Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Do we really need another Spider-Man? Hmmm, let’s see: Do we really need a new, local pizzeria that reinvents the pie, mixing surprise ingredients in with the old, delivering flavorful yet unexpected taste? Do we really need a new cover of The Kingsmen’s 1963 rock hit “Louie Louie”? Do we really need a new rollercoaster at the outsized amusement park, where three others are already proven crowd-pleasers? On the other web-shooting hand, do we really need another Adam Sandler comedy? (As mentioned previously, an oxymoron … but don’t get me started.)

The rhetorical answer leans toward quality over quantity. And with this new-old Spidey redux of The Amazing Spider-Man, we get to experience a redesigned thrill ride on the shiniest, IMAX-iest rollercoaster in the park. Even better: we’re sitting smack-dab in the front.

Sony and Marvel had initially planned to go with a fourth installment, once again to be helmed by three-time Spidey director Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire. But when Raimi rejected the script, Sony changed plans in mid-air. Particularly since origin stories are often the most dramatic and that Peter Parker – akin to another flying Peter – is eternally young at heart, a redbooted, rebooted boomerang back to adolescence seemed to be the perfect flight plan.

Aficionados of the prior series may find as much (maybe even more) that appeals a mere decade after the first. Here, the back story concerning Peter’s parents comes into play at the opening, when the seven-year-old boy is suddenly dispatched to an uncle and aunt he barely knows, watching at the window as his parents drive away forever. We’re then transported to high school, meeting Andrew Garfield’s Peter, not so much the geeky, underweight loser as portrayed by Maguire, but a boy who’s independent in his own rebellious way. This Peter may not yet have super-fly powers, but he’s psychologically already formed. He stands up to a bully who picks on another, younger kid, and although Peter is shy, he’s still capable of flirting with the cute girl in science class who’s smarter than he is (Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy). In this adaptation, it’s Peter’s choices that inform the events: he purposely tracks down his father’s old partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) which leads him to the lab and to the spider; later, it’s due to his actions that the villain is created.

Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy

Writers James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves (who wrote all but one of the Harry Potter movies) retain some of the storyline from the former while altering other elements, hearkening back to Stan Lee’s and Steve Ditko’s original comic book plot. Such as the fact that unlike the prior series, Peter has to invent the web-shooters that he attaches to his wrists; his spider-man abilities don’t allow for him to organically generate his own webbing. With Peter having to rely on external components, we can assume that in the sequel, issues of vulnerability will addressed.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker

Garfield is a winning Peter, smart and courageous, but with a sly quirk. Without a partner in crime, Peter has to turn to the resourceful Gwen when he needs help. (Side note: For once, it’s refreshing that the girl isn’t put in deathly peril.) In comparing Stone’s Gwen to Kirsten Dunst’s MJ, Stone’s character is stronger, spunkier and far less needy. The relationship between the two lovebirds is just as romantic, but without all the attendant melodramatic angst that dragged down the prior.

As for the look of it all: The Amazing Spider-Man is the first movie to be shot in 3D using the RED EPIC camera mounted on 3ality Digital’s newest, most lightweight rig. Per DP John Schwartzman: “You could not have chosen a better movie to shoot in 3D than this one. It would have been shortsighted not to, given the technology that has been developed.” Let’s face it: 3D and IMAX were made for films that fly (e.g., Avatar, The Dark Knight, How to Train Your Dragon). To see this film sans IMAX (the swinging, the swooping, the crystalline clear visions of New York City on high) would be a crime … something that Spider-Man himself might have to enforce.

This time around, Martin Sheen and Sally Field do the honors as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, giving us just as lovely, loving relatives as predecessors Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris. On the other gloved hand, the villain may not be as riveting as Willem Dafoe’s two-faced Osborn/Green Goblin, and J.K. Simmons’ outrageous J. Jonah Jameson is sorely missed.

Which wings us back to the initial question, “Do we really need another Spider-Man?” If it’s as delightfully acted, well-written, smartly directed (by Marc Webb, (500) Days of Summer) and gloriously shot as this one, why then, yes, absolutely. A dazzling reboot for the height of the summertime action flicks, over another dreary talking animal fest or any of a gazillion Bruckheimer/Bay detonation derbies?

Gwen (Stone) and Peter (Garfield) share a quiet moment.

Happy to report that there’s no arachnophobia here.

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(Bowing to the IMAX version), rating on a scale of 5 fly-by-knights: 4.5

Release date: July 3, 2012
Directed by: Marc Webb
Screenplay by: James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves
Story by: James Vanderbilt
Based on the Marvel Comic Book by: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan with Martin Sheen and Sally Field
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 136 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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