That’s what I thought when it was announced that Sony would be rebooting their Spider-Man franchise after Sam Raimi’s attempts to get a fourth film in his Toney Maguire -staring franchise fell flat. Regardless of what you thought about the failed third film (and I say failed only from an artistic standpoint, since Spider-Man 3 was still a huge financial success), there was a world created, a beloved character brought to life. Did we really need to start all over again so soon?
Turns out we did. Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man is an excellent entry in Peter Parker’s mythos, and like the best reboots, combines the old and new into the unique. Find more about what this Spidey freak thought of the film after the jump.
If you follow Spider-Man in the comics, you know that there has been more than one iteration over the years. There’s the one that populates the regular Marvel Universe. There’s the one that lives in the Ultimate Universe and which began it’s story in the 2000’s. Director Marc Webb, along with screenwriters Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves and James Vanderbilt, have managed to combine both into something that feels fresh, while still hitting the classic notes that have made Spider-Man iconic. In this film, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is less loser and more loner, brought up by his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (a stellar Martin Sheen) after we see him left in their care by his parents. Peter wants to know why, and so do we. In the meantime, the gorgeous Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone, who can do no wrong) is falling for him, even when he’s getting bullied and beat up. And then Peter gets bit by a spider. Here’s the thing. Marc Webb, whose only previous film was the smart love story (500) Days of Summer is entirely adept at handling the grandiose nature of a summer blockbuster, but what makes his take on Peter Parker so memorable is the focus on character.
Watching Peter and Gwen fall in love is great moviemaking, thanks in part to both the script that is playful in the best ways. But there’s also a genuine, palpable chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone that radiates from the screen. You have problem wanting to see these two together, and I’m not surprised that the chemistry moved offscreen. Both are perfectly cast for their roles. Garfield does a remarkable job as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, playing science geek one minute and quipping hero the next. It’s the role of a lifetime and he nails it. But seeing just how much love Garfield has for Spidey, I can’t say I’m surprised.
Of course, even with the perfect characterization and drama, The Amazing Spider-Man is a comic book movie, and like every one that’s come before and will come after, it needs a villain. In this case, it’s Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a scientist as Oscorp, Peter’s fathers former partner, and a man working in genetic studies to hopefully repair his missing arm, an experiment that leads to Connors becoming The Lizard, a classic Spidey bad guy. Ifans finds the soul in the character, and like the best of villains, believes his actions are for the good of the masses. The Lizard and Spider-Man have some great fight scenes, the highlight for me being the one that takes place at Midtown Science High School, something that felt right out of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics.
From a special effects standpoint, The Amazing Spider-Man manages to make the wall-crawling and web-slinging we’d seen in the previous films exciting to see, utilizing the 3D effects to give us a first hand perception of swinging through New York City. Definitely check out the 3D version of the film, or you’ll be missing out on what Marc Webb intended with the film.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a darker film than it’s predecessors, and it works because of it. It’s a serious film with serious consequences for it’s characters. But it’s also a fun interpretation of a character who celebrates his 50th birthday this year. I went from saying too soon for a reboot to not soon enough for the next film in the franchise. I have a feeling you’ll feel the same way.