Movies

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

– By Ben L.

The one question that would have crossed everybody’s mind when The Amazing Spider-Man was first announced is, does the series really need a reboot? Director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man had only come out just ten years ago, and having already expanded the tale in two more movies, the last being released in 2007, going back to the origins of Peter Parker would surely be redundant and unwise. Hiring director Marc Webb who has only one film under his belt, 500 Days of Summer, is an even riskier move.

Fortunately, the decision to reboot the franchise has paid off handsomely and here are five reasons why you should catch it in theatres.

1. Andrew Garfield

While Toby Maguire’s portrayal of the masked vigilante has never been shabby, he has always been deemed by many fans of the comic series as a bit too ‘soft’, and that is probably the reason why Spider-Man has not been invited to join the Avengers yet. Nobody, especially the big egos of Tony Stark and Thor, would want a pussy on their team.

Andrew Garfield brings to the silver screen the other personality of Peter Parker that fans are familiar with – funny, witty and cool under pressure. Contrast that with Peter’s shyness and social awkwardness in school, and you’re presented with two distinct personalities that the high school student tries to grapple with as he assumes the responsibility of protecting the city. In short, Spider-Man is the person Peter Parker has always wanted to be in ordinary life. It is these two different spheres which make Spider-Man much more human and not just another generic unbreakable superhero, (and more importantly, not a whiny emo douche in a spandex suit that was last seen in Spider-Man 3) and is a sign that the studio is sticking more closely to the character’s roots this time.

2. The Origins Story

Surprise, surprise, while the idea of a reboot may have left much doubt on the minds of many fans and critics alike, this is actually the best Peter Parker tale told so far. In fact, it’s much better than all three Raimi movies combined. The Amazing Spider-Man starts in a very coherent chronological fashion, briefly explaining how Peter Parker became an orphan and ended up in the care of his foster parents Aunt May and Uncle Ben. There are no long-winded family tales and flashbacks – instead Peter’s curiosity about his long-lost parents, which he has harboured over time, drives his desire to learn the truth and sets the plot in motion.

As an origins story, the film places a huge emphasis on Peter’s guardians’ influence on his transformation. In particular, Uncle Ben’s guidance and eventual death plays a pivotal role in shaping Spider-Man’s principles – a throwback to the original storyline in the comics which is greatly appreciated. After all, the first three films never really sought out to develop the dynamics of Peter’s family, and even twisted the death of Uncle Ben in order to introduce a new villain. Marc Webb also utilises the reboot opportunity to take Peter Parker in a much darker direction, one that is reminiscent of Batman Begins, the film that set the bar for a superhero film. The entire first act up till the point where Peter embraces his responsibility to help protect the city is an emotional roller-coaster that fleshes out the Spider-Man character excellently as he struggles to discover his destiny having been gifted his superpowers.

3. The Supporting Cast

Garfield’s terrific performance is complemented by an equally capable supporting cast. Emma Stone plays Peter’s first love interest Gwen Stacy, who helps bring forth the less-desirable side of Spider-Man, while also standing her own ground as an intelligent student herself who has to hide the secret of Peter’s alter-ego from her father, Captain George Stacy of the NYPD. The decision to keep the romance brief is the right one since this is an origins story and focusing too much on the relationship would serve as a bad distraction from Peter Parker himself.

Denis Leary is amazing in the police uniform as a righteous man who conflicts with Spider-Man’s ideologies even though they share the same goal for the city, and his heated debate with Peter Parker over what Spider-Man stands for is one of the best dialogue scenes in the movie. But Martin Sheen definitely steals the show as Uncle Ben. As mentioned earlier, he plays a crucial role in the story and his relationship with Peter is by far the most developed of all the other characters, even when he does not feature in the movie’s entire run. Sheen/Uncle Ben is to Spider-Man what Michael Caine/Alfred is to Batman, and this dynamic relationship is essentially the soul of the movie.

4. The Villain

Staying true to the comics once again, The Amazing Spider-Man introduces the iconic villain Lizard who has his own conflicting personality issues. As Dr. Curt Connors in his human form, Spider-Man’s antagonist is actually a very brilliant scientist who sincerely wants to help people with his biotech research. Similar to  Spider-Man 2‘s Dr Otto Octavius aka Dr. Octopus in concept but better developed in depth, Rhys Ifans ensures that his character is not just a crazed mutant but one who is still able to retain his humanity, and I loved the fact that they did not kill him off after losing the battle to Spider-Man. It would be interesting to see how the Lizard could be developed in future movies. After all, the Lizard has always served as part-ally, part enemy in the comic universe, so this sets up an exciting potential for Spider-Man to utilise Dr. Connor’s intelligence to defeat other villains.

5. Mysteries Left Unsolved

While Peter Parker’s search for the truth about his father is the movie’s premise, it is still unresolved at the end of the film. (Spoiler alert) Dr. Connors is questioned by a mysterious figure if the truth had been revealed to Peter, which the scientist denies, and this would inevitably be the focus of the sequel due to be released in 2014. It is also interesting that Oscorp is chosen as the office for Dr. Connors – if you hadn’t already known Oscorp is owned by Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin, and in fact his name is brought up a couple of times in the movie hinting at an impending death. Also the fate of Dr. Rajit Ratha, the driving force behind the creation of the Lizard, is unknown after having been left in a limousine hanging from a bridge.

*

There are still several plot-holes though, the most jarring being the revelation of Spider-Man’s identity to a number of characters, most shockingly to the villain himself. For a superhero who actively knows the danger of being exposed early in the film, it begs the question why he would stupidly not remove his name from the camera flash intended to capture a picture of the Lizard. It is even more unbelievable that the villain is allowed to bring with him this secret to wherever he is held captive – is Spider-Man not afraid that his identity would be revealed to even more baddies? Hopefully Marc Webb would be able to patch up this flaw in the next movie, unless it is an intended move which would make things more interesting yet absurd at the same time.

Putting this aside, The Amazing Spider-Man is still an exceptional superhero movie, possibly the best origins story told in the Marvel Universe after Iron Man. The synthesis of action and emotion is wonderfully executed, while the 3D certainly gives the visuals more punch, particularly in the web-slinging scenes which deliver an adrenaline rush as they evoke a sense of flight and speed.

After the explosive blockbuster early this summer that was The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man proves that even with less spectacular set-pieces it is still possible to enthrall audiences with a well-written and intriguing script. It also further vindicates the fact that Marvel’s characters have all been played by the right actors, something which Warner Bros must keep in mind for their upcoming DC Comics projects. More importantly, the film provides much-needed relief to not just the disappointing mid-summer movie releases, but also the Spider-Man franchise itself which at one point in time looked to be in danger of falling apart.

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