The Amazing Spider-Man

Directed By: Marc Webb

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, and Chris Zylka

Ten years ago, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man changed the landscape of comic book movies.  The film is considered one of the greatest comic book flicks of all time.  Fast forward five years, and you'll get the regrettable Spider-Man 3.  The film tried to do too much.  Now that another five years have passed, we've arrived at the inevitable reboot, perhaps too soon.  After Sam Raimi dropped out of a potential Spider-Man 4 with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, Sony hit the reboot button and went back to the drawing board.  The result is The Amazing Spider-Man, a film that's far more consistent with the comics than Raimi's flicks ever were.

At a young age, Peter Parker (Max Charles) gets a taste of the harder side of life.  When he finds that someone has broken into his father's study, he calls his mom and dad to the scene.  His parents Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) gather some hidden documents and flee their home.  They drop Peter off with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field).  They leave him there and never come back.  They're killed in a plane crash some time afterward.  Years later, Peter (Andrew Garfield) attends Midtown Science High School.  There, he deals with incessant bullying from Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) and falls for fellow student Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). 

When there's a leak flooding the basement, Uncle Ben asks Peter to help by recovering anything down there that they don’t want to lose to water damage.  While doing so, Peter comes across his father's briefcase and the hidden documents his parents gathered on the day they left him with his uncle and aunt.  When he questions his uncle and aunt about the briefcase, they reluctantly tell him about his father's work with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).  With the hidden documents, about which he does not tell his uncle and aunt, Peter gleans that his father's work with Connors centered on cross-species genetics and a formula known as the decay rate algorithm.

A curious Peter sneaks into Oscorp as intern Rodrigo Guevara, some other guy who actually works at Oscorp.  He takes the opportunity to get familiar with Connors's work and the connection to his father’s research.  There's just one problem.  Gwen Stacy is there.  She instantly recognizes Peter and puts him on a short leash.  When he sneaks into part of the lab with a bunch of genetically altered spiders, the creepy crawlers get all over him, and one bites him.  Of course, Gwen kicks him out of the building after he runs off.  He then develops some amazing, spider-like abilities and begins showing off in school.  He gets into a heated debate with his Uncle Ben and leaves the house one night.  While Uncle Ben is looking for Peter, he gets into an altercation with a robber.  He's shot and killed.  From that day forth, Peter seeks to find the man who killed his uncle and becomes the vigilante known as Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Peter reveals himself to Connors as Richard Parker's son and introduces him to the decay rate algorithm, an equation Connors has been unsuccessful in rediscovering.  He uses it to create a formula with lizard DNA that can help regenerate limbs.  It's something very relevant to Connors since he is missing an arm.  When his boss Rajit Ratha (Irrfan Khan) pressures him to begin human trials with this new formula so that he can save dying Oscorp CEO Norman Osborn, Connors refuses and gets fired.  Before he leaves though, Connors tests the formula on himself.  Something goes terribly wrong. Connors becomes a giant lizard and begins terrorizing New York.  Now, Spider-Man must step up to the plate and become the hero the city needs.  There’s just one problem.  Gwen's father Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) of the police is hunting Spider-Man down.

I've always loved Spider-Man.  In my book, he's one of the best superheroes out there.  The only one better on my list is Batman.  With this in mind, I'm going to try and overcome my bias in favor of our web-slinging hero in my commentary on the film.  The Amazing Spider-Man is a highly entertaining origin story that's true to the comics, which is a rarity in these big budget Hollywood productions.  Spider-Man is not just this invincible hero.  Webb's Spider-Man gets his ass kicked time after time throughout the film.  He's also not just mysteriously shooting webs from his wrists and swinging anywhere he pleases.  Like the comic book character, this Spider-Man uses wrist-mounted guns to fire his webs.  These guns are pretty awesome.  With this in mind, there's a certain authenticity to the movie that can't be denied.

The great question surrounding The Amazing Spider-Man is whether it's worth the price of admission.  With it being just five years since Spider-Man 3 hit theaters, does director Marc Webb do anything that sets this film apart from the original trilogy?  Comparing the reboot to the Raimi Spider-Man films is inevitable.  Webb has crafted a sleek, modern vision of the world of Peter Parker that starkly differs from the campy Sam Raimi films.  I'll even venture to say that our two leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have more chemistry than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst ever did. 

However, there are inevitable similarities between The Amazing Spider-Man and the 2002 Spider-Man.  The mythology of Spider-Man hasn't changed over the last decade, so Marc Webb is just telling the same story in a different way all over again.  There's no way around it.  Uncle Ben has to give a great speech about power and responsibility and then die.  Peter has to become a hero and piss off a few people along the way.  Ultimately, Spidey has to endear the people of New York.  While I can't fault Webb for this, it does feel like retreaded territory.  I can fault Sony and Columbia Pictures however.

Because The Amazing Spider-Man retreads old territory, it's critical that the film is highly entertaining.  If we're paying to see the same story again, it damn well better be good.  I'm happy to say that Marc Webb and his cast do succeed in finding the right balance of action, comedy, and story.  Particularly, everyone brings their comedic game.  The two standouts to me are Andrew Garfield and Martin Sheen.  As Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield appears to be a part-time standup comic on camera.  He keeps us rolling with every wisecrack.  As his uncle Ben Parker, Martin Sheen delivers the goods as well.  He has some really great one-liners early in the movie.

I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the performances by the cast.  All the actors deliver strong performances that add value to the film.  As our two leads Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are simply awesome.  They have palpable, magnetic chemistry and light up the big screen every time they share the camera.  As Dr. Curt Connors and his alter ego the Lizard, Rhys Ifans delivers an entertaining performance that's reminiscent of Alfred Molina's Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2.  He gives us a villain with a conscience.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field are always welcome on screen as Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  As usual, these two veteran actors give us enjoyable performances.

My one big issue with The Amazing Spider-Man is the marketing campaign for the film.  The trailer gives away entirely too much.  There's something from every single action scene in that trailer.  With the film retelling the Spider-Man mythology, it’s predictable enough already.  The marketing is just the icing on the cake.  Nonetheless, The Amazing Spider-Man is great popcorn fare for the Fourth of July holiday.  Featuring strong performances from the cast and smart filmmaking by Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man gets a 0.03% rating.  Grab a few wine coolers with this one.  For the kids, I recommend some chocolate milk (you'll get that after the movie). 

Look out for a hilarious cameo from Stan Lee as a school librarian.  Also stick around after the credits for a scene involving the Lizard and some mysterious figure.