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Movie Review The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Movie Review The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

 

The Amazing Spider-Man movie Poster 2012

Actually, it’s a new telling of a classic story.

It’s hard to review a movie based on such an iconic character like Spider-Man. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man back in the early 1960s and I’m sure they had no idea that they would be creating a hero with such a wide and long-lasting appeal. And so, how you judge this movie may ultimately depend on where you stand and when you were born. Characters like Superman, Batman and The Hulk are so universal in concept, that we are only given translations and versions. That’s the beauty and tragic hurdle for any franchise-player-based movie to deal with.

My first (and definitive) Spider-Man is from the 1960s [ahem to the age nod] and I’m sure for many it is 1981 Saturday cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. We were just given the triple-play from Sam Raimi starring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. This film will most likely serve as the main comparison point for any kind of modern following- especially since comic books are no longer the staple story-carrier for so many super-heroes.

The previous series (Spider-Man 2002) slowly turned away from the Spider-Man character and focused more on the relationship between the alter-ego Peter Parker and the girl-next-door, Mary Jane [Watson]. Amazing follows the original comic book story a bit more closely by introducing classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as Parker’s love interest -and returning to the budding scientist aspect by making the web devices an invention as opposed to an evolved part of his mutated arachnid-abilities. The casting is well done as The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), the Police Captain (Denis Leary), Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field) all add star power and credibility to the new reboot without too much time developing their back stories. We have to take this move seriously. And that’s part of the new tone. It’s a much darker world for Peter Parker [not that the last trilogy wasn’t bleak enough] where the kind of events that took tragic turns in previous movies (like the death of Ben) seem much more weighted in overall heaviness. Toby Macguire’s Spider-Man struggled with the trappings of everyday life, this Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is dealing with EVERYTHING. His parents, his guardians, his school and mostly his own identity- and that’s before even being bit by the spider!

The question of Who am I? has always been a central theme for super-hero stories. It’s what gives purpose and drives the characters forward and gives meaning to the actions (and the sometimes violent encounters) we see unfolding before us. We need to empathize with the hero, hate and fear the villain- with a small amount left for understanding why he does evil. We need to want the girl or at least want to see them together by the end. We need to feel his triumph and overcome the low points with him. If you accomplish some of these, the move becomes a journey and The Amazing Spider-Man achieves this with only a few bumps along the way.

I won’t swing off on the choice to reboot the franchise. I certainly don’t think spidey needed one or even this one so soon. As I understand, there were some crossed ideas over the direction of the series and Marvel just can’t let its flagship character stay stuck. The writers James Vanderbilt, Steve Kloves [lots of Harry Potter film work] and Alvin Sargent [Spider-man 2 and 3] write a fast moving script that leans a little too much on coincidences. You can’t help but think ‘plot-device much?’ when you see the intertwining of important characters. We also have some bad slapstick moments, but at least the Spider-Man one-line-zingers are relatively funny and in the true spirit of the wise-cracking web slinger.
Speaking of web slinging, we have some great choreography for both the fight scenes and the skyscraper Tarzan-like vinework. We even have a more spider-y Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) as arachnid movements and tendencies are molded into the characters. We have the classic touch of a newly bit Parker catching a fly and a scene where Spider-man actually waits in the center of his web for his prey to trip and trigger his web-net. Well done.

We also have the ubiquitous New York head nod as the common folk of the city rally together to help spidey. I thought we saw enough of that in the recent trilogy, but I guess Spider-Man is such a New York staple, it bears revisiting again.

The movie ends on a somber, yet promising note for the future. It’s a perfect ending because that’s my exact opinion of the movie. It was a good movie and goes beyond ‘worth watching’ because we are seeing another version of one of our most beloved superheroes. The new Spider-Man is treading on familiar cobwebs and hoping to create a new strand to swing from. I will admit I’m not as thrilled with the reboot as I could be, but this movie has created a solid framework to build from. I’m not a movie critic; I’m just critiquing a movie.

What did you think?

See other movie reviews.

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