The Amazing Spider-Man: a reboot that 'sticks'
A mutant-spider-bitten-teenager chasing a giant lizard-man through the sewers of New York may not sound like a synopsis for an artistic or thought provoking plot. But The Amazing Spider-Man manages to make it work, coming across more as a profile of a tortured teenage soul coming to terms with over the top responsibilities
Whereas Spider-Man 3 ended with Toby McGuire playing an “emo” Peter Parker, The Amazing Spider-Man continues with cultural relevancy with Andrew Garfield’s (The Social Network) portrayal of Parker as a misunderstood, slightly arrogant but nerdy hipster. Seattle is set to eat this movie up.
For those unfamiliar, The Amazing Spider-Man is a retelling of the Spider-Man origin story. Comic book fans will note that the original trilogy was based off of the “Ultimate Spider-Man” series while the current adaptation is based off of the original “Amazing Spider-Man” series. And yes, it does make a difference.
The most notable differences include a different love interest (this time Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone), a plot delving into Parker’s parents backstory and mechanical web shooters.
There have been two routes in recent years that successful comic book movies take. Either they embrace the campy comic-book aesthetic (The Avengers) or take a darker, more realistic approach (The Dark Knight trilogy). The Amazing Spider-Man attempts to find a middle ground between the two with surprisingly positive results.
McGuire’s portrayal of Spider-Man in the first trilogy was done pretty well, but Garfield’s interpretation surpasses McGuire. It’s much like comparing Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman to Heath Ledger’s in The Dark Knight. Both are good, but one is just superior.
Garfield is able to convince the audience that Parker is an awkward teenager. He mumbles his words, acts painfully awkward around girls, but can also be an arrogant know-it-all – especially when he puts on the Spider-Man suit.
Stone finds a steady pace with Stacey’s inquisitive and bold nature while also still portraying her as a normal teenager amidst big issues. Like, you know, a giant lizard-man. Stacey’s father, played by Denis Leary, does not have to stretch far to fit the role of the harsh and unrelenting police officer.
The villain, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) aka The Lizard, was a bold choice to start with in this reboot but also inevitable. As one of Spider-Man’s most notorious foes, his appearance was long overdue. And Ifans is excellent at portraying the highly moral scientist with a tortured past.
But a giant monster lizard running through New York will never be totally accessible to audiences (if only the producers of Godzilla 2000 knew this). While the Lizard looks decent with the CGI, his “dastardly plan” stems a bit unreasoned and confused.
Director Mark Webb (500 Days of Summer) does an excellent job at keeping the movie relevant. Spider-Man is only his second full length motion picture but his work with music video directing allows him to make some big risks with this film. The montages of Garfield discovering his powers aren’t just interesting, but allow room for genuine humor. Garfield smashing his alarm clock and accidently ripping off a woman’s shirt plays off the character’s awkwardness while keeping the film interesting.
Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of The Amazing Spider-Man is how well the exposition of the film sets it up to have heart. His relationship with his aunt and uncle (played by Sally Field and Martin Sheen, respectively) feels genuine with their playful jabs and confrontations as Parker struggles to deal with his parents’ past and his newfound powers. The pay-off of the relationship in the end of the movie is an emotional experience for the audience.
For all its strengths, the climax of the film is almost unbearably cheesy. The dialogue spirals down to awful 60s Spider-Man-type one liners, a very forced cheesy tribute to New York firefighters and cops, and a “We believe in you!” motif that is shoved down the audience’s throat.
For those who can get past the cheesier moments, The Amazing Spider-Man does what a reboot should. It allows the audience to forgive the franchise’s past sins (in this case Spider-Man 3) and actually improves upon the original. When stacked up against this summer’s other superhero blockbusters The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, Spidey might turn out to be the most accessible for audiences and one of the biggest surprises of the movie season.
If you go: Majestic Bay Theaters, 12:00 p.m., 3:20 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 9:55 p.m. — $8-10.50