Yes, the Spider-Man franchise has already produced a full motion picture trilogy, but Spider-Man 3 ended on a bit of a sour note and Sony Pictures decided to give the stale property a reboot. Sony Pictures hired a director (Marc Webb) whose previous work consisted only of 500 Days of Summer, a fantastic indie dramedy starring Zoe Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt. It’s this hiring decision that makes The Amazing Spider-Man a success. Where the original trilogy put an emphasis on the story’s comic-bookish tropes, TAMSM takes its queues from a more emotional and realistic place. Spidey’s new incarnation feels more human, relatable and grounded by the protagonist’s relationships. There’s no need to worry about the film feeling grim and totally serious, (a la The Dark Knight) because TAMSM is still a hell of a lot of fun. Where Spider-Man 1,2 and 3 felt like a super-polished fairytale world, Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man feels tangible and real. That’s really what makes the reboot refreshing. When the crazy comic-book things start to happen, the film is that much more exciting because of the contrast created by the heart-felt, funny, and entertaining relationships that are grounded in realism.
The story itself is relatively familiar at this point: an orphaned high school student living with his aunt and uncle gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a super-hero. It’s how The Amazing Spiderman goes about telling the now familiar origin story is what makes the whole thing feel fresh. Instead of Peter’s missing parents existing in the background, never to be heard of again, his parents disappearing is what drive’s Peter’s motivations throughout the film. Even though they’re only onscreen for a few minutes toward the beginning, the Parkers are mentioned and referenced throughout as constant reminders of their impact on the mysterious Oscorp and their son Peter. It’s not just the missing parents who’ve seen an overhaul for the better, though. This incarnation of Peter Parker is a vast improvement over Tobey Maguire’s bland, ultra-nerd. Andrew Garfield’s modernized punk-rock nerd is closer to the more contemporary Peter Parker from the later comics, and that’s a good thing because he’s all the more relatable. Is he a do-gooder? Sure, but he’s not a super straight-edge guy like Maguire’s Peter. He’s now a little rough around the edges and decides that telling a few people who he is, isn’t the worst thing in the world (a detail that annoyed me about the original trilogy. You mean to tell me that if you had super powers you wouldn’t tell the girl you had a crush on? Yeah, right). Although there’s some crazy happenings going on throughout New York, the film’s real story focuses around Peter’s love for his aunt and uncle while maintaining his blossoming relationship with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. The chemistry between each of the protagonists is fantastic, particularly between Garfield and Stone who radiate sexual tension.
The story is your basic super-hero romp, complete with an origin, search for self-understanding and followed by the predictable acceptance of responsibility schtick. But it’s a formula that works and when meshed with all of the other new elements introduced, and feels fresh overall. When Peter learns about a connection between Oscorp, his parents and a certain one-armed scientist, the film hits its stride, but it’s not perfect. There are a few plot points that feel a little too coincidental, but they’re mostly forgivable considering the film’s overall enjoyability. The script and structure of the film may be its biggest flaws, but the general charm and pure fun-factor of the film outshine the messier details.
The effects work is fantastic, and the few POV shots of Spidey swinging through the New York skyline are awesome. The design of Spidey’s nemesis, The Lizard isn’t the most creative looking creature in the world, but the quality of the CGI itself is pretty damn great. And the Lizard really feels like an imposing presence, so I’d say creature design works just well enough. I just wished he didn’t look so much like a damn goomba. The only thing that confused me about the Lizard was that Dr. Conners’ motivations (post-transformation) feel forced. Like “I don’t know how to turn this likable guy into a nemisis, so I’ll make him a crazy person out of nowhere” kind of forced. I guess an argument could be made that Dr. Connors was influenced by the serum/Lizard and that he wasn’t thinking straight or something. It was a transformation that felt much closer to Norman Osborn’s schizophrenic Green Goblin than a true adaptation of the Lizard. But I think that might’ve had something to do with the studio wanting to play up some sort of Spiderman baddie familiarity, of course I could be wrong, and it was simply a lack of creativity. Rhys Ifans did the best he could with the Dr. Connors character he was given, though and did a serviceable job playing a crazy person with a fetish for scales. Sally Field and Martin Sheen turn out surprisingly great performances as Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Dennis Leary is fantastic as the intimidating Captain Stacy (Gwen’s father) and of course, I can’t state enough how awesome Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are as the two leads.
If you’re a fan of any of the other Spider-man movies then you’ll have a great time watching The Amazing Spider-Man. A reboot of such a recent series could’ve gone wrong in one of a thousand different ways, but on the whole, The Amazing Spider-Man is successful. If you’re into the idea of a more relatable, grounded, but still fun version of Spider-Man, then you’ll wanna check out The Amazing Spider-Man. I had a great time and I think that you will too. I’m really looking forward to seeing Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone reprise their roles, and I hope director Marc Webb will return to direct a sequel with a better script.
Rating Overall: 4 out of 5