|The Amazing Spider-Man
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
With a great franchise, also comes great responsibility. And so, seeking to reinvigorate your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in the wake of the its cavalcade of box office super-hero triumphs, Marvel is starting back at square one with a revamped origin, a new love interest and a new villain. Off the bat, you get the feel that this is going to be a completely different kind of story from what we’ve seen before for the old webhead. The Amazing Spider-Man shares its title with Marvel Comics flagship web-slinging series and keeps the classic feel of the hero while doing a fine job of adapting it for a more grounded and heartfelt tone.
But really, this movie is all about Peter and Gwen. And sometimes, a fresh start is the best thing for a relationship. Especially after someone really let you down (ahem, Spider-Man 3). So move it on over, Mary-Jane. Thankfully, Amazing offers the shot in the arm that the franchise so desperately needed to help take this relationship to the next level.
We all know the maxim of our titular hero and we’ve seen the high-flying escapades, but what people forget about Spider-Man is that he’s the hero that can never catch a break. Spidey is perhaps one of the more relatable heroes on a social level because of this. He’s the hero that doesn’t even know how to begin to speak to the girl, much less sweep her off her feet. This is about the struggles of a young hero, his growth, his love, and ultimately, yes, his responsibility.
The film surprises us right off the bat by giving us a glimpse of something we’ve never seen before, Peter’s parents, Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz). Peter’s Dad has been working on some experimental genetic scientific research with his colleague, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), but then his office is ransacked and Peter goes to live with Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Sally Field and Martin Sheen fit comfortably into their roles as May and Ben like a favorite pair of slippers and bring a spark to the characters that makes them feel as though they were your own grandparents.
By chance, Peter finds an old briefcase of his Dad’s that leads him to Dr. Connors, that fateful radioactive spider, and sets us off nicely on our little adventure.
Director Marc Webb (did they do that on purpose?) previously did the melancholic (500) Days of Summer and at first, he might seem like an odd choice for this picture. That is, until you see the relationship between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker.
I won’t lie, initially I had my doubts about the casting of the relatively untested Andrew Garfield as your favorite web-slinger but he provides such a fresh take on the character that his performance easily stands on its own. This is truly Peter Parker the nerd. And not in campy, stereotypical geek fashion but instead endearingly awkward and engagingly brilliant.
Amazing actually takes the time to show off Peter’s talents as a budding inventor and his development of the web-shooters, albeit short, is still really fun and satisfying for continuity sticklers.
Now, personally, I’ve always been more of a Gwen guy than a Mary-Jane man, so I was excited to see the flaxen-haired lass make her big screen debut and Emma Stone did not disappoint. Gwen commands the screen and is as smart and intimidating as ever in her thigh-high boots and miniskirts. It’s a nice change-up from a typical screaming bag of hero-bait.
Perhaps one of the film’s biggest faults would be that, for all the time we spend with Peter, we really don’t get enough time to understand our villain. Ifans does an excellent job as both the brilliant Connors and the savage Lizard, but the character’s treatment feels somewhat shallow in comparison to everyone else. However, the effects and make-up work is top-notch and the action is fast-paced and exciting, which helps keep problems to a minimum.
Spider-Man keeps its story and its characters grounded enough to allow the action to soar by pacing itself well and making its cast likable and relatable. It’s a new Spider-Man for a new audience that still does an amazing job of appealing to fans of all ages and eras at the same time while still pushing the hero forward in a new, exciting direction.