|July 3, 2012|
|Action, Adventure, Thriller
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
|The Amazing Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-man is my favorite film so far this year. Perhaps it’s my passion for Spider-man, which dates back to my childhood years as I read all the comics, or even my affinity for comic book films in general, but no matter what the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed this newest film, directed by Marc Webb. Taking a darker look at the world of Spider-man and focusing mainly on the secret life of Peter Parker’s parents, The Amazing Spider-man delivers in almost every sense that it could, with a passion and grace unseen in the Spider-man films thus far.
Around the time The Amazing Spider-man was announced, I was skeptical. Rebooting a series only ten years after the first film and merely five years after the last film, causes for some questioning. But with such a piss-poor showing from Spider-man 3, the die-hard fans deserved something new, and I see that now.
Andrew Garfield takes the reigns as Spider-man, proving to be a much better fit for the role than Tobey Macguire. With a return to form for Spider-man, being the quick-witted, smart-mouthed, wall-climber that we knew from the comic books, there is no way Macguire could have pulled off this new version of the superhero. Garfield, on the other hand, fits the role perfectly, with the shy guy mentality when he’s Peter Parker, but the perfect cocky demeanor when he’s shooting webs and catching bad guys.
The Amazing Spider-man also marks the first film that Spider-man is not shooting webs out of his own hands, but instead has made his own web-slingers from materials that he buys from Oscorp (the webbing) and his own inventions. This not only shows Peter Parker’s level of intelligence, but also provides some great intense moments, like when Spider-man is underwater and cannot shoot his webbing or when the devices are crushed and he is no longer able to rely on them. No matter what, this is a great way to separate this new franchise from any prior.
When it comes to the superhero genre, there are three things that usually determine how successful the film will be; the villain, the battles, and the love interest. Rhys Ifans plays the villain, Dr. Curt Connors, an old associate of Richard Parker, Peter’s father. Famous for experimenting in cross species genetics, Connors dreams of one day regrowing the arm that he lost. As Peter looks into his father’s old companion, he entrusts Connors with a formula that was hidden by his father before he died, which proves successful in regrowing limbs by combining lizard and mouse genes. Threatened with losing his work, Connors turns the formula on himself, only to become The Lizard, one of Spider-man’s biggest arch-nemesis, determined to turn the whole city into lizards.
It should be stated that Spider-man 2 is one of my favorite films of all-time. With perfect writing and an amazing soundtrack, there were several key elements that made that film so good and which carry into The Amazing Spider-man. Alfred Molina was the perfect casting choice of the villain of Doc Ock. He knocks his performance out of the park. But re-watching Spider-man 2, you see the perfection in the battles throughout the film. With three high profile fights between Spider-man and Doc Ock, each with their own important elements and challenges, the film feels justified and fulfilled by the end, unlike the sequel (Spider-man 3). The Amazing Spider-man hits the same three points in a separate, yet equal way. There’s a fight on the Williamsburg Bridge, a fight in Peter Parker’s school, and the epic end battle on the roof of the Oscorp skyscraper, each with their own key and memorable moments.
Small details also help in this film’s success. This is an origin story and the element missing in Sam Raimi’s Spider-man origin story was the lack of emotion when Tobey Macguire’s character acquired the Spider-man skills. No fear, no questioning, no real excitement. He simply goes from a normal teenager to a building jumping fanatic without much of an emotional transformation. Marc Webb’s depiction, however, embodies several transformations. From awe and confusion, after accidentally attacking some beatniks on the subway, to complete disarray when all his new powers begin to creep up on him, to excitement, and eventually acceptance and acknowledgement of what he can do and the people that he can help with his powers. The other small detail that I appreciated was that when Spider-man gets hurt, he actually gets hurt, with a huge part of character interaction revolving around the fact that Peter Parker is often bloodied and bruised. Also, when the Spider-man suit gets torn, it stays torn, re-enforcing the illusion that he only has one suit.
Emma Stone also brings us a first for the franchise… a love interest that is both extremely beautiful and extremely smart, complimenting Peter Parker much better than the blatant sex objects we are often spoon-fed. As Gwen Stacy, her unique humor and thoughtful eyes create a dynamic with Andrew Garfield unseen in any of the previous Spider-man films. Their chemistry is through the roof from their first conversation to their last interaction (which is one of the best moments of the entire film). Their high school awkwardness and naivety play a huge part in their success as an on-screen couple, as does the fact that Gwen’s father, George Stacy (Dennis Leary), is the police captain hunting Spider-man. Also, the fact that Gwen becomes privy to Peter’s secret life early on is important, as it negates any recycled story-lines from either the past films or any other “secret life” love story. The best moments of the film are when these two are together on-screen and, being the hopeless romantic that I am, this made The Amazing Spider-man that much more special for me.
The soundtrack played a huge part in my love for Spider-man 2, so there were high expectations placed on The Amazing Spider-man to rekindle that regard. Though it did not entirely live up to the second installment, it still had some truly great moments, including The Shins during the opening of the film, creating an immediate connection to the soundtrack. Also, the Coldplay song “Til Kingdom Come” paired with the scene of Peter discovering with his newly acquired abilities remains my favorite moment of the entire film. Overall, the James Horner score complimented the film unnoticed, aside from some questionable moments during The Lizard and Gwen Stacy interaction towards the end of the film, however the Danny Elfman score was sorely missed.
In the age of dark superhero films like Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman franchise, The Amazing Spider-man holds up. It hits all the right marks with a deep, rich, and believable plot which rarely neglects the source material. The high school romance is the highlight of the film, with such lifelike representation and emotional resonance, the likes that haven’t been felt since Spider-Man 2, without the repetitive hoopla recycled from every other romantic storyline. The fights are of high caliber, the costume breathes new life into the franchise, and the emotional connections throughout the entire story are so dark and tight-knit, you come out of the film fully invested. With two more films on the horizon, I am interested to see if the creators can keep this same momentum throughout the entire franchise.