THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN REVIEW (GRADE: B+)
A more dramatically mature take on the character than the bubblegum fun of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, The Amazing Spider-Man will appeal more to teens and adults, despite targeting merchandise at children. This is due largely to Marc Webb’s less fanciful direction and the performances he gets from his actors. Andrew Garfield is much less of a sweet-hearted, lovable dweeb than Tobey Maguire; he’s got more of a James Dean edge, though he maintains the character’s underlying virtue and heroism. Think of him as a rebel with a cause (and he’s pretty darn funny to boot).
Emma Stone (The Help) brings her considerable charm to Gwen Stacy, conveying intelligence, heart, and a spunky attitude. Their chemistry is far and away the best thing about this adaptation, generating both sweetness and sparks. While Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane was drawn to Maguire’s Peter Parker because of his loyalty and goodness, the relationship in this film is a bit more based on mutual intelligence, wit, and an element of danger because it’s ‘forbidden,’ as Stacy’s father (Denis Leary) has called for the arrest of her vigilante boyfriend.
That the film covers so much familiar ground is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, it was only ten years ago that audiences saw Peter Parker get bit by a genetically-enhanced spider, develop superpowers, and deal with the tragedy that leads to his crime-fighting, and the film sags a little for those who just want it to deliver something new. On the other hand, the interest comes from seeing this all done differently, with the reasons for genetically-enhanced spiders even existing in the first place being, ahem, woven into a greater conspiracy involving Peter’s parents that is merely introduced in this film. The mythology is larger and more involving here.
Webb, an indie director best known for the psuedo-romance 500 Days of Summer, proves himself quite adept at action scenes, giving the fights a real sense of danger and making Spidey’s web-slinging across the city seem as daunting and challenging as it likely would be (if it were actually possible, of course). Some of the plot points are a little too convenient, some of the character arcs a little too hastily resolved, and sometimes the film tries a bit too hard make itself edgy and hip. That said, though it’s not as fun or funny as Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films, it’s definitely much more gripping emotionally. It’s genuinely thrilling and the romance absolutely crackles. I’m ready for more.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man is rated PG-13. It contains a handful of profanities and vulgar expressions, a scene of passionate kissing, a profusely-bleeding gunshot wound, and plentiful scenes of menace and action violence. Peter Parker accidentally tears off a woman’s shirt with his “sticky hands” in a comical moment; she is very briefly seen in her bra.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: We have a moral responsibility to do good and help others whenever we can.