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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.04%
Worth A Look34.69%
Average: 24.49%
Pretty Bad34.69%
Total Crap: 4.08%

5 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Amazing Spider-Man, The (2012)
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by Brett Gallman

"My déjà vu sense is tingling."
4 stars

With “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Marc Webb and Sony have crafted a film whose biggest flaw might be its redundancy. As it unfolds, it’s difficult to shake the sense of déjà vu it engenders--weren’t we just here ten years ago?

Indeed we were, and, just as Sam Raimi’s masterpiece did a decade ago, this reboot delves into Spider-Man’s origins: science whiz-kid Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is bitten by a genetically engineered spider, gains super-powers, and enters the vigilante crime-fighting business after his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) is killed by a petty thug.

This much is expected--after all, this stuff was pretty much etched in stone by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko nearly fifty years ago; however, “The Amazing Spider-Man” largely follows the same beat that Raimi set this material to. Whatever changes are cosmetic or minor--the girl in this case is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and the villain is Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who ends up transforming himself into The Lizard in an attempt to grow back a missing arm. The vaunted “untold story” concerning Peter’s parents is merely a surface level addition that instigates the action--Connors once worked with Richard Parker, which prompts Peter to track him down. Whatever meat remains to this mysterious back-story is actually dangled in a post-credits teaser for part two.

Because of this, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is another film that feels like an extended set-up for something more interesting--and presumably different--yet to come, and it’s compounded here by the familiarity re-treading old ground. Not only are you told that you have to wait for something new, but you also have to sit through the old story first. It’s an approach that sounds like a sure-fire dud, and I assumed hewing too closely to the first film would turn me off. However, I found that it doesn’t really matter--somewhere along the way, “The Amazing Spider-Man” won me over with its performances and zest.

Yes, zest. There was a sense that Sony was going to “Dark Knight” Spider-Man up here by grounding him into a grim, joyless film, and the red flags go off early on, especially when the film opens with a somber, rainy sequence that details the day Peter’s parents ditched him, which has caused him to grow up as a somewhat brooding, angst-ridden, hoodie-wearing teen with some daddy issues. However, for the most part, Webb nails down a properly bouncy tone. The “Amazing Spider-Man” swings when it needs to, and it delivers great moments, both big and small. One of them involving a convoy of crane operators (headed up by C. Thomas Howell) might echo of a similar scene in Raimi’s film, but it’s one of those syrupy, heartfelt moments that reassures you Webb hasn’t crafted a tone-deaf film that isn’t afraid to be fun.

The film even soars when it’s grounded; like the previous films, “The Amazing Spider-Man” isn’t just a super-hero film, but also a coming-of-age story centered around Pete’s love life. However, this is where Webb’s film makes its best departure by ditching the soap-opera love triangle that began to plague Raimi’s films (by part three, it had become a malignant tumor). Sure, it’s a little disconcerting to see Peter Parker get the girl so easily--he’s usually the perpetual, everyman underdog, but the alteration here allows “The Amazing Spider-Man” to breathe and actually do its own thing, at least until it has to revisit the required story beat where Peter considers the danger of pursuing both a relationship and crime-fighting.

Webb’s lead duo are strong anchors. Garfield is a bit more difficult to buy as a dweeb (something Tobey Maguire had no problems with) and plays Pete with a little bit more of a tortured teenage edge rather than an “aw shucks” geekiness; because of this, he excels a little bit more at being smart-ass, and his Spider-Man feels slightly more faithful in this respect. His wise-cracking interactions with the street-level criminals capture this side of the character so well that I wish we’d seen more of it.

The pairing with Stone is inspired, as the two have a crackling chemistry; her take on Gwen Stacy infuses the character with maturity that melts away into a charming schoolgirl awkwardness when the film hits the romantic beats. It’s also worth noting that Gwen actually does something during the action bits that doesn’t entail being tied up as a damsel in distress, a welcome change after three movies that saw Kirsten Dunst dangling helplessly in various precarious situations.

The supporting cast is more than solid. Sheen is a terrific as Uncle Ben, and I suspect Sally Field will eventually make for a good Aunt May. One of the film’s biggest missteps is that we see so little of the most important woman in Peter’s life, but one of their few interactions does pay off in a great small moment towards the end. It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Webb manages to find a lot of cute, sweet moments given his directorial feature (“500 Days of Summer”). However, unlike that film, there’s a genuineness to the emotional undercurrent that weaves throughout “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and it’s even felt in Peter’s contentious relationship with Gwen’s father (Dennis Leary), the police captain who also considers Spider-Man to be a menace. This is an arc that’s unexpectedly fulfilling and provides one of the few wrinkles that hasn’t been seen on-screen with the character before.

Ifans’s Connors is certainly out of the typical Spider-Man mold, as he’s another good man turned into a monster of his own making, complete with unceasing voices inside of his head. His shift to his reptilian nature is appropriately jarring because Connors is so warm and fatherly to Pete (for a guy missing his father, he has no shortage of father figures in this film), and he infuses the character with a delightful villainous theatricality during the big action sequences.

Webb handles those pretty well, too, as the film is peppered with the requisite amount of effects-laden spectacle that does its best to recapture the awe of something that was so well-done the first time around. There are some striking visual moments, and it’s certainly rousing to see Spidey swinging through the New York City skyline (though Danny Elfman’s soaring original theme is especially missed here). The various brawls involving The Lizard and Spider-Man bustle with a kinetic fluidity, and Webb largely resists shooting herky-jerky action, opting instead for good-old fashioned scope and scale that allows us to see everything.

Technically speaking, there’s nary a hair out of place on this sleek production; something about it feels a little less spirited than Raimi’s film, perhaps because it does feel like it’s painting by numbers. At least Webb is interested in painting it as distinctively as he can, and “The Amazing Spider-Man” manages to transcend its familiarity by simply being a good story that’s well told--okay, re-told--with a voice that often wants to be different as possible. It may be a testament to Sam Raimi that this film can’t really manage to feel any more faithful to Spider-Man, but Webb and company should be commended for respecting the property enough not to stray too far from the appropriate light-hearted and lively tone.

This might put “The Amazing Spider-Man” in the unique position of justifying its own existence, and, for some, it may only do that by being better than “Spider-Man.” I’m loathe to really get that reductive even though the two obviously invite comparison; in short, each does some things better than the other, but nothing here is going to make you forget Raimi's outings. Still, it manages to be enjoyable enough to justify itself. The movie may kind of feel like an elaborate dress rehearsal with a new cast, but I'm intrigued by where it goes from here, even if it does resort to the infuriating trick of leaving certain plotlines hanging. Webb has dutifully laid the groundwork by reconstructing this world, and I hope he gets to really play in it the next time out.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" never sags under the weight of its baggage, even when it's doing itself no favors of reminding you that it's there. By the end, though, it's effectively shuffled it off, which is its greatest triumph.

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originally posted: 06/28/12 18:23:21
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell not amazing by anymeans 2 stars
3/29/16 Aj wales Seen one spiderman you have seem them all. Nothing new to add to series. 1 stars
1/14/16 Dr.Lao Has its moments, but I didn't like the go-nowhere subplot about Peter's parents 3 stars
9/02/14 Jeff Might have been pointless but who cares? 5 stars
5/16/14 Toni Peluso There was a really good movie in there somewhere, pretty CGI 2 stars
4/22/14 Terry Pointless reboot. The film had no soul comparing to Raimi's versions. 2 stars
7/19/13 Joe Pretty good for an unnecessary reboot. 4 stars
1/06/13 jcar a good movie that is true to comic book lore and effects are good and performances are good 4 stars
8/25/12 roscoe flawed because mostly a remake 4 stars
7/29/12 Lenny Zane Insufferable first 45 minutes dig too deep a hole for film to get out of. 2 stars
7/27/12 mr.mike A bit long and no chemistry between Garfield and Stone. 4 stars
7/24/12 Mick Gillies too busy being tangled up in its own web 1 stars
7/12/12 Man Out Six Bucks Why the fuck do they keep rebooting this story until it's hammered shit? 2 stars
7/10/12 Andy One of the best spiderman film.. Good character development 4 stars
7/09/12 Ming Kwong Good special effects but not as good as Raimi's original 3 stars
7/08/12 Terry Very disappointing. Hope the new Batman is much better. 3 stars
7/08/12 Kcaj better than spider man 3 but thats not saying much 3 stars
7/08/12 action movie fan nothing amamzing this time the lizard is true to the source but nothing else 3 stars
7/06/12 damalc special effects were Amazing, but overall not as good as Raimi's first two 3 stars
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  03-Jul-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-Nov-2012


  DVD: 06-Nov-2012

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