By k4tzm4n 63 Comments
I'll be honest, I wasn't incredibly optimistic walking into The Amazing Spider-Man. His origin story is something I've seen countless times before (Sam Raimi's films, the 616 Marvel Universe, the Ultimate Universe, each cartoon show), so I wasn't thrilled to see it unfold all over again on the big screen. Sony is clearly aware that a lot of people feel that way because they've been heavily promoting the film as "the untold story." But, does this "untold story" change enough to make it feel like a fresh start, or is it running through the motions of something we've seen too many times before? Well, I'm here to tell you that the final result is indeed familiar, but it's also a ton of fun.
We all know how the shy and awkward nerd becomes our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. One day he's bitten by a radioactive spider and blah, blah, blah. What director Marc Webb and company bring to the table in an attempt to spice things up is a deeper connection with Peter's parents. They're only in the first few minutes of the film, but this key focus of the plot surrounds why they had to leave him and establishes links to long-time Spidey foes Norman Osborn and Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). This element alone really isn't going to change people from feeling like the story has a "been there, done that" vibe. We're still going to run through the motions of his difficult high school life with the bully Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka), exploring his new powers, Uncle Ben's (Martin Sheen) death inspiring him, and of course, falling in love. Lizard was teased in the Raimi films, but now he finally gets to claw his way to the surface. His plot is every bit as absurd as it was in the early pages of Amazing Spider-Man: humans are weak and lizards are the future! Rawr!
Virtually all of these plot points are something we've seen time and time again, but despite this, I still found myself having a good time and at moments even feeling like a kid again. The cast deserves a good chunk of credit for this. Andrew Garfield definitely impresses as Spider-Man. He's socially uncomfortable, makes some decent quips during fights, and most important of all, is actually intelligent. I wasn't sold on Andrew at first (dude, he's so cool because he skateboards!), but I can now confidently say he's a good pick and I look forward to more of his work as Spidey. However, what truly stands out is the chemistry that Andrew shares with Emma Stone (playing as Gwen Stacy). You can really feel the connection between those two and it's a love story that doesn't feel too forced or will make you roll your eyes.
I have no real complaints surrounding the rest of the cast. Rhys Ifans does a solid job with the material at his disposal, Sally Field is fine as Aunt May and Denis Leary (plays as Captain Stacy) always manages to amuse, but my unexpected highlight was Martin Sheen. His character delivers a few decent laughs before facing is expected demise.
The Lizard is a character we've been waiting to see for years. Raimi teased us and never delivered, but now Marc Webb is stepping up to bring us the classic villain. Personally, I think he was a great choice for the first film. While his master plan isn't anything special, he does manage to keep our eyes amused. The CGI is solid, and, more importantly, he's a perfect choice for creating some great fight sequences. The Lizard is Peter's superior physically and that definitely shows when the two face off. Thankfully, these battles aren't short and they were surprisingly brutal at times. Stan Lee even finds himself in the middle of a brawl.
Another visual highlight is the web-slinging. Occasionally we're treated to Spider-Man's point of view (Mirror's Edge anyone?) and seeing him flip around the avenues and swing from skyscraper to skyscraper is a blast. I said before this movie sometimes made me feel like a kid again and these were the scenes that accomplished that. I sat there with a goofy smile on my face as I appreciated the surreal moment.
As expected, this film also has a fair share of cheesy moments. From Spider-Man getting some unexpected help to Lizard pulling the generic mad man routine, there's without question a scene or two that'll be sure to make you groan. But still, they all pale in comparison to emo Spider-Man strutting his stuff in Spider-Man 3 (low blow, I know) and by no means critically impact the overall quality of the movie.
That said, there's also a few nice nods to the source material. I loved that a good chunk of scenes took place at Midtown High and that Flash eventually becomes a Spider-Man fanboy. Since it's the start of a whole new franchise, I was really hoping for more easter eggs to help expand the scale of the universe (and in turn, tease more villains down the road), but it seems clear they're aiming to eventually reuse the Green Goblin (he's dying and desperate for a cure...one that'll likely enhanced him). On the flip side, this could possibly lead to the infamous death of Gwen Stacy - a move that would certainly surprise most casual fans.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is a film that largely plays it safe. No real risks are taken to make it stand out, but it's still a fun ride in spite of its predictable nature. It doesn't reach the level of entertainment Marvel's The Avengers provided and it'll likely be overshadowed by the fast approachingThe Dark Knight Rises, but it's absolutely worth checking out if you want to enjoy a good dose of popcorn entertainment or love the legendary character.