Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
If I were to give this film a one-sentence review, I would say that this is everything the original Spiderman should have been. This film is charming, thrilling, funny, well-structured and it carries a sincerity to it that the previous Sam Raimi films seem to lack when looking back at the series. And, while the argument could be made that it’s way too early to reboot a franchise that started back in 2002, it’s very hard to argue that this film isn’t a successful reboot. For one thing, the cast is infinitely more likable in this film than the previous Spiderman films, and the movie really does a solid job of avoiding the pitfalls of making the high-school experience of Peter Parker less stereotypical.
Another thing this film gets completely right is the development of Peter Parker from regular high-schooler to superhero. The movie does a great job of convincing the audience that this kid has some legitimate motivation for his actions. While with the Tobey Maguire version seemed to have the sole ambition of getting the girl, and also seemed like a less flawed character (Peter Parker was basically perfect in those films), this version, played much more confidently and charmingly by Andrew Garfield (of Social Network fame), reveals a deeper, more disturbed character who has real issues. Hence, the character is much easier to care about.
The film does a service to the story by not rushing through some of the more pivotal points of the familiar storyline and really builds up to the important moments of loss that Peter suffers. I won’t give away what happens for the dozens of people out there who actually don’t know, but tragedy strikes in Peters life more than once, in this film alone.
Now… since I’ve already mentioned how much better this cast is than in the previous installments, let’s do a run through of exactly which characters were improved.
Let’s start with the big one, Peter Parker aka Spiderman. Since I kind of already said quite a bit about this character I’ll skim through this, but Andrew Garfield’s witty, sarcastic, more confident Peter Parker is a much more refreshingly and likable take on the character than Tobey Maguire’s “woe is me” performances.
Now the girl is one of the most dramatical improvements I’ve ever seen. By the end of the original Spiderman series, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most people kind of wanted to see Kirsten Dunst’s MaryJane Watson die. I don’t see this franchise headed that way with Emma Stone’s version of Gwen Stacy. I won’t compare her to the Bryce Dallas Howard version of the character because Spiderman 3 was an atrocity and poor Howard got stuck in that pile of garbage with a thankless role (having said that I don’t really think much of her as an actress). Stone is great in this role, and they actually give her quite a bit to do. Also, those freaking eyes are ridiculous.
Dr. Curt Connors, played by Rhys Ifans was a villain that I’m coming to appreciate more and more as I think about it, even if this character was probably the weakest of the bunch. The mad scientist angle has been played out quite a bit, but Ifans had some fun with it, and he really worked. I don’t think he was quite as good as Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, but he was certainly a better villain than Willem Dafoe’s green power ranger or any of the 200 villains that were in Spiderman 3.
Denis Leary also has a decent turn as Gwen Stacy’s father and the Captain of the NYPD. He’s pretty much just playing Denis Leary in this movie though. Nothing special, but he serves his purpose.
Lastly, but not least, are Peter Parker’s Aunt May and Uncles Ben. I think the only thing I really have to say here is that the two characters are played by freakin’ Sally Field and Martin Sheen, respectively. Yep, that’s enough.
Now, I realize as I’ve been writing this that I’ve made the previous Spiderman entries sound like complete crap. The about that is that the first two movies are right up there with some of the best superhero movies out there. The Amazing Spider-Man recognizes this and does pay some tribute to moments in the previous entries. I’m not here to bash the previous series, but I do feel that this film is superior to it’s predecessors in just about every way I can think of.
This is a film that live’s up to it’s amazing name.
My Rating: 4 out of 5
* I mean seriously! Look at those freakin’ eyes!