Just one decade ago ‘Spider-Man’ came to the big screen, web climbing to mixed reviews. In the theaters today, July 3, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ revamps Stan Lee’s comic book story about Peter Parker, a high school, science geek turned superhero thanks to a bite from a radioactive spider, starring Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Rhys Ifans (Dr. Connors/Lizard), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben), Sally Field (Aunt May), and Dennis Leary.
Directed by Mark Webb, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ effectively shepherds in a new neighborhood Spidey.
Opening innocently enough, a young Peter Parker plays hide and seek. Only he is visible during his search for his father. The tone of the film changes from playful to suspenseful as the boy emerges into his father’s study and sees that it’s been ransacked. Senior Parker rushes in at the sound of his son’s call and immediately moves into action, opening a hidden contraption in his desk drawer and removing a secret file.
From there Peter Parker’s parents take him to Uncle Ben and Aunt May’s where they leave him in the middle of the night, never to return.
The story escalates as expected, though the exposition is overlong. Peter is bullied at school, has a crush on the incredibly bright, yet beautiful science geek girl, is bitten by a spider, transforms, spends a ton of time toying with his new talents, has a fight with his Uncle Ben, runs out, Uncle Ben chases him and is killed by a criminal Peter allowed to escape, and Peter is saddled with a gift and his guilt.
Furthermore, he makes a new friend in Dr. Connors, a sensational scientific mind who was also partners with his father years ago. It is only with Peter Parker’s help that he is able to complete the research he and Parker’s father began. Enter the tormented villain.
Like before, this villain has mentored, and respects, Peter. He enjoys working with him and there is a sentimentally, a bond bridged between them because of their shared brilliance. Connors becomes a sympathetic character because of his emotional tie to Peter, because he seems only to have become a monster from being backed into a corner by the corporation that funds his research, and then because his judgment is altered by the very injections meant to save him.
Though the story is the same, this film is not a cookie-cutter of its predecessor. This is an updated, multi-genre blockbuster. The reference to current technology — social sites, online games, the constant ring of hand-helds — brings a modernized feel and it has action, humor, romance, tragedy, but skimps on the campiness. It manages to be more straight-forward than the previous Spider-Man film.
Exhilarating and riveting, Garfield and Stone lead a spectacular cast, filling these massive shoes boldly and mirthfully.
Garfield has sort of a goofy, Michael J. Fox vibe that really endears the viewer to him. He’s quirky like Stone, and just the right blend of boy and man. Tall and lanky, the Spidey suit doesn’t have quite the same fit as it did on Tobey Maguire, but that may not be a problem for some.
Emma Stone does a phenomenal job in her role, but may have grown beyond it as an actor. With her recent successes and critical acclaim, this part seems out of place for her. It is a role meant for a starlet. She is in the big leagues now. She has already arrived.
But together they create a sound and enjoyable love story that will melt audiences young and young at heart.
There are touching moments outside of their life saving relationship as when the bully approaches Peter and apologizes for the loss of his Uncle Ben. It is the compassion of this scene and another where the entire city comes together in support of Spider-Man which humanizes the story itself.
Because this version is so much more soulful, not just a superhero flick, it becomes obvious why Spider-Man has been remade after three previous releases, and why audiences continue to flock. Spidey, unlike his kin — Superman, Batman, The Green Lantern — is not only an everyman, the geek, the hero, the huge intellect, and the huge heart, but he is also just a kid.
Here is a young man who experiences some of the greatest adversities, abandonment and loss, and undergoes a change comparable to the transition from childhood to adulthood, and is further burdened with immense power. Instead of succumbing to self pity or wickedness, he rises to the height of his greatness. That is the wish for all teens.
It is that quality, that boyish, yet commanding quality in him that makes the citizens rally when he is in need. Those moments are epic, hopeful, and they show how the goodwill of one can ignite the glow of grace in many.
So, is ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ all that amazing? Bet your bottom dollar that the movie earns every letter of that amazing and every cent of your ticket price.
Don’t expect one-liners, or catchphrases. The messages are still there, and are still strong, but this is a real experience that a real teen could have (aside from the being bitten by a spider and flying from building to building, shooting web from his wrists). In this world loved ones advise each other, but it is not done in slogans. It’s done with real movie dialogue. That’s important to the authentic style. But how will we remember that “with great power comes great responsibility?”
P.S. Welcome back, C. Thomas Howell.