It has been five years since the world was given “Spider-Man 3” (2007), which not only killed the franchise and ruined what could have been one of the most iconic villains in the superhero genre (Venom), but also forced fans of the webslinger to hope that there wouldn’t be another film.
▲ Columbia Pictures
For this reason, July’s release of “The Amazing Spider-Man” went completely below the radar of this reviewer. And though not amazing as its name so suggestively states, I would go as so far to call it “The Surprisingly Pretty Good Spider-Man.”
Without having any information about this film before walking into the theater (even knowing that it existed) I went in without any expectations or knowledge of the plot. A empty observer waiting to digest data.
The first thing to note is that the plot is pretty similar to the previous Spidey films, carrying all the major signposts of the original creation story. But what differs is not so much the story but its presentation and relying more on the emotive talents of its cast rather than the sophistication of its computer processors (though it doesn’t really lack in the CGI department either).
The film begins with Peter as a little boy playing hide and seek with his father, Richard Parker (played by Campbell Scott), in their home, when Peter finds that someone has broken into his father’s study. Seeing as nothing was taken, Richard, a scientist, concludes that someone is after his research and that his family is no longer safe in their home or even together. Peter is then given to Uncle Ben and Aunt Mary (played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field, respectively) to be cared for. This is Peter’s backstory, which adds to his teenage angst at being abandoned by his mother and father, and is a mystery that propels the story and will probably leak into sequels.
What follows is a slight variation of Tobey Maguire’s first foray in the blue and red spandex. The story to the eventual spider bite begins with a basement flood. Uncle Ben tells a high school Peter Parker, played by pretty boy Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network,” 2010), to take out anything that is of value and he comes across his father’s briefcase containing important sciency documents and the like. He eventually discovers that his father used to work with the one-armed Dr. Curt Connors (played by Rhys Ifans) of Oscorp, a bioengineering firm. Peter visits the doctor to find out more about his father’s disappearance, becomes sidetracked into a room full of web-weaving spiders and … well, Spider-man is born.
Garfield brings a human quality to Peter Park and hits the emotional notes that cause the audience to feel the pain of Uncle Ben’s death, or his awkward juvenile first steps into romance with Gwen Stacy, played by current “it girl” Emma Stone (“Crazy, Stupid, Love,” 2011).
It is the chemistry between these two, plus their talent, that sells this movie, and director Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer,” 2009) capitalized on their abilities. By focusing on the inner conflicts of Peter, Webb takes a story we all know and shows us another side to it. At times the film leaves the superhero genre and ventures into drama — which, bravo to the cast and director — but when it comes back to the more comic-book inspired scenes “The Forced and Cheesy Spider-Man” would be a more apt title.
In a Batman-like turn into the murky playground of guilt, the villain of this tale is somewhat Peter’s fault. This is introduced to the plot to give it more substance, weight, and uncertainty, but is never really developed nor is it truly that believable.
Along with the villain of this tale Webb has tried to construct a film where nothing is truly black or white. He is trying to paint in grays, which made Christopher Nolan’s Batman such a success with audiences, but has still created a technicolor world without uncertainty. While overall the film works and is entertaining, too much of the old remains for this to feel like a full rebirth.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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