Jul 18, 2012
Posted by Simeon
This particular restart of a comic movie franchise had me more than a little bit skeptical.On the one hand, all the names sound right - Andrew Garfield (of Social Network fame) and Emma Stone (Zombieland, Easy A) are both fairly awesome, and director Mark Webb's 500 Days of Summer is made of depressed puppies. On the other, Emma Stone did in no way feel like a Gwen Stacy to me (and not just for the lack of blondness), and let's face it - there is some marginal difference between kitten-drowning not-love stories and comic heroes. The consistently uninspiring trailers did nothing to make me excited about The Amazing Spider-Man, and it took me weeks to actually go see it after it came out.
Honestly, I was torn between this and Magic Mike!
The movie is surprisingly solid. It doesn't so much wow you as it aaaws you. Personally it made me want to adopt Andrew Garfield, but even people with no clear psychological disorders aren't likely to remain unmoved by his portrayal of the conflicted teenager Peter Parker. Everything that Tobby McGuire couldn't do for the character, Garfield does with ease - the awkward nerdiness, the honest integrity, the dorky puns - it's all there, in a perfectly executed package. With tights! Emma Stone still feels somewhat miscast as Gwen, and I maintain that she would have been a much more believable pick for Mary-Jane Watson, but I am assuming after the three embarrassing movies using that particular love interest, the writers wanted to go a different route. Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors is also a good choice, although the story is simplistic enough so that characters beyond Peter don't really see much of the spotlight.
The story itself is a surprising choice, at least to me. As a restart, The Amazing Spider-Man has nothing previous to lean on, but that didn't stop Marvel from just assuming people knew the origin of their Hulk and just go on and make a movie that skips it entirely. However, Webb's reimagining is a full blown origin story with no details spared. We have the entire spider bite, discovering of powers, uncle Ben tragedy (though somehow they skipped the line about the great power and the great responsibilities) and so on, and although the wrestling sequence has mercifully been dispensed with, a solid two thirds of the movie is taken up by Peter turning into Spider-Man. At this point such a decision was probably unnecessary, but it gives Andrew Garfield a chance to shine, and as I said earlier, he utilizes it to the fullest of his considerable potential.
The story is simple, and one could even say naive. It also feels a little rushed the entire time, and even if in retrospect nothing seems to have been shorter than necessary, I came out of the theater with the feeling of having been fast-forwarded through the movie. The script could definitely have used a little slower pacing. Other than that, it's a typical early days Spider-Man story, with all the camp and moralizing, and it feels as if Webb and the writers have embraced the absurdity of a man jumping across buildings in a blue-and-red leotard and have chosen to play with it instead of going with the trend and try and make him all "believable" and "realistic" (whatever that could possibly mean in comic book terms).
The special effects are cool as expected, and I have to praise the choreography involving webbing during the fight scenes, because someone has finally figured out that yes - when your character can swing around on elastic ropes that he shoots from his wrists, you should use that to for dynamic action purposes. The soundtrack is good, and slightly above the average "epic comic book movie unmemorable themeles music" level, though sadly James Horner's offering is far from the fantastic score of X-men: The Last Stand for example. The movie is very music-saturated - there is barely a scene without accompaniment, and it's rarely just ambient.
All in all, The Amazing Spider-Man is a great summer movie. It isn't jaw-dropping, but it is head and shoulders above anything previously done on the subject, and it benefits from a phenomenal (and adorable) main lead, great support cast, and a story that hits all the right spots without falling into total vaudeville. Thumbs up.