Review: “The Amazing Spider-Man”

It’s a good thing I wait until the next day to review films.

Last night, I went to see “The Amazing Spider-Man” with pretty low expectations. As many people online can point out, this reboot was put together way ahead of any reasonable necessity and a lot of it has to do with studios fighting over the rights to the character. Not exactly a situation that screams quality filmmaking.

The story is both very different and vaguely familiar, as its origin story shares a few characteristics with Sam Raimi’s 2002 film. As someone who has really grown to love the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, I enjoyed getting to see Andrew Garfield try his hand at it. The film changes much from its source material, but there are so many incarnations of the character, I didn’t really see it as a problem.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” tells the first chapter of a trilogy (from what I’ve heard) and, as such, feels the need to tell us how Spider-Man came to be. Peter Parker (Garfield) is still a high school nerd that gets picked on by bullies like Flash Thompson. He loves photography and he is, for the most part, a good guy. The main changes from Tobey Maguire’s portrayal is that Garfield plays a more modern approach to the nerd. He likes to ride a skateboard, is less socially awkward and doesn’t find a way to be late for the bus every morning.

Upon visiting Dr. Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans), a friend of Peter’s parents, at Oscorp, the young hero is bitten by the spider that needs no introduction. Peter finds common ground with the doctor, as he is an expert on crossing species’ genetics and Peter finds himself taking on spider characteristics.

Similar to Norman Osborn in the original, Connors finds himself cornered into personally testing a drug that could regrow his long-lost arm using lizard DNA. Since this is a comic book movie, things go awry and Connors slowly changes into The Lizard.

Over the course of the movie, Peter is forced to take up his “moral responsibility” and save the citizens of New York before Lizard has an opportunity to create a superior race that will replace mankind.

My favorite thing about this movie might be the casting. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst did their best in the 2002 film, but I cannot stand them being in those roles. I’ve loved Andrew Garfield since 2010’s “Never Let Me Go” and the guy is a HUGE Spider-Man fan, so that’s an easy improvement in my eyes. Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy rather well also, and the pair have a great chemistry in the film. A supporting cast of Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Denis Leary doesn’t hurt either.

As I said before, I loved seeing a different interpretation of the Spider-Man character. He’s witty and animated when under his mask and actually makes a joke that is funny. I had a small problem with moments where Parker was a little too much of a jerk, but the film irons this out eventually. As much as I respect Sam Raimi as a filmmaker and his attempts at this character, it was nice to see something a little less colorful and campy as well.

The reason why I started this review off the way I did is because I was pleasantly surprised with this film. It caught me off guard that I actually liked most of it and had a fun experience. But now that I’ve had some time to think about it more, I realize that just exceeding low expectations does not equal a great film.

First off, the Lizard is not exactly a top-tier villain. He works okay for the story this film is aiming for (the “untold story” of Peter’s parents) and Rhys Ifans does pretty well with the character, but I think the Green Goblin was a much more interesting choice in 2002.

Marc Webb, while responsible for the fun “(500) Days of Summer,” is not exactly the most proven director around. In fact, that is his only other film. All of his other work has been on music videos, which unfortunately shines through during many of the film’s sequences. I won’t go so far as to call his work here soulless like others have, but a little more craftsmanship and heart would’ve gone a long way.

I could probably ramble on for a while with this film, as I’m of two minds about it, but I’ll sum it up with this: “The Amazing Spider-Man” is fun, well-acted and takes on a refreshingly darker tone than its predecessors, but it suffers from mediocre directing and a somewhat-flawed script.

Grade: B-

I’m hoping to review Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” here in the next couple of days. After that, there isn’t a whole lot coming out between now and July 20 when “The Dark Knight Rises” hits theaters. I’m thinking about running through all of the Batman films and reviewing them. We’ll see what happens.

Happy viewing.


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