Film Review : The Amazing Spider-Man
● By Justin Buettner
Peter Parker’s scientific parents give him to his Aunt May and Uncle Ben to be raised when his father appears to be hunted by people after his work. Flash forward a decade and the now awkward teenage Peter Parker tries to navigate high school while still searching for answers to why his parents left. This leads Peter to his father’s old partner Curt Connors. While snooping around the lab Peter is bitten by a spider that gives him spider like super powers. Kurt Connors tests a new drug Peter helps him create in hopes of regenerating his arm by using reptile DNA, but the side effects turn him into a giant lizard. Can Peter Parker learn to control his own powers in time to defeat Connors before he unleashes his new bio toxin on New York City?
The first three Spider-Man movies are still very fresh in everyone’s minds, so it is impossible not to compare the new Amazing Spider-Man to them. The good news for the newest Spider-Man film is it beats the original in almost every aspect. The biggest upgrade is Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. This is not intended to disrespect Toby Maguire who is a terrific actor, but Garfield personifies Peter Parker so much better than Maguire that I don’t even think it’s close who is better suited to play the part. Garfield actually looks like a high school student as Maguire never looked younger than thirty to me. In addition Andrew Garfield nailed all the mannerisms of an awkward teenager. Some of the best parts of the film were when Peter Parker stumbled over his words and was unable to make eye contact when speaking to Gwen Stacy. Garfield with his taller frame looked better in the suit.
Secondly Gwen Stacy is hands down a far superior character to the original trilogy’s Mary Jane. Once again Kirsten Dunst is a fine actress but her character was never very likable, she was just the damsel in distress with nothing more to add. Gwen Stacy is a girl with a lot more smarts and a much larger backbone. Instead of the damsel in distress she is a girl of action. In short, Gwen Stacy is just a much more entertaining and likable character. Emma Stone was a natural fit in this role too. The strength of Gwen Stacy’s character also strengthens the romantic angle between her and Peter Parker.
The action scenes featuring Spider-Man were better conceived than the original trio of films. Spider-Man no longer looks like he is taken from a cheap video game. Spider-Man, in the newest film, now moves like a real human in a costume. Part of this is due to the advancement in computer technology, but some of the credit has to go to the choice to film more of the action scenes using wire rigging. The reliance of the original films on CGI was distracting and definitely took away from the action on screen. The newest trilogy does not have that problem. I also like that Peter had to create the webbing and he can no longer shoot webbing from his palms, it’s a small detail but I think it will lead to more exciting action sequences in sequels.
Marc Webb, the director, really did well with this material. I am happy they chose a director whose only other feature film, 500 Days of Summer, showcased his ability to handle character and drama. This strength was definitely on display between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. I wish they had shown the patience and restraint to slow the story down more, especially if they were going to return to an origin story. I would have loved to see a movie that focused more on how Peter Parker handled the new powers he is bestowed and how that fits in with high school life. As it is, we get brief flashes of high school and like the first trilogy the moments are more silly than meaningful. Scenes of Peter Parker taunting basketball jocks by doing impossible things on the court were intended for laughs but didn’t add much to the story. Movies like Chronicle have explored this type of story and I think it would have been a braver decision if the filmmakers would have devoted this first film to Peter Parker and maybe ended the film on Peter donning the costume for the first time instead of speeding the story along and inserting the villain.
The film instead follows a familiar formula where the hero by mid movie has an arch nemesis and a costume fully formed. Dr. Curt Connors, who ultimately turns into the Lizard, fits in the story well. Unfortunately because the filmmakers are obviously holding back information that will be revealed in sequels, Connors character is never fully formed. This prevents him from being a great villain like Dr. Otto Octavius from Spider-Man 2. Leaving unanswered questions, especially concerning Peter’s parents, may be a smart decision depending on how the sequels pan out. I know many comic book fans of Spider-Man don’t like the idea of playing with Spider-Man’s origins, but I think adding the extra layer of back story will give the new film series an edge and distinction from the previous set.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a worthy reboot to a popular franchise. I know many will find it repetitious and I would have too if it hadn’t solidly improved upon the original. But I really feel that with all the improvements to the base characters and story the future looks bright for this new take on the Spider-Man franchise. If you are a fan of comic book super hero movies you will like the Amazing Spider-Man a lot, it has all the action, thrills and romance you have come to expect from super hero movies. Getting the casting right this go around along with a director who is focused more on character and less on style will help push the new set of Spider-Man movies to greater heights. I look forward to the summer of 2014 to see where the story goes from here.
Films like the Amazing Spider-Man : Spider-Man, Batman Begins, and Chronicle
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.