REVIEW: "The Amazing Spider-Man" Is An Enjoyable Origin Story
A Venn diagram could easily be made of words that are not usually used to describe superhero movies, and words that can
Of course there are plenty of other words that can be used to describe the film (including "conspicuous," but more on that later), but most of those are more typical ways to describe a superhero movie. "Unnecessary" is certainly a word that's been bandied about considerably in association with "The Amazing Spider-Man," but a strong argument can be made that Spider-Man's story is, in fact necessary, even ten years since his origin story was last made into a movie. After all, America has changed considerably in the past decade–so why shouldn't our Spider-Man have changed as well?
It certainly helps that "The Amazing Spider-Man" tells a different story about how young Peter Parker became the arachophilic vigilante. The film opens with a young Peter living an idyllic life with his parents—a life that is quickly stolen from him. Fast forward a dozen years or so, and Peter (Andrew Garfield) is one of the smartest students at his science magnet high school, rivaled only by Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Stacy works for Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans), an Oscorp employee (foreshadowing alert!) and amputee interested in reptilian regeneration who was also a friend and colleague of Peter's father. While visiting the Oscorp laboratories, Peter has a fateful encounter with a mutated spider, and, well, you know the rest.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" succeeds for two main reasons. First of all, and most importantly, it's not trying to recreate Sam Raimi's 2002 film starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Both tell similarly inspired stories, but in very different ways; "Spider-Man" catered to a post-9/11 America, while "The Amazing Spider-Man" speaks to an America that's dealing with the aftermath of a recession and its effects on national morale. For the most part, the film is anything but brash, and there's a slight undercurrent of bitterness, while the impact of loss is greater than ever. This isn't to say that "The Amazing Spider-Man" is a depressing film; it just caters to a different audience than "Spider-Man" did.
The second reason that this movie succeeds is because of the strong acting, particularly from Mr. Garfield and Ms. Stone. Both have proved themselves to be capable actors in the past, and both have an effortless charm that makes their respective characters amiable, and, more importantly, sympathetic. The audience wants them to succeed—needs them to succeed—because to some extent, they represent our best selves.
Unfortunately, it's not a perfect film. This mostly stems from the fact that it seems to be two different films. They're well-interpolated, but they're two different films nonetheless. The problem is almost entirely visual; director Marc Webb ("500 Days of Summer") coaxed an incredibly naturalistic film out of the cast and crew to tell the first part of Spidey's story, but as soon as he dons the iconic suit, the film takes a visual turn for the absurd. The shots of Spider-Man web-slinging his way through Manhattan are certainly cool, but they don't quite jibe with the aesthetic of the rest of the film; they're certainly reminiscent of a comic book, but they are out of place among the indie coming-of-age story that is the rest of the film.
Odd aesthetic moments aside, though, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is still an enjoyable movie. At its core, it is a good movie (much like Christopher Nolan's "Batman" reboots and this year's "The Avengers")—and that outweighs a few visual quibbles.