Article by: Coop Cooper
A.K.A. The Small Town Critic
Once again Hollywood enters the era of the “way-too-soon” remake. A successful blockbuster film like the 2002 “Spider-Man” might have produced its final sequel five years ago, but that’s not stopping producers from cashing in on an entirely new Spider-Man franchise. It might be an unnecessary redo, but “The Amazing Spider-Man” executes some aspects better than its predecessor.
Peter Parker (Adrew Garfield) loses his parents under suspicious circumstances and goes to live with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). In high school, he is a bullied loner whose brilliance does not go unnoticed by the beautiful overachiever Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). While looking into the death of his parents, the trail leads to OsCorp where coincidentally Gwen works as an assistant to scientist Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans). Peter goes astray on his tour and is bitten by a genetically modified spider. At first he uses the powers he gains from the bite to avenge a tragedy. Soon he finds himself as New York’s protector when Dr. Connors takes a serum to grow back a missing arm, accidentally turning himself into the arch-villain, the Reptile.
The above paragraph highlights the remake’s biggest weakness: the story. “Spider-Man” (2002) had a flawless plot and a splendid screenplay which satisfied the canon of the comic book character nearly perfectly. It stayed fairly light to honor the tone of the comic and was exciting throughout. This new version aims for a slightly darker mood in which Spider-Man’s creation seems to be part of some nefarious conspiracy rather than a fortunate accident. Although the edginess is a welcome addition, it does not improve upon the story of the original and actually muddles much of it due to a number of sloppy plot holes.
Where this new films excels is in the acting and action departments. Andrew Garfield is an instant star with his awkwardly charismatic performance in the lead role. He is an improvement over the adequate Toby Maguire and his undeniable chemistry with Emma Stone is electric. I predict an Oscar for him in the near future. Stone also proves she is evolving as an actress as she begins to show some range in her talents. She has a huge chance of becoming an A-list draw such as Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts, but I sincerely hope she doesn’t pigeonhole herself into romantic comedies. Dennis Leary gets a choice role as Gwen’s father, a police captain who pegs Spider-Man as a dangerous vigilante and vows to bring him in. Ifans also shows pathos and menace as the villain, but the Lizard design looked too much like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on steroids. I would’ve preferred it if they had stuck closer to the comic book design of the monster instead.
The other strength of the film lies in the spectacular action sequences. Never before has Spider-Man moved so convincingly and looked so impressive while swinging through the city or in combat. Part of this lies in the inspired decision to include an item omitted from the original films: mechanical web shooters. In the original comics, Peter Parker invented bracelets that fired artificial spider webs. The 2002 film gave him the ability to shoot webs organically as part of his power, but this new version went back to roots of the comic. While the idea that a high school kid could invent the most powerful grappling tool ever created seems far-fetched, it adds an interesting dynamic the combat. This new Spider-Man uses these web slingers more like an offensive weapon than a rope to swing on. This leads to some fantastic acrobatic moves and hand-to-hand battles previously unimagined by the movies or comics
Now that Spider-Man has a new franchise, what’s next? As for the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, every dedicated comics fan knows how that story arc plays out. There are many characters central to the Spider-Man storyline that have yet to be introduced. There are also rumored potential crossovers between this franchise and “The Avengers.” Additionally, the stinger at the end of the credits hints at the next potential villain. While few clues were given, I’m betting the “man in the shadows” at the end was Norman Osborne and we are looking at a return of the Green Goblin for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars