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Note: For Nick’s review of The Amazing Spider-Man, click here.
I have to admit to initial skepticism upon hearing that Sony wanted to reboot the Spider-Man franchise. Initial reports found their way to the internet a scant eight years or so after the initial, Sam Raimi-directed/Tobey Maguire-starring Spider-Man debuted in 2002, and a mere three years after the third, critically assaulted installment disappointed movie-goers in 2007. Marc Webb, primarily known for directing music videos, had one studio film under his belt, 2009’s quirky rom-com (500) Days of Summer, when he was selected to direct the massively-budgeted reboot. This also led to that initial skepticism I felt. How could Marc Webb, known for a slight romantic comedy and a few dozen music videos, handle the intense scrutiny of a mega-budget summer tentpole film?
It has been a lousy summer for movies. The Avengers saw a mammoth debut and climbed north of 600 million domestically, but outside of that movie I have to say it’s been a fairly lackluster summer thus far. My skepticism towards The Amazing Spider-Man gave way to anticipation based almost solely on this. So when I finally got a chance to see the movie over the past weekend (on a 3D IMAX screen no less), I came out somewhat surprised by how good the movie turned out. It is true that the film moves kind of slowly in some places, and that this this particular origin story did not really need to be told again (and so soon after the popular trilogy that came before it), but The Amazing Spider-Man is, by and large, a success.
Plot doesn’t deviate too much from what would be expected in a Spider-Man origin film, which both works for the film and against it. The origin story allows Andrew Garfield, well-cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, to shine in the quieter, more subdued early parts of the film. His chemistry with Emma Stone, who I have come around to now that she’s not completely over-exposed, is good, and she is also solid as Gwen Stacy. I like the choice of using Stacy over the more familiar Mary Jane as it helps give the origin story some new blood, per se. Another strength throughout the film is the supporting cast. I like the idea of a younger Aunt May, and Sally Field doesn’t get much screen time but shines in her role (as does Sheen, brilliantly cast as Uncle Ben). I also like what the film did with Capt. Stacy, played by an intense Denis Leary.
If the film has a major weakness (other than the familiar territory tread by the basic story), it is the villain. The idea to use Dr. Connors/the Lizard as the primary antagonist seemed like a good idea, as the character has not yet been used in the Spider-Man film universe. Unfortunately, the use of the character is poor. It isn’t exactly the fault of the actor, as Rhys Ifans does a fine job as Connors. The problem is that the motivation for the Lizard’s actions are never entirely clear, as the corporate wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, a little-mentioned side-plot in this film, will more than likely be appropriately dealt with in the sequel. It’s also never quite clear what role Ifans had in the untimely death of Parker’s parents, nor it is clear why the Lizard sees Spider-Man as his enemy, choosing to hunt him down rather than continue with his ultimate plan, which is also contrived (and reminiscent a bit of the ultimate plot of Batman Begins to be honest).
The Amazing Spider-Man works as a whole, however, and I am excited about the direction the franchise will go in from here on out. Sony and the chief creators of the film faced and made some difficult choices, especially the decision to just reboot the entire franchise instead of giving Raimi and Maguire another go-round. The choices work more often than they fail, Garfield is a strong lead and a great choice for Parker/Spider-Man, the effects and the 3D are pretty great, and the final product turned out a lot better than my initial skepticism lead me to believe it would. Consider me a fan.