One of the world’s most popular characters is back on the big screen as a new chapter in the Spider-Man legacy is revealed in “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Focusing on an untold story that tells a different side of the Peter Parker story, the new film stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, with Martin Sheen and Sally Field. The film is directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay written by James Vanderbilt, based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad, and Matt Tolmach are producing the film in association with Marvel Entertainment for Columbia Pictures, which will open in theaters everywhere in 3D on July 3, 2012.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.
Warning! Spoilers may be found ahead!
First off, Tobey Maguire never quite filled my inner comic book nerd alert as Spiderman. He always seemed just a bit too clunky for the role. I never could really put my finger on it, but his slurred speaking was part of the problem as well. Regardless, Andrew Garfield took the character over in my mind during Amazing Spider-Man. Garfield combined the innate nerdiness needed for Peter Parker and mixed in the appropriate level of darkness and brooding to make him a teenager. Maguire never felt like a teenager on the edge of growing up. Garfield has that down in spades.
The love interest in this film, played to perfection by the sultry but innocent Emma Stone, also brings out a new flavor for Peter Parker. With Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), Maguire always seemed out of his league to the point that it would never happen. They had no chemical attraction onscreen at all to me. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield both light up the screen with plenty of passion, and Stone sends it through the roof. The two were made for one another and in a brilliant casting move, Webb had the movie made when he put them together.
Gwen Stacy entering the film makes great sense and also pulls in Spidey-nerds like me. Stacy was a central character to Peter’s love life in the comics, and she was greatly missed in the earlier films. Although Stone shines in her role, her father (played by Denis Leary) is a horrible cliché. His performance is not one of the highlights of the film.
Sally Fields and Martin Sheen are quite good in their roles of Ben and May Parker. The only real complaint I have here is the fact that I kept seeing Fields as Forrest Gump’s mama throughout the film. That might just be my personal affinity for the role, but she always seems to come across in a similar fashion.
The story is very similar to the Raimi films in many ways, though there are some basic changes to give it a new wrinkle here and there. The story of how Spiderman becomes Spiderman is basically the same. He gets bitten by a spider and wakes up with some incredible powers. The scenes where he explores those powers comes across as flawless, but familiar.
The “with great power comes great responsibility” theme is still there though it is presented differently. The bottom line is that Spiderman has to learn to grow up with an incredible weight on his shoulders. His ability to do so and his love affair with Gwen Stacy are the central themes to Amazing Spider-Man.
One major difference in this movie, and my least favorite part, is the inclusion of The Lizard as the villain. Certainly Rhys Ifans does a good enough job as Dr. Curt Connors, but the villain is hardly even explored. By the time Spidey actually squares off with the giant lizard, the movie is well into the climax. Amazing Spider-Man falls short in providing Spiderman with a powerful and compelling villain. If they had spent a bit more time on this, they would have been right in the sweet spot throughout the entire film. As it is, it feels as though The Lizard was thrown in as an obligatory villain for Spidey to dispatch of.
If you want to watch a sweeping, exciting, intelligent version of Spiderman and his life, then Amazing Spider-Man will certainly be a great choice. It was so good, in fact, that it changed my mind in spite of myself.