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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man has never been one of my favorite super heroes. I tend to be more of a Batman and Wolverine type of guy myself. However, I can't sell Spidey short when talking about his history successful summer blockbusters. He's been in some hits that are considered to be some of the greatest comic book movies ever. The next attempt at box office glory from Spider-Man is reboot and it stars a whole new cast with a somewhat familiar story. Only time will tell how if it can live up to past glory of its predecessors.

In this tale, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a high school kid who was left behind by his parents years ago. He's never been able to find out why they left or where they are, but he hopes to find that out one day.Since his abandonment, he's been raised by his Aunt May (Sally Field) and his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). He lives a normal with them and never gets into any trouble with the exception of the occasional run-in with the high school bullies.

All of that changes on one fateful day. While visiting Oscorp, he gets bitten by a spider and strange things begin to happen to him. He gains super strength, agility and an extra sense that lets him no when danger is approaching. Not having much to do with his new talents, Peter decides to get a better grasp on them by training and toying with them to improve his control. He continues to have fun with his new abilities over time, but after a while he soon realizes that he may need to do a whole lot more with them after an unforeseen danger arises out of nowhere.

With this being a reboot, they're going right from the start by using an origins story. If you're a fan of Spider-Man or you know of his beginnings, then you should know some of what to expect. I'm sure the creators of this movie are on to this fact and that's why they've added some wrinkles to this existing comic book classic. By adding some unfamiliar parts to the story and subtracting some of the things we've grown accustomed to, the movie is allowed to feel fresh and even new in some ways.

These new elements go well with some of the newer characters that haven't really been introduced to the movie world of Spider-Man yet. In The Amazing Spider-Man, Mary Jane is out of the picture. The fiery red-head has been replaced by the blonde-haired Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Joining Gwen is her overprotective father George (Denis Leary), who happens to be a police captain and views Spider-Man as a menace to society. Some of Spidey's most important and memorable arch enemies are also missing in action this time around and have been intelligently replaced by The Lizard (Rhys Ifans). All of these new additions make for some unpredictability and that's exactly what a reboot needs.

Besides some new or underutilized characters, there's also another noticeable and significant change here. That change that I'm talking about is the overall tone of the film. The versions which saw Tobey Maguire in the lead role are done in a kind of comic book or cartoon like style. The Amazing Spider-Man is more mature and serious, while still being able to be kid friendly. Some may like this style more, while others may prefer the tone and style from the franchise before it. Either way, both versions are definitively Spider-Man and there both watchable at the end of the day.

The change in tone can be attributed to the more mature nature of the film, but it can also be attributed to Andrew Garfield's version of Peter Parker. This Peter is an outsider more so than your typical on screen nerd. He doesn't wear glasses, he stands up for himself and he appears to have some confidence that's usually lacking in these characters. Put it like this: He may get beat up, but he's not running from you and he'll at least try to fight back. Now that I think about it, that reminds me of Pedro Martinez, my favorite pitcher of all time.

As far as the movie itself is concerned, they really lean on the drama side of things while they're developing the story and its characters. There aren't as many attempts at comedy as you might expect to see in a movie about a kid trying to get answers to the some difficult questions in his life. He's trying to find his place and there is some humor, but most of it is done in a more natural and human way. Handling things in this manner is also used when he's experiences his relationships with the others around him. All of the characters seem believable for the most part and none of the normal people are outrageous at all.

These various relationships take up a good amount of the early portions of the movie. Some of them are preexisting relationships, while others are new to Parker. All of them play a critical role in his life at this point and time, but the most crucial is his relationship with his Uncle Ben. Surprisingly, they don't focus on his relationship with his Aunt May as much as they have in previous incarnations. She plays a significant role, but she's not the inspirational type that we're used to seeing. She's more of the caring and loving aunt that you might meet in real life. Ben on the other hand is more of the backbone of the Parker family and his connection with Peter shows as much.

At some point during the introduction phase, Peter Parker does gain his uncanny superpowers. Once this takes place, we drift away from the other segments of the story a little bit as he learns about the skills that will turn him into a superhero. From there, he becomes Spider-Man and the audience is able to witness some entertaining action set pieces. These pieces are beautifully done and have some decent 3D visuals to go with it from time to time. None of it is groundbreaking stuff, but it certainly delivers the goods for anyone that came to see some high-flying action.

When I look at what The Amazing Spider-Man has to offer, I don't think any one thing stands out more than anything else does on camera. That's certainly not a bad thing in this case, it just speaks to the fact that this is a well thought out movie that has good acting and directing attached to it. If some of the same people are connected to the inevitable sequel (make sure to stick around through some of the credits), I hope they take the time to do it right again and make it just as good if not better than this one.

If you're going into this thinking that you're only going to see what you've already seen, you'll be wrong. I've mentioned some of the differences, but there are plenty more that I've left out. Although The Amazing Spider-Man does follow a long list of variations involving this superhero, it manages to successfully fuse the old with the new while being able to completely jump-start a new franchise that's likely to stand on its own.

Score: 3.5/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: Marc Webb

Andrew Garfield
Emma Stone
Rhys Ifans
Sally Field
Martin Sheen
Denis Leary
Irrfan Khan
Chris Zylka

Film Length: 136 minutes

Release Date: July 3, 2012

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

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