Posted on 7/11/12 11:37 PM
When The Amazing Spiderman was first announced, the reaction from most people was along the lines of "it's too soon for a reboot!" Well, in my opinion it's never too soon for a great Spiderman film, and that's what Amazing Spiderman is.
The film starts with a flashback when Peter was a young boy. He walks into his dad's office to find out that someone raided it. Upon finding out, his parents immediately take him to Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and then leave. Fast forward to the present and Peter is a nerdy high school kid who hasn't heard from his parents since then. While cleaning up the basement one day, however, he finds his dad's old suitcase, and in it is a picture of his dad with another scientist. His aunt and uncle are hesitant at first to reveal who that scientist is, but in the end his uncle informs him that that's Doctor Curt Connors. Eager to find out about his parents, Peter heads to the building where Doctor Connors works and while there gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider. Before long he starts showing some very strange side effects. Meanwhile, his relationship with Uncle Ben starts to get strained due to all the time Peter spends with Dr. Connors, who is trying to find a way to make human bodies perform self healing and thinks he may have found the solution in an equation Peter gave him. Things aren't helped by the arrogant attitude Peter gets thanks to all his newfound powers. However, when a heated argument between him and his uncle ultimately leads to a terrible tragedy, Peter learns that with great power comes great responsibility, and turns into the masked vigilante known as Spiderman.
On the night before going to see The Amazing Spiderman, I decided to watch the original Spiderman to see how the two would compare. A lot of people complain that the original hasn't aged well, but I disagree. Yeah, some of the CGI looks outdated and The Green Goblin Costume is terrible, but other than that it's still a solid film, one that I like even more with each new viewing. That's why when I walked in to see The Amazing Spiderman I thought for sure I would get a feeling of déjà vu.
That didn't happen. Yeah, the film touches on a few similar plot points of the original, but other than that it's a completely different film, and even those similar plot points are handed differently enough not to feel like a rehash of the first.
So how does it compare quality wise to the original? Well, Peter Parker discovering his newfound powers doesn't quite have the same magic that the original had, but then again it doesn't even try to. Also - minor spoilers in the next couple of paragraphs for those unfamiliar with the Spiderman origin - I thought Uncle Ben's death was handled better in the original.
Other than that though, everything else in Amazing Spiderman is just as good, if not better, than the original. I've heard some complaints that the first third of the movie is boring, yet I disagree strongly. I found myself hooked on the film from the very first scene. The film does a great job of balancing out several different plot threads and keeping them connected (the mystery surrounding Peter's parents, Peter learning how to use his powers, his strained relationship with his uncle and later his aunt, his romance with Gwen Stacy, Uncle Ben's killer, and Dr. Connors' transformation). Granted, it doesn't resolve all of them, but that actually helps set it apart from the original, as it makes it feel like part of a bigger story, whereas in the original trilogy, each new film was more of a standalone pic.
The performances really help the film. I thought Tobey Maguire did a great job as Peter Parker; however, his performance as Spiderman was kind of weak. Here not only does Andrew Garfield nail Spiderman, giving him all the quips and one liners we expect from Spidey, but he does Peter just as well, managing to give his own take on the character, both keeping the essence of what makes Peter one of the most popular alter egos of a superhero, while also making him different enough to stand out from Maguire's take on the character, who played him as your lovable, awkward nerd. Garfield keeps the awkward bit, yet he also makes him an outcast, someone more conflicted due to his parents leaving him when he was still a kid (one of the most heartfelt scenes in the film is when Uncle Ben tells Peter to be more like his dad, Peter angrily asks where his father is).
Martin Sheen also gives a strong performance as Uncle Ben, keeping the warmth Cliff Robertson brought to the character, while also giving him a more colder edge as well. Sally Field gives a different performance than Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, yet again one that works just as well. Whereas Harris's Aunt May was very trusting of Peter despite him obviously keeping stuff from her, Fields' Aunt May is more concerned over Peter and his continuous disappearances, as well as upset that he's not telling her the truth (spoilers - the scene at the end where Peter finally gets the eggs for her is both funny and touching).
Another good performance is Dennis Leary as Chief Stacy, who in this more version is much more hateful towards Spiderman, while the relation between Peter and Captain Stacy is one of the highlights of the film. Also, while I was very disappointed that Dylan Baker never got the chance to play the Lizard, yet Rhys Ifans is a suitable replacement, while the Lizard is arguably the second best villain in the franchise behind only Doctor Octopus with his tragic storyline (spoilers - though admittedly his grand scheme is kind of predictable. I mean as soon as that device that good shoot particle in the air was mentioned, you could tell it would play a major part in the climax).
The really standout, however, is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, who gives the best performance of a love interest in a superhero film since....oh, I don't know....maybe Michelle Pffier in Batman Returns (who had the advantage of playing a superhero as well). She makes Gwen smart, sympathetic and more than able to take care of herself, while the chemistry between her and Garfield is particularly strong.
The film is also one of the funniest superhero movies I've seen. As said before, Garfield gives off numerous one liners when he's behind the mask, while there's several hilarious scenes in the movie (the funniest being a scene involving a great cameo appearance by Stan Lee).
I must admit I wasn't really expecting much action-wise from the film, given that this was Marc Webb's first big budget action film, and yet I was pleasantly surprised. The action scene at the end is incredible. It's worth the extra price of 3-d alone (the scenes with Spiderman swinging through the buildings are some of the best uses of 3-d I can recall). Meanwhile, the special effects are just as good ,with the CGI used on the Lizard being particularly impressive.
The score is also another strong point of the film. James Horner gets a lot of heat for reusing the scores of his films, and while it's true that you can detect notes in the score that are very familiar to those used in other movies scored by him, it's still pretty fantastic.
Fans seem to be split right down the middle regarding the reboot. They seem to be decided into two camps - one that didn't like Raimi's trilogy and found the new film to be the Spiderman film they've been waiting for, while the other is still mad at Sony for rebooting the original film and is practically begging for Raimi to return. In my opinion, I can't understand the need to choose one version at the expense of the other. I loved the original trilogy (I even have a higher opinion of the third film than most), and yet I loved the reboot as well. True, it'll probably end up being the weakest superhero movie of the summer (unless The Dark Knight Rises disappoints), but that says more about the strength of superhero films this summer, as in my opinion this is still one of the best Marvel adaptations, and arguably the second best Spiderman film behind only Spiderman 2, full of heart, humor, action, and strong performances with an ending that feels both satisfying and at the same time leaves you breathless for a sequel.