Zimbio Review - The Almost 'Amazing Spider-Man'


(Bauer Griffin, Columbia Pictures, Getty Images)
The Bottom LineShould you see it?
Yes.

Why?
Led by the charismatic Andrew Garfield, this new Spidey is reckless, dashing, and a genuine thrill to watch.
As the fourth web-slinger movie in a little over a decade, The Amazing Spider-Man will no doubt be wrongly judged as unnecessary by critics and audiences alike. It exists because of the public's insatiable appetite for all things superhero, yes, but it's also a do-over, made necessary by Sam Raimi's bungling of the wall-crawler his first go-around in 2002 (Raimi redeemed himself immeasurably with Spider-Man 2). That first Spidey movie starred Tobey Maguire and was so campy it's a wonder anyone remembers it at all.

Enter The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by the aptly-named Marc Webb. Like Raimi, Webb gives the web-sligner's world a sheen that takes it outside the realm of reality. But gone is the wide-eyed earnestness of Maguire, replaced here by the dashing Andrew Garfield, the English actor who brings a reckless anger and charisma to Peter Parker that may not always stay true to the source material, but is damned cinematic. Garfield's Parker, accompanied by the fair-haired damsel Emma Stone as his high school crush, Gwen Stacy, is what you want in a super hero. He's complicated yet charismatic, handsome yet grounded, and born out of a childhood trauma he contains a fierce, if sometimes misguided, drive for moral decency.

Webb and his team of screenwriters (there are three) took some liberties from the source material by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to heighten the commotion, so to speak, of the classic origin story whereby Peter Parker, a high schooler, is bitten by a radioactive bug and gains superhero strength and ability. Webb's film posits the query: what if Spidey was no accident? An interesting twist that introduces Parker's parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) in the prologue before they leave him with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) and take off for an unknown reason. Parker the elder is a brilliant scientist who toyed with cross-species genetics, and his one-armed former partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), has continued his work. Peter seeks out Connors when he stumbles upon a secret algorithm of his dad's and pretty much starts World War III in downtown Manhattan.

Connors uses the code to become the Lizard, one of Spidey's earliest adversaries in the comics, and Peter is bitten by an experimental spider and gains his super powers. The Lizard is a goofball, menacing at times, but undone by a smiling face that is a mis-step from Lee's original design. Spidey, on the other hand, is done right. Parker embraces his new strength and agility, testing his limits in a shipyard and on his skateboard while swinging from chains and yelling primordially like he's just been reborn. In fact he has, the mild-mannered Peter Parker is sick of getting beaten up by the school bully and not getting the girl. He rights these wrongs quickly in separate scenes and sets about as a vigilante, challenging thugs at night for kicks.

Staying true to the comic, Peter loses his Uncle Ben to a murderous scumbag and vows revenge. He sews himself the Spidey suit and in a beautiful looking, but somewhat contrived, point of view sequence we see the hero fully-realized for the first time, reflected in a window as he clings to a skyscraper (the film's ultimate trailer moment). It's the leaping and reckless abandon that makes the movie worth seeing. This new Spider-Man flies off buildings without an anchor in site and seems almost suicidal, a quality that proves endearing as he continuously puts others ahead of his own well-being.

This includes the doe-eyed Miss Stacy, who does not possess the same kind of self-confidence that comes with the beauty pageant good looks her predecessor (Kirsten Dunst as Mary-Jane Watson) had. Gwen is a high school girl, and Stone finds the purity within the character that makes her likable but also the perfect downy innocent whom Spidey must protect. Their chemistry is palpable and Parker confides in her his greatest secret. It's a surprise that comes into play as the film concludes.

Parker is actually unmasked a number of times in the film, blasphemy in superhero movie-making that speaks to the intrepid young man's vulnerability (or movie execs' insistence we see Garfield's pretty face more than we should). Either way, it doesn't hinder what isn't exactly award-worthy movie-making anyway. The film is overly long (136 minutes) and its prologue is especially trying, but it takes off when Parker puts on the suit.

The Amazing Spider-Man fits neatly behind Spiderman 2 as the second-best wall-crawler installment but doesn't come close to touching Christopher Nolan's Batman films, and I can't help but dream about a Nolan-directed web-slinger movie. The gloss of this Spider-Man is just too bright to be taken very seriously.


See more photos of Andrew Garfield here:
  • Andrew Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Premiere
  • Andrew Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Premiere
  • Andrew Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Premiere
  • Andrew Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Premiere
  • Andrew Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Premiere
  • Andrew Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Premiere
  • Andrew Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Premiere
  • Andrew Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" Premiere
Managing Editor, Zimbio — entertainment writer, critic, and reporter since 2011. Bay Area. Origin: Shark City.
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