Peter Parker was left by his parents when he was young and is living with his uncle and aunt. Investigating his parents past, he is accidentally bitten by a specially bred spider, which gives him supernatural strength, instant reflexes and spider-like abilities. Suddenly his life gains in complexity.
The decision to reboot the Spider-Man movie franchise in 2010 was met with lukewarm feelings from me. I thought Toby Maguire was a perfect fit for the role of Peter Parker and after three movies, with Spider-Man 3 being released in 2007, it seemed like a radical decision to start over so soon, when all of the three movies had enjoyed great financial success.
However, put in the context of my own enjoyment of the movies, it made good sense to start from scratch. I really detested Spider-Man 3 and only remember it as the movie that got everything wrong. My opinion of Spider-Man 2 is the complete opposite. It is among the best superhero movies ever made. Everything works in that movie and it has heart. It is also the movie of the three, which feels the most like it actually is a work of Sam Raimi, the guy who made The Evil Dead. Staying with the original franchise, Spider-Man 1 was enjoyable but did not meet my expectations and I found it ironic that my favorite comic from back when I was a kid, had been brought to life in a way too cartoonish way, when what characterized the comic for me was its sense of being rooted in reality.
So to boil it all down, I loved the second one and of course I hoped that Spider-Man 4 would get it right again. Then the production was shut down and a reboot was official. I was stumped. They wanted to take the franchise into the now and I groaned.
In the end, curiosity got the best of me and I watched The Amazing Spider-Man last night at the theater. I was surprised… Positively surprised.
Amazingly the movie works, has heart and manages to be better than the first movie of the previous franchise.
Spider-Man is clearly supposed to be back in style, with a skateboard, a mobile phone, a mischievous curiosity and a sense of carelessness, most of which suit the character. The movie sometimes struggles to hit the right tone and especially in the beginning, I was a little distracted by Andrew Garfield's slightly overdone portrayal, but then suddenly it clicks, he hits just the right note and all is forgiven. His performance brings life to Peter Parker and gives way for some interesting opportunities.
Story-wise the movie is more faithful to the comics than the first franchise. As it is an origin story, it takes its time to establish some characters but also rushes over others, Aunt May for instance. The story moves quickly and is focused on plenty of action. The sense of loss that I remember as a central theme in the comics is only partly captured here, but just the fact that it is here does leverage the movie in my favor.
The villain, in the form of The Lizard, doesn't work 100% but works well enough to get the point across. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't properly justify the radical mental change that occurs when a certain physical transformation takes place and I was not entirely convinced.
The heart of the story is the relationships; the one within Peter's family and the love connection between him and Gwen Stacy, with the latter getting most of the attention, especially in the last half of the movie. Emma Stone is quite wonderful as Gwen and between the two of them, they are convincing.
The family bond does lack in focus in the last half of the movie but it does get the best emotional response, as Peter, of all things, pulls out a pack of eggs. And if you wonder why that is so important you just have to go and see the movie.
This time the Stan Lee cameo is a comedic highlight of the movie. Aside from that the movie has a humorous side that often shows itself.
Most of the effects are well done, though there is a scene where Peter Parker grabs a basketball and he looks like that elastic plastic dude from the Fantastic Four. Not cool. Anyway, the effects didn't get in the way of me enjoying the movie. I watched it in 2D by the way. James Horner's score also gets a nod, as it does a good job of underlining the mood of the movie without taking too much focus.
I have been nitpicking through most of this review, and while the movie is not perfect, feels rushed on some occasions and misses some opportunities, overall it is a fun and seriously entertaining blockbuster. In addition to that it gives life to a story I have always wanted to see on the screen and for that I can forgive a lot.
Definitely recommended, if you can leave your sense of logic at the door and decide to just enjoy the fun.
A sequel has been announced for May 2, 2014 and I am already looking forward to that.
Written By Steen
Online: Wednesday, July 11, 2012