Review by Pete Mason
“The Amazing Spiderman” is a reboot done only five years after the last installment of Sam Raimi’s Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst trilogy, but it has more action and passion behind the story, rather than the slow-bleed drama that was present throughout the last series. The story and effects of that trilogy were good, but “The Amazing Spiderman” steps it up a notch with a fast-paced telling of Spiderman’s background, adding a twist to the crime fighter’s history and presenting a long-term plot to span a trilogy: What really happened to Peter Parker’s parents, who left in the middle of the night after a break-in?
Living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field playing the roles with perfection), Parker (Andrew Garfield) is gifted and intelligent, but bullied in school. When he stumbles upon a cross-species genetics program harnessing the power of spider webbing, he gets bit (spoiler!) and has his senses enhanced, although the webbing is an exterior invention this time around. He’s less mutant and more superhero, ala Iron Man and Captain America, both of whom are part of “The Avengers,” of which Spiderman is also a tangential part.
Becoming Spiderman in a flash-bang sequence, Parker seeks to stop Dr. Curt Conner (Ryhs Ifans) who has used a lizard DNA formula to regrow his left arm. Working for OSCORP (namesake of Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin, one of many recurring themes from the last Spiderman series), Conner presses forward to regrow a limb but becomes a nine-foot tall lizard in the process. Picture a pseudo-Velociraptor with a British accent in very detailed CGI, intimidating in every scene – especially in close-ups – as this maddened scientist takes a highly dangerous twist in his research.
Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) is convincing as Spiderman, more conflicted and more expressive than Maguire, who internalized a lot of Peter Parker’s struggles with voice-overs and asides, while Garfield projects outward and adds to the action, tension and surprises in the film. Love interest Gwen Stacy is played much better this time by Emma Stone, who takes a liking to Parker, showing that even the geeks can get the hot girls, especially when the hot girls are geeks, too. Her father, Police Captain Stacy is played by Denis Leary, who adds a level of seriousness and conflict, promoted into the role roughly 10 years after his last cop show, “The Job.”
Overall the film has great effects, a great story and fast-paced action that leads to a very good movie experience. Even if you just saw the last trilogy, it’s worth seeing this start to the next trio of films, because reboots done shortly after the end of a series tend to take the film into new territories (ala “X-Men: First Class”). Creator Stan Lee, of course, has a great (and deserved) cameo once again, a highlight of the film that exuded laughter from all the die-hard fans in the audience at the midnight showing. And although it should be common sense by now, stay a few minutes into the credits for an extra scene that alludes to a darker plot surrounding the disappearance of Peter’s parents.
“The Amazing Spiderman” is rated PG-13 for violence and mild language. The movie runs 2 hours and 17 minutes and is best viewed in 3D. In IMAX, it didn’t have the same WOW effect as “The Avengers” and “Prometheus,” so my suggestion is to opt for 3D.