The Amazing Spider-Man Review

Of comic book movies there are three this year that demand every nerd’s attention: The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises. We already know that The Avengers is the coolest thing since sliced bread, and not to jinx anything but The Dark Knight Rises is all but guaranteed to be a dazzler, but The Amazing Spider-Man has definitely been, at least to me, the biggest question mark. But now it’s out and luckily it’s a fantastic movie.

Chemistry on & off screen?

Though it covers a lot of the same ground as Sam Raimi’s 2002 original, The Amazing Spider-Man is a well constructed effort that would be lauded much more if we hadn’t already seen another Peter Parker get bitten by a radioactive spider ten years ago.

The origin story sticks close to the Spider-Man mythos. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an orphan, living with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). He goes to high school, he’s brainy, he’s quiet and unassuming but also witty, he deals with bullies, and he likes a super cute girl who is seemingly unattainable. In this instance it’s Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) instead of Mary Jane Watson.

How Peter gets bitten is handled a bit differently than in the Raimi-verse. He finds a mysterious file in his father’s old briefcase that leads him to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and Oscorp. It’s here that he sneaks in and accidentally runs into the radioactive spiders. He gets bitten and you know the rest.

While at Oscorp he also meets the one-armed Connors who is working on developing regenerative technology from gene splicing with lizard DNA. The two hit it off and Peter soon shares the notes in his father’s file with him. The file provides Connors with the breakthrough he has been looking for but under pressure from Norman Osborn, who we don’t see in the film really, he eventually experiments on himself and becomes the Lizard.

Meanwhile Peter goes on to discover his new powers in a series of funny and entertaining scenes. But when he loses someone close to him (it’s pretty obvious who but I won’t say), he takes it on himself to find the man responsible. It’s during this hunt that he becomes Spider-Man, much like the Raimi version. It’s done well enough, as are all of the retreaded elements in the film. I just wish they had found a way to skip the origin process and get right into a truly original Spider-Man story.

Eventually Peter’s new alter ego must stop the Lizard, who like all good comic book villains, has a ridiculous plan to turn all of New York into lizard monster people. Ok they don’t all have that same plan, but it’s usually something awesomely ridiculous like that.

You shall all be Lizards! Wait...why?

If there’s one thing better about this version of Spider-Man it’s the cast.

Andrew Garfield is brilliant. With the help of the script he not only captures the patented “Spider-Man snark” but all of the other bits of Peter’s personality. His nerdy charm, nervous ticks, awkward mannerisms, angst-ridden daddy issues all come together in a wonderfully subtle performance.

Emma Stone is also amazing, as always. She’s incredibly charming, handles the dramatic scenes beautifully, and perfectly balances her roles of drop dead gorgeous hottie and smart young woman. She and Garfield have excellent chemistry that feels real if not a little awkward. It certainly reminded me of high school.

As the film’s villain, Rhys Ifans is ok. If anything the script doesn’t give him a lot to do except pine for a replacement arm and become an evil monster. The Lizard is well rendered in CGI but to me it was the least convincing effect in the film. I think I may be biased because I always thought he was a lame villain.

Other cast members that stand out are Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and Dennis Leary who plays Captain Stacy. Both characters provide some intense emotional moments that go a long way to shape Peter’s character, the former being the major one. Speaking of character, a lot of the great character development has to do with the director and the script.

When I first heard that the aptly named Marc Webb had been hired to direct Sony’s reboot of the wall crawler, I had no worries about his ability to handle the dramatic and humorous elements of the film. His work on 500 Days of Summer was very good after all. I was however worried that he would not be able to handle the action scenes. Thankfully Webb seems to be a virtuoso action director.

The well-choreographed action scenes are shot with graceful camera moves that let us actually see everything. There is almost no shaky-cam and I could not be happier about that. It’s also obvious someone went through a serious amount of panels and grabbed a bunch of their favorite Spidey moves to throw in. The variety of acrobatic moves and creative web shooting is not only cool but another great way to show Peter Parker’s brilliance and ingenuity. The money spent on this film is visible on screen much the same way that it was in The Avengers.

The Amazing Spider-Man is a great movie. My only real gripe is that the filmmakers decided to retell Spidey’s origin story instead of tell an original story we haven’t seen on the big screen before. That being said, it’s executed fantastically and I can’t wait to see where they go from here. 4 out of 5 stars.