Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Ten years... it's definitely rare for a film franchise as large (not to mention as profitable) as the Spider-Man series to be re-booted in such a short period of time. The 2002 version was not only a box-office sensation, but it was a critically acclaimed film as well. That movie as well as its sequels are still fresh in most people's minds, so the idea of starting the origin story over again came as a surprise to most fans. Luckily, the newest incarnation of the web-slinger's back-story is not only entertaining, but manages to explore new territory as well.

The "untold story" featured here is that of Peter Parker's parents. We all know that Peter lives with his aunt and uncle, but this movie goes a little further into explaining how and why. It's nearly impossible not to compare this to Sam Raimi's original, but there are pro's and con's to each. This one tells a similar story, but with notable differences. For one thing, our hero is played by a relatively new and very talented actor, Andrew Garfield. He does a terrific job with a part that will possibly always be associated with Tobey McGuire. In my opinion, Garfield's interpretation of the character is not only more relatable, but more fully depicts both the angst of the brooding Parker and the funny trash-talking Spider-Man. Another change is the love interest. Rather than Mary Jane Watson, we have Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. Her family dynamic is a little more interesting and plays a further role in the plot, as her father is the police chief that leads the manhunt for Spider-Man.

A lot of the more familiar story beats are a necessary evil of following the source material, but one obvious improvement is in the visual effects department. Particularly when Spider-Man swings through the city, there is a physicality to his movements that completely sells the action (for instance, his webs actually connect to something rather than shooting off aimlessly into the sky). Not only that, but the new villain of the story is a marked improvement over the cartoonish Green Goblin from the original. The Lizard poses an actual threat to Spider-Man and actually has a connection to our hero that runs deeper than what is explored in this film.

Not everything in this movie is great. The final battle isn't quite as satisfying as what had been promised, some of the plot-points are intentionally left unanswered and the repeated aspects of the origin are a little hard to swallow, particularly in comparison to what came before. Despite its shortcomings, however, this is a fun and highly entertaining ride that should lead into even better sequels. I give "The Amazing Spider-Man" three stars.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.