Title: The Amazing Spider-Man
Director: Mark Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
Distributed By: Columbia Pictures
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Campbell Scott, Chris Zylka
Release Date: July 3, 2012
MPAA: Rated PG-13
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This is the story of Peter Parker, nerdy, intelligent, high school student, who gets picked on by the school bully, and looked over by almost everyone else. Even for those unfamiliar with the comics, most audiences are familiar with the story of Peter Parker. Nerdy kid, gets bitten by a spider, altered by “SCIENCE!” & gains superpowers. His uncle suffers a tragic fate, for which Peter is partially responsible, and this event motivates Peter into becoming the masked vigilante/superhero known around the world as…THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN! Along the way, he gets a girlfriend in the form of Gwen Stacy (rejoice comic fans who were annoyed that the last trilogy jumped straight to Mary Jane). He also gets a new mentor in the form of Dr. Curt Connors. Peter lives with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and this new retelling of his origin features the reason for this – the mysterious disappearance of his parents.
Overall this movie is rather terrific in a lot of ways. There are a few minor complaints, here and there, to be sure, so let’s get to those first.
The pacing for this film is incredibly fast. Sometimes it might even be a little too fast, with the story generally hurtling forward at a very brisk pace. But this also means that the story never really drags on and on either. There aren’t any really slow and pointless scenes. The only parts of the film that “drag” are those few awkward teenage “I don’t know how to talk to you” moments. And that’s intentional, not story dragging.
The CGI for The Lizard was quite spectacular, however, the CGI for Spider-Man wasn’t quite as impressive, and seemed a little underdeveloped (or less realistic) at times (especially the final shot of the film). This is a bit of a backhanded compliment, however, because to say that the CGI for Spidey wasn’t as detailed as the imagery used for The Lizard, one must point out that the level of detailing on The Lizard is stunning. From the membrane over the eyes, to the textures on the scales, everything is absolutely amazing.
One final complaint is in regard to the musical score. For the most part it’s phenomenal. However, there is one part that needs to be addressed. During the climax, there’s a moment where the film takes an eerie and amazingly well done turn into a scene from a horror film (no spoilers here, you’ll know it when it happens). James Horner introduces a loud stinger chord by way of an echoing smashing of strings and piano keys. The first and final times we hear it are great, but the few times in between are a bit overdone and irritating. Rest assured, that is the only gripe this reviewer could find in the score. This score is spectacular, simply one of Horner’s best, right up there with his scores for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Aliens, Krull, Willow, and Titanic.
The actors are all quite talented, and bring their A-Game to this performance. Nobody under performs, or chews the scenery or phones it in, in any way. Andrew Garfield presents a wonderful adaptation of Peter Parker. Martin Sheen and Sally Field bring a much needed aura of levity and warm-hearted realness to the film with their portrayals of Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Also, Rhys Ifans gives an all-out performance, allowing himself to be both completely sympathetic and totally unhinged at the same time. Emma Stone is quite believable as the sexy, strong, smart love interest; and the rest of the cast, rounded out by Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy, all deliver bang up performances as well. That is, with the exception of Irrfan Kahn, who plays a two-dimensional antagonistic lackey that doesn’t do much other than muddle through poorly delivered lines further muddled by a thick accent, which makes the delivery more obnoxious (should have spent more time with the director and a voice coach).
Some characters don’t get any real development. But it’s the characters that are already established in their portrayals and don’t require any growth. The only characters with no major development are Uncle Ben, Aunt May, and Gwen, because they are already where their character is supposed to be. They are who they are. However, Peter, Captain Stacy, Dr. Connors, and even the bully, Flash, undergo character arcs.
Peter goes from socially awkward nerd to angst-ridden obsessed teen, to romantically involved, to a responsible young adult. Captain Stacy goes from obsessive and single-minded, to open-minded and understanding and helpful, both of which stem from and evolve from his desire to protect his loved ones, and his duty to protect his city. Flash goes from jock alpha-male, to humbled non-entity, to eventually a nice person who can relate to the hero. Connors is a good man, who has grown obsessed with regaining his arm, which evolves into an obsession with humanity’s weakness. He then develops and submits to a secondary personality (the Lizard’s aggression taking over), to a man in conflict with himself.
The action is all amazing, with great fight scenes full of fantastic choreography. The spider-powers are all worked into the fights seamlessly. This movie also relied heavily on the use of stuntmen and wire-work to cut down on the use of CGI for a good number of sequences, which really helps to avoid any moments that distract from being immersed in the film. There’s also a perfect mixture of humor in the film, with various moments which are simply amusing (a cute scene where Spidey argues with Gwen comes to mind), as well as the general hilarity provided by all the wise-cracking Spider-Man tosses at everyone. And the emotional depth is wonderful. One scene involving a rescue, anytime Aunt May and Uncle Ben are on screen, and two particular sequences of events during the film’s climax (again no spoilers) might choke you up a bit and tug on the ol’ heartstrings.
Finally, one would be remiss if one did not address one thing in particular. That would be the “do it yourself” nature of the Spider-Man costume. In this film, the film-makers actually show Peter designing the mask, stitching it up, making the emblem, looking for and choosing spandex, and…building Web-Shooters. The outfit gets more worn, torn, and messed up as the movie progresses, and it actually looks stitched together with some sort of spandex athletic suit, which adds a necessary feel of verisimilitude to the whole film.
Overall, as an adaptation of the Spider-Man comic series, I’d happily give this film an 8 out of 10.
As a film, on its own merits, I’d easily score this film a solid 9 out of 10.