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'The Amazing Spider-Man' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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Andrew Garfield stars in 'The Amazing Spider-Man'

Andrew Garfield stars in 'The Amazing Spider-Man'

© Columbia Pictures
The obvious question is why do we need to reboot the Spider-Man franchise with an origin story in The Amazing Spider-Man when it's only been 10 years since Sam Raimi delivered the box office hit Spider-Man in theaters? Why, given the vast wealth of stories to choose from, is it necessary to go back and tell the story of the slightly geeky, kind of adorable high school student Peter Parker getting bit by a genetically enhanced spider and transforming into a spandex-wearing, webslinging savior of those in trouble one more time? I believe I'm speaking for most movie fans when I say that we get the picture, we understand how Peter Parker became Spider-Man and don't necessarily need to see that one more time - at least not so soon. Shouldn't the franchise just move forward and pick up Spidey's antics after the events of Spider-Man 3 (one of the worst comic book-inspired films in recent history)?
So, the 2012 action film The Amazing Spider-Man already has that strike against it. It's the same story told with different actors and with a filmmaker at the helm who's best known for the indie romantic comedy, 500 Days of Summer, right? Not so fast... Yes, it's an origin story, and, yes, we do see Peter and his infamous run-in with a spider, and Uncle Ben is still killed by a robber Peter initially lets escape. But we also get to learn details on the disappearance of Peter's parents (played by Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz), and Peter's relationship with Aunt May and Uncle Ben is delved into more than in Spider-Man. Also, this time Peter's love interest is Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone), daughter of Police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), and fellow lover of all things to do with science. In addition, The Amazing Spider-Man delivers a new villain. Peter's nemesis this time is Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), a scientist dedicated to the field of regeneration who used to be Peter's dad's co-worker.

Another big change from previous Spider-Man film entries is that The Amazing Spider-Man's Peter Parker is more of a smart aleck. The criminals unfortunate enough to tangle with the costumed vigilante (and he's definitely a vigilante when he first dons the costume - that designation is not debatable in this version) are subjected to put-downs and taunts, with Spider-Man's one-liners flung faster than his webs.

The Bottom Line

Andrew Garfield makes for a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire, but Garfield's Peter Parker is ever-so-slightly outdone by Maguire's. The Aunt Mays and Uncle Bens are comparable, however Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy is far more enjoyable to watch than Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane. The comparisons demand to be made as Sony's bringing the franchise back to life with new blood a mere five years after Spider-Man 3, and casting-wise this new Spider-Man has the edge overall.

But not every change works.

Too much time is spent watching Peter travel from building to building testing out his new spidey powers and enhanced strength. And because of the freaky CGI creature that is The Lizard, fight scenes look more campy than captivating. It's Godzilla bad. Wolves in Twilight bad. Get the picture?

Garfield loves Spider-Man and respects the fan base because he says he's a member of the legion of comic book fans who can relate to Peter Parker. He took great care with his approach to handling the task of being the new Spider-Man and recognized the responsibility he had in being faithful to the comics. However, while Garfield - a terrific actor who shined in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go - can't rise above the story. As much as he tries to flesh out Peter, the script handcuffs him and doesn't allow for this Peter to delve into his motivations or to truly feel any consequences for his actions. For a film that claimed to be all about telling the untold story of the origin of Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man is surprisingly shallow.

Once Dr. Connors injects himself with the serum and transforms into a giant lizard, the film completely changes tone. Forget an angst-ridden Peter; forget Dr. Connors and his desire to help others by keeping an insensitive corporate lackey from secretly injecting injured soldiers with the experimental drug because the company needs human test subjects. The personalities established over the first hour of the film fall by the wayside as it becomes all about The Lizard trying to spread a toxic gas that will create other Lizard-Men while Spider-Man attempts to keep New York City safe with an antidote to rid Dr. Connors of his lizardness. They fight over and over again, and because the CG is so horrible on The Lizard (at time he looks like Ang Lee's Hulk mixed with the disastrous Godzilla), these scenes are more laughable than thrilling.

Still, The Amazing Spider-Man does manage to be entertaining. The relationship between Peter and Gwen is genuine and sweet. Garfield and Stone click on screen, and they're both fun to watch. Denis Leary is terrific as Captain Stacy. The Spidey swinging effects and the webslinging look pretty decent.

I'm not a comic book person and have never read a single issue of Spider-Man, so whether the story is faithful to the source material I will leave up to others to analyze and debate. Coming from the point of view of someone whose only Spider-Man education comes from the three previous films directed by Sam Raimi, I can say that this Amazing Spider-Man is infinitely more entertaining than Spider-Man 3. Unfortunately, Raimi's first Spider-Man is still the better 'origin' movie. The Amazing Spider-Man needed to really wow us because of the fact it's revisiting a story we've basically seen on screen before. It didn't.

GRADE: B-

The Amazing Spider-Man was directed by Marc Webb and is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.

Theatrical Release: July 3, 2012

This review is based on a screening provided by the studio. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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