Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Directed by: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
I love Spider-Man but even I’ve got to admit, The Amazing Spider-Man had a lot going against it. Sure, Spider-Man 3 had its faults, but did such an established franchise need a reboot so soon after? Could The Amazing Spider-Man possibly differentiate itself from Sam Raimi’s beloved trilogy? And could a seemingly darker direction do justice to what has always been one of Marvel’s most colourful, upbeat superheroes? The answer to all these questions, much to my surprise, is a resounding yes. The Amazing Spider-Man is, well, amazing.
Let’s get a couple of preconception’s out of the way first. Yes, this is very much an origin story which means that many of the same elements as the 2002’s Spider-Man find their way here in one way or another. The spider bite, Peter Parker turning the tables on school bullies, great power coming with great responsibility (or words to that effect) all feature. But though The Amazing Spider-Man follows many of the same story beats as its predecessor, it has an identity of its own. Which brings us to another major preconception. No, The Amazing Spider-Man is not a Dark Knight wannabe. True, it’s not quite as whimsical or colourful as the original trilogy but it’s certainly not the dark and gritty Batman knock-off many feared. Naturalism is the name of the game here. Peter Parker is still smart, socially awkward and occasionally picked on, but he’s not the wimpy uber-geek of the Raimi films. Here Peter Parker (played perfectly by The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield) is a genuinely relatable ever-boy. He has problems, he’s not exactly Mr. Popular but he’s a likable, if somewhat withdrawn, kid.
In fact, there are a lot of things that this reboot arguably does better than the original series. Love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is far smarter and feistier than Mary Jane ever was and the writers don’t trip over themselves to find ways for her to get kidnapped, something which was beginning to get a bit tired by the end of Spider-Man 3. It’s here that director Marc Webb’s experience with awkward romances (500 Days of Summer) really shines and the two have some wonderful exchanges. In fact, pretty much all the characters from Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field) to Gwen’s father police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) are handled with great care, instantly familiar yet distinct from their original counterparts. Hell even bully Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) gets some surprisingly thoughtful development.
Of course every Spider-Man film needs a villain and here that role is filled by Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) aka the Lizard. Connors falls somewhere between the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus from the original films, a pleasant scientist acquaintance of Peter who takes a turn for the villainous after using himself as a guinea pig for his own research. Though a bit indistinct from these prior foes, the Lizard is nonetheless a menacing enemy and has some brilliantly flamboyant showdowns with the wallcrawler.
The Amazing Spider-Man does have its flaws. A few plot details that get sort of glossed over in the excitement don’t make a great deal of sense when given more thought (after a while Aunt May just seems to get used to Peter coming home covered in cuts and bruises), the Lizard’s lip synching could be better and some fans are bound to object to the (admittedly minor) changes made to Spidey’s origin. Peter’s parents play a bigger role than they did before and Uncle Ben (while still important) is perhaps less crucial to Spider-Man’s beginnings than long-term fans are accustomed to.
But these are all minor quibbles. Against all the odds, The Amazing Spider-Man captures the same sense of inspiring, good-natured heroics the original did a decade ago. It’s debatable which outing is stronger but one thing is certain; Spider-Man’s introduction to a new generation of fans is an unqualified success.
Also…Best. Stan. Lee. Cameo. Ever.