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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Directed by: Marc Webb

Premise: The first chapter in a new Spider-Man film series. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) acquires superpowers after he is bitten by a laboratory spider.

What Works: The Amazing Spider-Man reboots the Spider-Man franchise, retelling the origin of the character and establishing a new storyline. This film manages to be very entertaining and ought to satisfy fans of superhero movies. The film benefits most from its casting. Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man and the actor is a good fit in the role. As presented in this film, Parker is a credible and angst-ridden youth who deals with the anxieties of growing up and transitioning into adulthood. Garfield incorporates those qualities into his performance and as a result his Spider-Man has a lot of reality and humanity, distinguishing him from many other superheroes. Two other notable performances are made by Rhys Ifans and Martin Sheen. Ifans plays Curt Connors, who becomes super villain The Lizard, and the character has sympathetic and even tragic qualities that make him interesting. Sheen is cast as Uncle Ben and although he only gets a small amount of screen time Sheen does manage to make an impression that sets the tone for the film’s themes of responsibility. The Amazing Spider-Man is also assisted by impressive visual effects. Five years have passed since Spider-Man 3 and it has been a decade since Sam Raimi’s original film, and in the interim visual effects have notably improved. Like its predecessors, The Amazing Spider-Man uses a lot of computer generated imagery but this picture has a less cartoony look than the 2002 film; it is better shot with more vibrant use of shadows and colors and the Spider-Man suit has a realistic texture.

What Doesn’t: The Amazing Spider-Man is a well-made film but it is lacking in story. The narrative has so much going on, including Peter Parker’s development into Spider-Man, his relationship with love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and his conflicts with both local police and The Lizard, that the film is never able to dramatize any of these subplots in a meaningful way. Of the various narrative strands, the love story is hurt the most. Actors Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are likable as a couple and there is enough chemistry between them that the viewer will want to see Parker and Stacy together but the story does not include any moments in which the characters substantively demonstrate their feelings. The Amazing Spider-Man is also hurt by its familiarity. The story does not take any risks and its plot follows the boilerplate of most other superhero movies. This is doubly harmful to The Amazing Spider-Man because viewers of the previous Spider-Man pictures won’t be able to help but feel like they’ve seen this all before. Although it has a new cast and a new villain, the Spider-Man of 2012 is fundamentally the same as the Spider-Man of 2002. There isn’t the kind of reinvention of the material demonstrated between Tim Burton’s Batman, Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Because of that, the new Spider-Man is ultimately forgettable and even comes across as a cynical Hollywood cash grab.

Bottom Line: The Amazing Spider-Man is fundamentally the same story that was seen in the 2002 film but it is overall a better picture and a solid foundation for a new Spider-Man storyline. Hopefully the sequels to this film will take bigger risks and tell more compelling stories.

Episode: #396 (July 15, 2012)