July 3, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

It was only ten years ago that director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire brought everyone's favorite wall crawler to the big screen for the first time. The movie was a huge success and spawned two sequels, one regarded as being among the best comic book adaptations ever and one that would be better off forgotten. There was a planned fourth film but creative differences flared up and both Raimi and Maguire left the project. It was then announced that the ex film would be a reboot. Odd for a series that was still so young with its last film barely five years ago.

In any case, development began for The Amazing Spider-Man with a new cast and creative team. Marc Webb was right in to direct and my curiousness began to grow. You have to admit, Webb was a curious choice to helm the film. Consider that Webb had only directed one other film, the excellent (500) Days of Summer, and it was to an action film. Sill, I love that movie and I was interested in seeing what he would bring to the table. The cast also filled out nicely with names like Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, and Denis Leary attached. Hopes certainly looked up and interest was definitely piqued.

The wait is over, the reboot is here and it is certainly a different take on the origin than the Raimi film just a decade ago. This is an altered and expanded take on the origin of the webhead. Do not mistake this origin for what you have seen before or what you know from the comic books, the familiar elements are all there but it is definitely a little ,ore to the darker side. No, it is not the Dark Knight version, but it definitely plays up the more morose elements of Peter Parker's early life, specifically the loss of his parents and the hole that left in his life.

I am sure that most of you are familiar with Spider-Man's origin, you may not have been born with it, like Superman but it is a familiar story. What you may not know are all the newly added details about Peter's parents, their work at Oscorp, why they left, why they were killed, and how it all ties in with Peter's present as a teenager and what it means to Peter's newfound powers. I would also love to give you more details, but they are better explored while watching the movie.

This new take on the early days of the Spider, we find Peter (Andrew Garfield) to be the outsider we have always known him to be. He is a smart kid, good with the camera, and an easy target for bullies. Still, he stands his ground for what is right, a little foreshadowing for one of the superhero's pillars. But you all know this.

I like the additions to the story. I was interested in the history of Peter's parents and the connections to Curt Connors' (Rhys Ifans) research. I also liked the integration of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) into the story. Then there is the interactions between Aunt May and Uncle Ben (Sally Field and Martin Sheen). In particular Uncle Ben and Peter have some very interesting conversations and I love the emotion that is there, like in a real family, it makes the inevitable resonate just that much more.

This Peter is darker but I hesitate to call it dark. It seems to reveal the playfulness of the character in quieter moments, almost as if i was a defense mechanism to hide the pain of loss that he feels. It is not an even balance, but it is there. Andrew Garfield certainly is up to the task, he brings a quality to Peter that Maguire didn't. I found him to be a bit more believable, a bit more sensitive, and a bit easier to identify with. Granted, it has been awhile since I have seen any of the other three films.

The entire cast seems up to the task. Sally Field and Martin Sheen are wonderfully cast and bring humanity and point to their roles. Emma Stone is delightful as the love interest, she has an intelligent presence and plays Gwen well. Rhys Ifans is intriguing as Connors, not initially evil, but driven by his desires that result in the evil coming out, a great villain. Even Denis Leary does a fine job as Captain Stacy.

I have to give some mention to the effects, they are a big step up from the prior films. They made the decision to go more with stunt actors doing the swinging practically rather than pure CG. The work paid off, the swinging effects look real this time, blends much better with the rest of the scenes. The fights are also nicely choreographed, they are easy to follow and incorporate moves not seen in prior films. At times the flying/chasing/fighting had a bit of a parkour feel to them.

Marc Webb did a really fine job helping this film. He brought a different feel to the screen, giving this new take on the familiar a fresh spin. The action sequences must have been a test for him, and he passed with flying colors. I think the biggest thing he brought to the table is the emotion and heart. I know much of that had to be on the page on the screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves, but it still had to be brought to the screen and Webb was able to get those performances.

It may not be the freshest of superhero movies, it may be pretty close to the original origin telling, but The Amazing Spider-Man successfully reintroduces us to the webhead. We get an expanded look at his origin and a movie devoid of mainstays Mary Jane Watson and J. Jonah Jameson. It is a take that as been reengineered for a new audience, little tweaks here and there for the times. It is not unlike what the comics go through themselves every so many years, reinventing itself with a new creative team. I look forward to where this film sequence will take us, it is off to a strong start.

Highly Recommended.


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