Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
Director: Marc Webb
It's pretty absurd that a studio would go ahead and relaunch a very lucrative franchise like Spider-Man. I thoroughly enjoyed all of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies, including the third one, despite its flaws (Emo Peter Parker was hilarious - c'mon it was pretty funny). But when I found out the direction they were taking with the new trilogy (oh yes, this is going to be a trilogy - it's been confirmed on their Facebook page which is the weirdest of all places to announce that bit of news), I was intrigued to say the least. Then they decided to hire Marc Webb as the director. His only movie was (500) Days of Summer, which was one of my favorite movies a couple years back. And then they got some wonderful up and coming actors to fill in the leading roles and I was immediately hooked into seeing this opening weekend. And while the original trilogy will still hold a special place in my heart, I think this new direction will take Spider-Man to new heights much like the Batman reboot did in 2005.
The story doesn't stray too far from the original. Sure there's a new villian - the Lizard - but essentially this origin story has many similar beats to the original. However, the impact of certain scenes (particularly Uncle Ben's death) is felt much deeper than the original. There's a sense of mystery that pervades the whole film whereas Raimi's version stuck with the campy and cheesy (and true to the nature of comic books in general). And although some may be sick of the "serious superhero movie" schtick that's permeated this genre, The Amazing Spider-Man does a great job of creating a much more sinister world than before. I really enjoyed the tone of the film - it seemed more realistic in many ways (well, as realistic as a Spider-Man film can get).
I loved Garfield's portrayal of Peter Parker. He's not a total geek in that he has trouble with the ladies or he's not popular. The film actually dismisses a lot of the high school shenanigans - there's a few scenes involving a bully, but that story actually has more nuance than just your typical bully scene (spoiler - the bully actually has feelings!). But back to Parker! He is an outcast - he feels his parents have abandoned him and he feels all alone so he's a bit of a loner. Except when it comes to Gwen Stacy. As soon as Parker finds himself with these new powers, he's beginning to feel more confident as not only himself, but who he should be. And Emma Stone is fantastic as Stacy - she's charming and makes everything seem so effortless (this is definitely not the Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man 3 - she's an intern at a scientific research lab and undoubtedly smarter than Parker, who's no slouch, either!). They've got good chemistry together and I cannot wait to see how they work with they're storyline in the next movie.
The rest of the cast is great - Dennis Leary as Stacy's father and the chief of police is genius casting. And Martin Sheen as the wisdow-spewing Uncle Ben is perfect. Sally Field is another great casting choice - she does a great job at playing worrisome but strict mother figures and Aunt May is the perfect fit for her.
The only real beef I had with the movie is the Lizard. He's just not suitably evil enough for me - Ifans does a great job - but he's not exactly menacing. I never thought Spider-Man was in trouble. And this leads into another spoilerish scene - when the movie spends so much time showing Spider-Man getting the crap kicked out of him by the Lizard and then he can barely walk because he got hit by a stray bullet is just lazy. The logic is a bit fuzzy sometimes and I didn't necessarily buy the whole "NYC blue collar workers rally to help Spider-Man" at the end of movie. It was a bit manipulative of the movie - trying to get that America! Fuck Yeah! feeling from the audience seemed exploitative. This is where the tone of the movie seemed to falter - it did not fit with the rest of the movie.
But aside from that scene - I enjoyed every last minute of this movie! It's a great start to what's sure to be an exciting (and intriguing!) trilogy. I will once again make the comparison to Batman Begins. A lot of people really really loved Tim Burton's two Batman movies, but Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are clearly the superior versions - they hold up much better. And I have a feeling The Amazing Spider-Man is going to be on the same track. I don't think it's ever going to match the scope or dark tone of the Batman films; after all, Spider-Man is a much more light-hearted affair than the depressing nature of the Batman universe. The movie is definitely worth your hard-earned money!