The Amazing Spider-Man
Action, SciFi-Fantasy, Based on the Marvel Comics Character; U.S.; 2012; 137 minutes; directed by Marc Webb (I’m not kidding about that!)
Medium: Currently in Theaters
Rating: 4.5 ensnared flies (5-fly system)
I went into this movie expecting to get caught up in an intricate web of, “Pales in comparison to,” the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man trilogy starring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Instead, I discovered an interesting tale that stood much taller—on all eight legs—than any of its predecessors. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a bit harsh on Marvel-based movies of late—Thor (3.0), X-Men: First Class (3.5), Captain America: The First Avenger (3.5), and The Avengers (a far from enthusiastic 4.0). So, I wasn’t expecting much here. But this movie really sank its chelicerae into me. Not only that, but my comic book character-adverse wife positively loved this film as well—no small feat if you know my Ursula.
First, the actors in this movie could actually act. Don’t get me wrong—Toby Maguire was okay, but he was never in danger of ensnaring an Oscar. Kirsten Dunst, on the other hand, displayed all the emotional range of an arachnid.
In comparison, Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker (a.k.a., Spider-Man) made you feel the tragedies in his life, the loneliness of being the class science nerd, and the ache in his heart as he admired from afar the infatuation of his life. And Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy—Peter Parker’s first love—didn’t just Dunst her way through the role; she owned it from her very opening scene to that faint hint of a knowing smile at the very end just before the credits.
This first of a new trilogy holds much closer to the original comics, as well. This Peter Parker is in high school, where he belongs, rather than college. His web-slinging abilities come not from his newly acquired spider powers, but rather from innate genius and finely tuned mechanical skills through his invention of “web-shooters “. And, of course, Gwen Stacy rather than Mary Jane “MJ” Watson was Peter’s first true love (although in the comics they did not meet until after Peter graduated from high school and entered college). True fans should appreciate this adherence to the original Spider-Man canon.
As with most “origination” stories, this movie spends the vast majority of its time setting up the characters and their motivations . . . and that’s a good thing. From my previous Marvel-based movie review, you know I appreciate substance over pyrotechnics and computer-generated whiz-bang visuals, and this story caters to the thinking audience on all fronts. Yes, there’s a bit too much CGI, but you can’t even get through a comedy nowadays without that being the case. But, overall, this is about the story, not about the gee-whiz—and that alone makes the two hours and seventeen minutes of sitting in a darkened theater seem like far less.
Oh, and don’t head for the exits when the credits roll. As has become the norm with Marvel-based movies of late, there is an introductory clue as to what is coming in the sequel. Hint: There’s a reason why the antagonist (Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard) in this movie works for OsCorp and Norman Osborn, and why those references are dropped about the movie like dusty cobwebs in a neglected corner of the ceiling of a deserted shack. Do I see a Green Goblin in the future? You bet I do.
Let’s hope this team keeps up the good work in the two planned follow-through pictures. Alas, if recent Hollywood history is any indication, if they can pull that off in the sequels then they will indeed have performed a superhuman feat worthy of a comic book superhero. There is, after all, a lot of character development still pending. For one thing, much of this Peter Parker’s motivations revolve around the mysterious disappearance years before of both his father and mother . . . and that remains unresolved at the end of this installment. Another clue to the upcoming—Richard Parker, Peter’s father, also worked of Oscorp and Norman Osborn.
By the way, you simply have got to admire the producers of a movie about a web-slinging teenager with spider-like powers who have the sense of humor to hire as a director someone with the last name of Webb.