The Amazing Spider-Man

Posted: July 18, 2012 in Movie Reviews

Spider-Man makes quite a triumphal return.

Have you ever wondered what constitutes a hero? For some, the word “hero” may bring to mind such iconic figures as Roy Rodgers, riding atop his faithful horse Trigger shooting at the bad guys; or Superman, flying across the universe with his red cape flowing sinuously behind him. For others still, the image of the New York fire department, silhouetted against the backdrop of the fallen World Trade towers, may be at the forefront of their mind. But not all heroes need have flowing capes, or make daring rescues, or sit aloft a white horse in shimmering armor. Sometimes, heroes come from the unlikeliest of backgrounds.

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Summary: (May contain spoilers)

Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) has been struggling his entire life with the mysterious disappearance of both his mother and father. Raised for the past 12 years by his aunt and uncle, that longing for his own parents has never parted from him.

Being incredibly smart, like his father, Parker is deemed the school nerd and suffers for it. After he finds a briefcase belonging to his father, containing the name Oscorp Industries inside, Peter’s path to discovering his parents’ disappearance leads him to Dr. Curt Connors (played by Rhys Ifans), his father’s former science partner.

Especially intrigued by Parker’s brilliance, Dr. Connors offers him the chance to work on an experiment he has been testing, a serum based off of lizard DNA which can re-grow missing human limbs. While at the lab, Peter is bitten by a lab-experiment spider and suddenly takes on the characteristics of a spider. Extremely quick reflexes, the ability to stick to walls, and tremendous agility are among the side effects.

After his uncle is killed by an armed thief, Peter must cope with living without the only father he’s ever really known, and must also determine who he truly is, how he can use his gifts for good, and what his responsibility should be.

After Dr. Connors tests his finished serum on himself, his own missing limb does grow back, however it turns his entire body into a lizard. In his fury, Connors (aka the Lizard) goes on a rampage nearly destroying half of New York City.

It’s like Jurassic Park, except with spiders and lizards. . .

Now faced with the burden of stopping him, Spider-Man must take responsibility on himself and, with the help of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone), must determine a way to turn his mentor back into a human being.

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 Quite honestly, my expectations for this movie weren’t all that high. In fact, if I jumped I probably could have touched my expectations. After all, this is a reboot of a popular film series about a popular super-hero. So I wasn’t quite sure how they could make this one so different as to even merit peoples’ attention. What I found at the end of the movie, however, is a film quite superior to its predecessors and quite able to stand on its own two feet as a marvelous piece of work.

Here are a few differences:

First, the choice of cast is considerably better. I very much enjoyed Tobey Maguire’s character in the original Spider-Man trilogy, but it always seemed that he made a better nerd than Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield, on the other hand, made a terrific Spider-Man. Far more believable. And Gwen Stacy wasn’t flighty like she was in Spider-Man 3. The new Gwen is a very solid character who earns her place in the movie. Being a science whiz herself, she is even able to aid Spider-Man, rather than simply scream a lot and have to be rescued.

Love. Even King Kong himself couldn’t resist.

Second, the quality of the acting was a marked difference. As previously mentioned, the characters seemed more ground in reality, and unlike the somewhat lesser quality of acting in the originals, Amazing Spider-Man garners a far more impressive level of quality. Each actor brought genuine personality to their characters and made the humorous parts truly amusing. And there were several amusing parts!

Third, the story has certainly improved. Amazing Spider-Man stuck closer to the source material (i.e. the comics) than the originals did. Mary Jane Watson was not Parker’s first love as formerly suggested, Gwen was. Mary Jane came (and most likely will come) later. Also, Spider-Man’s web never came out if his wrists as they did in the originals, they came from gizmos that Peter made, like they depict in this movie. Peter’s suit doesn’t just magically appear as it did before, this time he modifies an existing spandex suit.

Fourth, the motive is more refined. The basic principle in the original Spider-Man was “with great power comes great responsibility,” and I love that. It’s so true. But I felt that Spider-Man never really had the true opportunity to prove that. Sure, he defeated the Green Goblin, restored a scientist with eight arms to sanity, and warded off the Sand Man and his arch-nemesis, but we never really got to the nitty-gritty of who Spider-Man is. Peter Parker wrestled with himself on that very subject for a bit, but it was quickly resolved. And we never quite knew how it was resolved.

The premise still stands in this movie, but it’s not so much a theme as it is a moral duty. Who is Spider-Man? Is he a freak of nature? A random happenstance? Or just a vigilante? Or does he maybe have a purpose in this world. Spider-Man goes through a lot of pain to get to where he is. Growing up parentless, dealing with the many issues at school, losing his mentor, his girlfriend, and even the death of his uncle. All necessary components that mold and shape Peter Parker into the hero he needs to be.

He doesn’t fly or shoot lasers like Superman, he doesn’t have Tony Stark’s charm, or Captain America’s charisma. He doesn’t possess the power of the gods, but through devotion and sacrifice he is what he’s meant to be. A Hero. Pure dedication to something larger than himself.

So in essence, yes, this adaption far exceeded my expectations and far surpassed its predecessors in almost every way. Marc Webb (yes, coincidentally that is his real name) has brought us a film filled with heart, vigor, and downright fantastic movie-making that truly is amazing.  For sure, a worthy addition to the Marvel archives.

9 stars

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