There have been some arguments that it’s too soon for a brand new “Spider-Man” franchise. The original “Spider-Man” is only a decade old and the final installment to that series came out five years ago. At this rate, we’ll have multiple “Spider-Man” trilogies by the 21st century’s halfway point.
Regardless, one cannot argue with a film that presents a successful take on the “Spider-Man” origin. That’s exactly what Director Mark Webb does in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
This is a dark, compelling retelling of how the mild mannered Peter Parker came to be the web-slinging hero. While Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” remains entertaining, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is in many ways an improvement with stronger exposition and less cliché dialog. There are no corny lines like “We’ll meet again, Spider-Man” for example. Webb’s film still doesn’t quite reach the heights of the exceptional “Spider-Man 2.” Yet, “The Amazing Spider-Man” does offer a fresh start for the hero after emo, dancing Peter ruined everything.
Like Tobey MaGuire before him, Andrew Garfield of “The Social Network” is well suited to play the teenage Peter Parker. He’s shy and lacking in physical strength, but willing to standup for what’s right at the expense of his own security nevertheless. Peter is additionally haunted by the mysterious deaths of his parents, both of whom allegedly died in a car crash. After finding his father’s old briefcase, Peter is lead to Oscorp Industries for answers. There, a radioactive spider bites Peter, turning him into the human/spider hybrid we all know and love.
One of the most admirable aspects of “The Amazing Spider-Man” is the pacing. Where Peter received his powers in the first ten minutes of 2002’s “Spider-Man,” this film allows more time to explore Peter as an average, nerdy high school kid. There’s much more pathos to the lost Peter, who feels abandoned and powerless in life. The character may not get his spidey abilities for a good hour into the picture. But the time the audience spends with the mortal Peter Parker makes this payoff feels truly satisfying and deserved. The man behind the mask additionally comes off as a lonelier, more troubled individual destined for greater things.
The romance factor is also commendable. It’s impossible not to be smitten with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey, the beautiful, intelligent girl who sees that there’s something more to Peter. The female love interest can often feel tacked on in most superhero movies. Gwen Stacey however, is actually a developed woman who equals Peter in brains and proves helpful to Spider-Man. She may need to be saved every now and then. Unlike some damsels though, Gwen is somebody that you really want to see rescued from peril. Garfield and Stone furthermore have great chemistry in a winning romance that isn’t as prolonged as Peter and Mary Jane Watson’s.
There are terrific supporting roles across the board from Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter’s dedicated Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Denis Leary has one of the film’s most gripping character arks as Gwen’s father, the police captain who believes Spider-Man is a threat to the city. Then there’s Rhys Ifans ad Dr. Curt Connors, Peter’s mentor who gets got in the crossfire of an experiment gone wrong. Connors thus becomes the villain of the Lizard, who looks a lot like a smaller Godzilla in a trench coat. He’s fun, but not quite as complex or interesting as somebody like Doctor Octopus.
The only downside to “The Amazing Spider-Man” is an inevitable amount of familiarity. Since this is another origin story, “The Amazing Spider-Man” revisits many plot points from Raimi’s first film. These instances are carried out in an engaging manner. But it’s just not as shocking to see a certain loved one of Peter’s die a second time around.
While it can feel recycled at times, “The Amazing Spider-Man” does offer more than enough new attributes to set itself apart from the prior trilogy. The atmosphere is grittier and the story is more personal. Webb’s action sequences are impressively staged and exciting. This is a mostly splendid reboot that may amount to a promising new Spidey series. Between “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Avengers,” this is shaping up to be one of the best summers ever for superheroes. Now if only Christopher Nolan can hit a homerun with “The Dark Knight Rises,” the fanboys will be set.
Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org