Spider-Man was a billion dollar franchise that turned Tobey McGuire an international star. The series of films by Sam Raimi was lauded by many as one of the best trilogies to hit the silver screen. The story of a young man bitten by a radioactive spider and getting super powers was just the right mix of fantasy and fun. It was a CGI wonderland of visual delight. It made one believe that a kid could repel around the city in web filled glory. The last adventure came out in 2007 and Toby has hung up the tights and gone on to less physical pursuits. Sam Rami thought that three was enough and bailed on continuing the project. So, what is a studio to do when they have a billion dollar idea but no billion dollar talent?
In a word, reboot. Or in another concept, start the entire thing all over again.
The Amazing Spider-Man is not another adventure from the Raimi driven world of comic book heroes but a newly conceived adventure. This time out Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man. We start the story when he is just a boy and his parents are panicked because someone is after something they know. It seems that dad is a scientist and has hit on a discovery that will change the nature of man. Mom and Dad leave young Peter with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (the always wonderful Sally Field).
Fast forward a few years and Peter is a kid in high school, super smart but not able to find a place in the world. Everyone assumes that Mom and Dad are dead since they have not been heard from since that fateful night.
Like all teenagers, Peter seems to be looking for acceptance and love. This time around there is no Mary Jane but rather Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). She is daughter of Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), the local police head honcho. She also works at the lab of Oscorp, the facility that Peter’s Dad worked at. The Oscorp labs are run by one-armed scientist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).
Dr. Connors has been working on a regeneration serum that will grow back his missing limb. It seems that every formula he uses fails. Peter, trying to discover something about his parents, visits the labs and is bit by the radioactive spider.
The next part of the film is the twin plot points of the gaining of Peter’s powers and receiving his mission to defend the defenseless. There are tragedies along the way that solidify the basic tenets of the story. It does not delve too far from the comics.
The other side of the film comes from the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde aspect of the script. Dr. Connors uses the growth serum and turns into super villain The Lizard. Spidey must use all his newly found talents to take on one of the maddest bad guys since Godzilla decided to wreck Madison Square Garden. This massive film ends with a massive battle in the most massive city on the planet.
Andrew Garfield has some major shoes to fill by putting on the cowl of Spider-Man and he does a superb job of making it his own. There is this gee-whiz aspect to his Peter that is just endearing. We believe his troubled nature and revel in his assertion from person who sees what is right to a person who does something to make it right. He just needs to learn to keep the mask on.
Emma Stone has been a fanboy favorite since her appearance in Zombieland. Here she is going to win giant worldwide audience. This Revlon Girl takes a thankless role and delivers some true emotions on the screen. The chemistry between her and Andrew Garfield works on different levels and some of the more tender moments of the film are some of the most touching.
Let’s face a few facts here – it is the villain that usually makes or breaks the superhero movie. This time out Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Curt Connors AKA the Lizard and he is a massive amount of evil. Like all the great villains, he is a tragic figure who as much a victim of circumstance as the hero is. The entwined fates between the two are as old as drama and still works.
The only true complaint I have with the film is down time between action sequences. Director Marc Webb did the smart move by ignoring all the other incarnations of the franchise and starting fresh. He just could have got to the action without all the exposition.
But WOW what a bunch of action sequences. The shots of Spider-Man flying from building to building are some of the more memorable CGI moves ever seen. The camera and subject do a dance with the audience in what can only be described as Cirque de Soleil on screen. It is magical how this technology has changed the face of the action film.
The Summer of 2012 will be remembered as the summer of the Comic Book Hero. The Amazing Spider-Man may be the second best comic book film of the year which still makes it one of the best comic book films of the decade. This is another not to be missed motion picture.