Between trying to complete a big project at work, bad news of serious illness and unemployment among family and friends, and last weekend’s visit to Upstate New York, I’ve again fallen behind in blogging. At least I won’t run out of movies, television, and games to review anytime soon.
The good: I thought that the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man was strong, with lanky, wisecracking Andrew Garfield taking on the role of Peter Parker/Spidey from the mopey Tobey Maguire. The chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone‘s Gwen Stacy was palpable, and I found Stone more appealing than Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson.
Cliff Robertson is ably replaced as Peter’s honorable Uncle Ben by Martin Sheen (who knows a thing or two in real life about troubled children). Sally Field is a long way from Gidget as Aunt May, and Denis Leary is Gwen’s tough father, NYPD Capt. Stacy. Speaking of parental figures, Rhys Ifans, who was charismatic in the SyFy Channel’s Neverland, brings proper pride and pathos to Dr. Curt Connors.
I also liked that The Amazing Spider-Man‘s webslinging seemed to rely more on stuntmen in costumes rather than computer-generated imagery. Of course, visual effects have no doubt improved in the past decade or so.
The bad: One of my main complaints is that, in its attempt to keep the movie rights from reverting back to Disney/Marvel, Sony rehashed Spider-Man’s origin story barely a decade after Sam Raimi did a good job of adapting it to the silver screen. Garfield spends most of his screen time out of costume or unmasked, and the subplot of his missing (scientist or spy) parents is teased but mercifully dropped.
The advertising for The Amazing Spider-Man gave away the identity of the Lizard as the main villain. He’s formidable and has ties to Peter and to Oscorp (which played a major role in the Raimi/Maguire version). Still, he’s not as fearsome as Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin or Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus.
The ugly: As glad as I am to see Peter’s ingenuity return with mechanical web shooters rather than organic ones, I’m not a fan of Spidey’s skaterboi racing suit in The Amazing Spider-Man. I prefer the classic red-and-blue costume over the “ribbed for your pleasure” hyper-textured look that has been popular in everything from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot to Zach Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel.
Even though the plot element of Peter’s missing parents is dropped, aptly named director Marc Webb suggests that it was somehow his destiny to be bitten by a mutant spider and that his subsequent heroics are less a matter of personal ethical choice and more one of heredity. This undermines Uncle Ben’s “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra and echoes some of the missteps of the “Bring on the Dark” Broadway musical. Peter’s hero’s journey doesn’t need those complications.
I also noticed that a scene with Spider-Man fighting reptilian mutated police was truncated, but that was for the best. Otherwise, it would have been like the slugfest between Ang Lee’s Hulk and giant dogs. It’s also too bad that other New York-based superheroes, such as the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, or the Avengers, couldn’t be shown in the background because different studios hold the rights.
The verdict: Overall, I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man more than I expected to. The cast made up for some plot weaknesses, and my onetime hometown New York City looked as good as ever. I’d put it just after Raimi’s first two superhero flicks, but I definitely liked it more than his third one.
I enjoyed The Avengers more, but The Amazing Spider-Man is a more family-friendly comic book adaptation than The Dark Knight Rises (which I’ll try to belatedly review soon). I’d give The Amazing Spider-Man, which is rated PG-13 for violence, about a 7 out of 10, three out of five stars, or a solid B.