Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Mike Finkelstein just got bit by a spider. Suddenly, his vision and strength seem to be improving tenfold, and he is able to sense all these dangers from around him. Or maybe all of that is just a hallucination from the poison slowly seeping through his veins. Damn spiders…Here is his review of “The Amazing Spider-Man”.

Mike Finkelstein just got bit by a spider.  Suddenly, his vision and strength seem to be improving tenfold, and he is able to sense all these dangers from around him.  Or maybe all of that is just a hallucination from the poison slowly seeping through his veins.  Damn spiders…Here is his review of “The Amazing Spider-Man”.

PLOT: The retold story of how Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) became the one and only Spider-Man.  This time, however, the focus is on Peter’s high school relationship with first love, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who also happens to be the police commissioner’s (Dennis Leary) daughter, and his battle with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who will soon be known as The Lizard.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is by far the quickest reboot in superhero movie history.  It has only been five years since SPIDER-MAN 3 destroyed our collective Spidey-loving hearts (Raimi was talking about his fourth and fifth entries as recently as 2010), and only a slim decade between this and Raimi’s original SPIDER-MAN.  So with the strong taste still lingering from the previous trilogy, as well as competition from five years of Marvel’s universe and the undisputed perfection that is Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT saga, what are the odds that Marc Webb’s vision could leave its own footprint on the fanboy world?

With a new, fresh cast, a villain many have been craving, and enough changes to the origin story to make us feel like we’re watching something new, it seems like Webb has not only does his job, but created a version that actually outdoes the films before it.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN tells the all-too familiar origin story of how Peter Parker became the aforementioned superhero, but this time around, we get a narrative more in line with Nolan’s Batman films.  Yes, there are the same plot points that we have to hit, and I’ll admit that there were moments where I was feeling a small tinge of déjà vu, but luckily, each point is altered just enough to make us feel like we’re not watching the same damn thing again.

What you may not be expecting, however, is how dark the film really does go.  Each and every character has their demons to face, starting with the mysterious deaths of Peter’s parents.  Beginning with the last time he saw them and fast forwarding to today, we see the toll the loss has taken on Peter, and the drive he has to figure out exactly what went wrong.   This kid is depressed, and when you add onto that the very quick and almost casual death of Uncle Ben (if you haven’t known this was coming, you really have to brush up on your Spider-Man lore), you wonder when things could possibly go anywhere near right by him.

Also welcome is how Peter actually gets molded into the superhero he soon becomes.  His vigilantism is no longer due to a moral obligation because of a new great power (although the classic line is missed, even if it is paraphrased…), but instead more of a secondary result of Peter trying to find his Uncle’s killer.  In lieu of rushing to get him into the full suit, we get mini clashes with small-time crooks that build the bridge from teenage freakazoid to hero, and when we do finally get to the climactic final battle with a villain Peter literally created, it has more heart and soul behind it than most comic book movies of the last five years.

So how was Spidey, you ask?  Completely opposite from Tobey Maguire’s nerdish version of Peter, Andrew Garfield is perfectly cast as more of a social outcast that’s almost comparable to James Dean.  Parker is good looking, kind and nowhere near awkward here, but his shyness, obvious smarts, and almost emo personality is what makes him the loner we all love.  It’s an interpretation that hasn’t been done before, fits perfectly into the environment, and is a huge step to giving this entry its own identity.

Building on Garfield’s Parker is his love interest.  Instead of the well known Mary Jane Watson, Webb decided to go with Peter’s original young love, Gwen Stacey.  The chemistry between Emma Stone and Garfield is undeniable, and it was nice to see that Gwen really liked Peter even before his climactic bug bite (damn you, ya shallow MJ!).  I think everyone in the audience was blushing every time they were on screen together, if only because of how cute and innocently they interacted.

As for the villain, we’ve been waiting to see Dr. Connors turn into The Lizard for almost a decade now, and Webb handled his transformation beautifully.  Dr. Connors can almost be thought of as a hero for testing an unpredictable serum on himself instead of countless others.  Yes, he was overtaken by said serum later on, turning him into the necessary badass foe (those claws are intense!), but everything else, from his feelings towards Peter and his parents to his interactions with Norman Osbourne’s minion is only lined with good intentions.  Rhys Ifans brought out those conflicting emotions brilliantly, and gave us a reason to both like, hate, and fear the man at the same time.

Marc Webb has done something that many comic book fans thought wasn’t possible: he took a story that was still fresh in our heads, twisted it around, and served it up as something newer and better.  With some pretty damn good special effects (even the 3D was worth it for me), characters (both lead and supporting) that ignited the screen, and a quick pace that made the 136 minute runtime seem almost short, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is an improvement on its predecessors on almost every possible way.  Yes, Raimi’s films will still have a place in all of our hearts (no, SPIDEY 3, not you…you go away), but if Marvel does things right, we might just have a universe equal to Nolan’s Batman films to look forward to.  Let’s just hope they do…

GRADE: A-

Mike’s LIKES:

1) ANDREW GARFIELD: Garfield is the perfect fit for Peter Parker.  Completely reinventing the character, he brings Parker from nerdy to a James Dean-ish social outcast.  He is the first step to making this movie stand out on its own, and I applaud him for the bold choices.

2) EMMA STONE: Emma Stone is not only absolutely gorgeous as Gwen Stacy (and, you know, just in general), but she is also absolutely adorable with her crush on Peter.  The chemistry is insane, and you could almost feel both their hearts pounding when they talk to each other.  I guess that’s why they’re now a couple in real life…

3) UNCLE BEN AND AUNT MAY: Martin Sheen and Sally Field do a beautiful job at grounding the two parental figures that we all know and love.  While Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris did an excellent job in Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN, these two really feel like your aunt and uncle instead of a grandma/grandpa pairing.

4) VISUALS AND 3D: The first-person shots in the trailers really don’t do this film justice.  The overall special effects are excellent and enthralling, and the first-person shots are used sparingly enough that they don’t bother anybody.  Also, the 3D, while not used like a gimmick, is detailed enough that it really does add a nice extra layer of depth to the action scenes.  (I’m sure you won’t see any difference if watching the film in 2D, but still nice to know that Webb respects the format.)

5) NUMEROUS OSBOURNE REFERENCES: Green Goblin is Spider-Man’s Joker, and despite not being the man bad guy here, his presence is completely felt. He is the overall reason for basically all the tragedy in these characters’ lives, and I can’t wait to see how he is incorporated into later films.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) THE PHYSICALITY OF THE LIZARD: I’m not sure if I didn’t like the special effects, or the fact that The Lizard just kept reminding me of a smarter Goomba…either way, something seemed to be lacking in the creation.

2) THE TASTE STILL LINGERS: There were definitely certain plot points where I was feeling a sense of déjà vu…granted, it’s inevitable, but I still wish I didn’t have to keep getting taken out of the film, even it if was only for a split second.

3) JAMES HORNER VISITS THE TITANIC: I don’t know what it was about this score, but did nobody tell James Horner to cool it on the horns?  All I kept thinking about was Rose flying and Jack sinking to the bottom of the ocean!

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Others up for the part of Peter Parker before Andrew Garfield got the role: Taylor Lautner, Josh Hutcherson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Logan Lerman, Robert Pattinson, Jamie Bell, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Angarano, Michael Cera, Alden Ehrenreich, Zac Efron, Aaron Johnson, Xavier Samuel, Jim Sturgess and Anton Yelchin.

2) Andrew Garfield sent Marc Webb a picture of his three-year-old self dressed in a Spider-Man Halloween costume as a thank you for the audition and to show how badly he wanted the part.  That picture helped the producers confirm that he was the right man for the job.

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