“The Amazing Spider-Man” a decent superhero flick with plenty of slick action
July 20th 2012 · 0 Comments
If you haven’t been paying attention to the behind-the-scenes drama regarding the Marvel Comics Spider-Man film franchise, then you might be surprised to see an all-new cast in “The Amazing Spider-Man.” The first three recent films, directed by camp horror maven Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire as the titular hero, were wildly successful financially and (at least in the case of the first two) celebrated by critics and fans alike.
However, when Sony Pictures forced Raimi to conform to a pre-determined release date for the fourth installment (at one point, there were plans for a fifth and sixth film, and even a spin-off entry focusing on symbiotic super-villain Venom) despite the lack of an acceptable script, the successful partnership crumbled. Fast forward to 2012, and we see the franchise rebooted under the leadership of prolific music video director Marc Webb.
Those familiar with the comics or the previous film trilogy will see some of the same material covered by this film, as the bulk of it is taken up by a retelling of Spider-Man’s origin story. In short, fringe high-schooler Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has been raised by his aunt and uncle since the mysterious disappearance of his parents when he was a child. While investigating a possible clue to his parents’ fate, he encounters a genetically-modified spider and is suddenly blessed with superhuman strength, agility and climbing ability.
After he learns that his parents were once associates of leading herpetologist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), Parker’s offer of a hidden equation from among his parents’ documents radically accelerates Connors’ research into cross-species genetics.
Hoping to cure his missing arm with the aid of lizard DNA, and rushed into unsanctioned human trials by his superiors, Connors inadvertently transforms himself into the massive, bloodthirsty villain known as the Lizard. Only Spider-Man is capable of stopping the Lizard’s plot to turn all New Yorkers into lizard-people. Meanwhile, Parker is trying to balance his own personal life, including the murder of his uncle and a budding romance with fellow classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
The film’s casting was quite apt for the most part. Garfield, virtually unknown to American audiences prior to 2010’s “The Social Network” (for which he won the Breakthrough Actor Award at the Hollywood Film Festival) is wiry and scruffy enough to be believable as both an outsider in high school and an agile costumed do-gooder. Rhys Ifans does well enough with a role that doesn’t ask much of him, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field are passable as Parker’s doting Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
Emma Stone’s character raises a few red flags, but she definitely has sufficient chemistry with Garfield (aided, no doubt, by their status as a real-life couple). The only real weak point here is Denis Leary as Gwen’s father and anti-Spider-Man NYPD Captain, George Stacy. Leary is uniformly flat and disinterested for the duration, and the overall narrative would have been much-improved had his character’s subplot been written out of the film entirely.
Plot-wise, the film works well enough, although perhaps too much time is spent on an origin story that the vast majority of viewers will already be intimately familiar with. There are a few odd tweaks to the standard formula as well, such as glossing over the murder of Peter’s Uncle Ben (as well as robbing Peter of any reasonable culpability, and thus, of any legitimate guilt) as a motivating factor in his drive to fight crime. Further, Parker transitions from a high-schooler in a hoodie and a homemade luchador mask to a polished, slick, custom jumpsuit-clad superhero without any evident effort. Finally, the subplot about Peter investigating his parents’ disappearance, which dominates the first half of the film, is summarily dropped partway through with no resolution.
Overall, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a decent superhero flick with plenty of slick action, and just a handful of little issues that let it down. It’s sure to please comic book fans or anyone looking for light entertainment, but anybody expecting more than the basics will be disappointed. Its take on the Spider-Man mythos is different enough from the previous films that it doesn’t feel unnecessary, but a trimmer script and a little more time in the oven would have been most welcome.
By Mark Ziobro