Cinedelphia’s resident high school film critic takes a look at the new Spidey film…
It’s been five years since Spider-Man’s last appearance on the big-screen and now we must try to forget the tragedy that was Spider-Man 3 and behold the web head’s fresh new installment. After plans for a fourth film in the Spider-Man franchise with director Sam Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst was shut down, Sony decided to reboot the franchise. A risky move as far as reboots go but it paid off in the end. Replacing Maguire in the role of the web-slinging superhero is Andrew Garfield, who fits in to the role with ease. A fan of the character since he was three, it was his dream role and he played it with a perfect mix of emotion and humor. Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacey, a role that could have been plain, but was enhanced with her performance and believable chemistry with Garfield. The main antagonist of the film, Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard, is played with earnest passion by Rhys Ifans. He conveys pain, sorrow, and compassion all at once that it’s hard to not feel sorry for him regardless of his cunning and dangerous alter ego. Other notables include the intimidating yet compassionate Martin Sheen, limited amounts of Sally Field and Denis Leary who delivers a strong and realistic performance. At the helm is Director Marc Webb, who seems a choice pick just by his name. What separates him from Sam Raimi is the focus of the film. Raimi focused more on Peter’s change into Spider-Man and his responsibilities as the masked hero whereas Webb focuses more on the character of Peter Parker himself and makes the film more relatable and believable.
The film follows Peter as he tries to unravel the mystery of his parents’ sudden disappearance when he was a kid. He is eventually led to a former partner of his father’s, Dr. Curt Connors. Spider-Man then must stop Connors’s alter ego The Lizard from destroying New York and use his powers to make life-altering decisions. The film starts slow as the first act consists mainly of scientific jibber jabber, but it gains steam following that fateful radioactive spider bite. Webb knows that, as a reboot, fans are more than familiar with the story, so he speeds through Peter’s physical transformation with quick montages. His emotional transformation takes a much longer and complicated route with Garfield portraying all the right emotions in the perfect scenes. Gwen and Peter’s relationship at times can be awkward and overly romanticized, but that is overshadowed by the actors’ chemistry. Most of the first half of the film is spent on Peter seeking revenge on his Uncle’s murderer, turning him into a citywide vigilante. This is a darker approach to Spider-Man, similar to what The Dark Knight did to Batman.
My biggest issue with the film is the score; it sounds like it would better fit a Disney film. It fails to engage the audience during action sequences and seems a bit out of place in a big-budget superhero film. A nice change in the film is the web-shooters, as opposed to the organic webbing used in the original trilogy. The addition of the web-shooters shows that Webb and his team have paid attention to the source material and stayed true to it, unlike Raimi. Some of the action sequences also seem a bit sudden in the story, making the plot seem, at times, incoherent.
The special effects of the film (especially the Lizard) are nothing short of amazing. This film is one of very few examples of the effective use of 3D nowadays. Another strong quality of the film is the camerawork. Instead of just watching Spider-Man swing around town like in Raimi’s trilogy, Webb follows Spider-Man as he travels so it feels like you swinging with him. He even adds a couple of first-person shots so the viewers can see the world as Spider-Man does, one of the benefits of the 3D technology in the film. Also, Webb and Garfield together have crafted the perfect interpretation of Spider-Man, showing him as cocky and even rude prior to his learning the meaning of true responsibility from his uncle in a powerfully realistic scene. That of course was the goal of the film: make a realistic Spider-Man movie, and with the right amount of emotion and character building. If you can ignore the giant walking and talking Lizard, it all becomes real.
In conclusion, I can find no weakness in the cast, each performance topping the last. Putting truly exceptional actors into rather plain roles (e.g. Sally Field as Aunt May or Denis Leary as Captain Stacey) yields some really impressive results. Webb has improved the Spider-Man filmography by adding darker and more emotional tones into a more superficial tale with a very open ending, it leaves the audience begging for more.
The Amazing Spider-Man opens today in Philly-area theaters.