky move — as he only had one film under his belt – but “500 Days of Summer” showed the studios that he can make compelling stories and show a strong connection between characters.
I might have been skeptical at first, but the film won me over, the visuals, the comedy, the script and even the origins story was handled just right to make it all come together and form a dynamic film that is worthy of being seen in IMAX 3D and is sure to win over critics and fans alike.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” swings into theaters June 3 and is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.
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