Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (JimmyO's take)
PLOT: When Peter Parker finds a briefcase that belonged to his father who had left him with his aunt and uncle years before, he attempts to find out what drove his parents off. During a fateful visit to his father’s ex-business partner, he is bitten by a spider in a research laboratory. Soon he discovers he has developed spider-like powers that he can’t understand. Thankfully his new found strength comes in handy for fighting criminals and a powerful lizard-like baddie looking to “cure” all man’s weaknesses. Apparently there is such “great responsibility” in wearing a red, black and blue leotard that we must be reminded of it with another blockbuster.
REVIEW: The idea of rebooting a franchise that is only ten years old seems incredibly lazy and pointless. Not only was it a successful series of films when it came to box office numbers, it also garnered critical acclaim. And then there was SPIDER-MAN 3 and all bets were off. The studio was ready to throw everything out and start anew in hopes that more money could be made after that disappointing sequel. Now we have a brand new look for what is essentially the same origin story that Sam Raimi brought us in 2002, this time directed by Marc Webb of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER fame. The surprise is that not only is it better than expected, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is actually quite amazing for the most part.
The latest incarnation of the webslinger introduces us to a different kind of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield). After his parents leave him with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) as a young child, he has grown with more than a few abandonment issues. This time around Parker has a darker sense of humor and a little more edge. Garfield is perfect as a hero, he offers equal parts humor and heartbreak and thankfully we get to see a multifaceted superhero who is dealing with all his demons. I liked this take, as he feels more fleshed out and sympathetic. And Garfield is absolutely the perfect choice as both Parker and Spider-Man.
While the first half of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN covers much of the same ground that Raimi’s original feature did, it is absolutely altered and offers a little more detail. When Peter Parker uncovers an old briefcase that his father had left behind, he immediately begins to seek out any answer he can as to what happened all those years back. Inside he finds documents connecting to work that his dad and former partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) had done involving splicing different species DNA. Hoping to learn more about his findings he makes his way to Oscorp to locate Connors. While pretending to be an intern for the company he does some investigating only to find himself bitten by a spider. This of course leads to his transformation including a very clever and exciting sequence on the subway where some hooligans learn the hard way that you can’t judge somebody by size alone.
Another major shift here is the focus on his relationship with Gwen Stacy, a beautifully blonde Emma Stone. This romance proves to be a major part of Parker’s revamped origin as she is much more involved than the previous film’s leading lady. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is phenomenal. As her character grows more and more attached to the troubled young man, it becomes a more fulfilling romance as opposed to just a sappy side-story. Besides putting Stacy in danger, you also have her father, a police captain played by Denis Leary adding a little tension thanks to his desperation to arrest the masked crusader. Leary is very good here in a surprisingly well rounded role for the actor.
The characters are the key here, not only with Parker and Stacy, but with Connors as well. Rhys Ifans can be added to the list of fascinating Marvel cinematic villains. As a doctor hoping to find a way to regenerate his own missing arm, he is hoping to improve the human condition by taking the genetic make-up of the lizard and applying it to other species. It isn’t until Peter Parker comes along giving him the missing link as it were that he finds answers. The good doctor doesn’t become The Lizard until well into the feature when he is trying to stop Oscorp from testing the drug he created on human guinea pigs. So desperate to stop his superior Rajit Ratha (Irrfan Khan) that he injects himself only with devastating circumstances. As The Lizard, he is able to regenerate his limb yet his mind is warped to believe all individuals would benefit from his nightmarish condition.
With so much ground to cover, director Marc Webb is certainly able to keep things moving well enough as the focus of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is on Parker and Connors more so than Spider-Man and The Lizard. We see their reasoning for doing what they do, including Parker searching for his Uncle’s killer much like the previous incarnations. Thankfully the characters are so well drawn out and the actors are all terrific that it’s easy to get caught up in this origin story's web – even if you do get the feeling of déjà vu. And as far as special effects go, there are certainly some truly bright spots with some that are absolutely amazing enough for a SPIDER-MAN movie. The trailer really didn’t do any favors as to offering up how spectacular some of the sequences look. The screening I saw was in IMAX 3D and it was far more impressive than I had expected it to be, even the 3D manages to amaze at times.
As entertained as I was, there are a few dull moments throughout. In order to tell a more complete story there were a few scenes that could have been condensed. Thankfully the action, the humor and Garfield’s performance (among others) keeps the momentum going. In terms of the villain, as much as I liked Connors, he seemed to waste a little too much time trying to do his ultimate and dirty deed. At least the final battle was worth waiting around for. All in all, this was a very successful film with a fantastic cast thanks to Garfield, Stone and Ifans – as well as Field and Sheen. The score by James Horner works wonders for the on-screen adventures offering the appropriate depth to this latest installment. And while THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN occasionally feels slightly repetitious and drawn out, it is still an impressive film thanks to Webb’s unique take on the already familiar legend of SPIDER-MAN.
|Extra Tidbit:||And yes, there is a mid-credit scene that hints at the future of this franchise.|