It was just five years ago that Spider-Man 3 was released, the third installment of the popular franchise. While the general consensus, of which I agree, was that the third one was subpar compared to the first two, wasn’t it too soon for a reboot with a new director to replace Sam Rami and a new star to don the suit in place of Tobey McGuire?
I had my hesitations, but of course I was going to give it a shot. For those who don’t know, the new film goes back to the beginning, when Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man while in high school. As IMDb explains: “Peter Parker finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors, his father's former partner.”
It was nice to see that The Amazing Spider-Man didn’t traverse the same territory as its predecessors. Sure, there were a few similarities between the films, but they were always essential to the story (i.e. Spider-Man’s origin). Otherwise, the new installment brought a lot to the party.
First and foremost was the new man behind the mask, Andrew Garfield. Best known for playing Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, Garfield seemed a curious choice to play Peter Parker. He beat out such actors as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Taylor Lautner, Michael Cera and Anton Yelchin for the role, but even so I had my reservations.
Once I learned that he got the blessing of Maguire and was a bit of a comic geek, I felt a bit better, but it ended up being his performance that blew me away. I’ve read Spider-Man comics for a long time, and Garfield is exactly how I picture Peter Parker. His mannerism and wit was spot on, and he had the lean, slender build that has always characterized Spider-Man (I always thought Maguire was a bit too beefy).
The only drawback for Garfield is that it’s hard to imagine him as an unlikeable geek in high school. He’s just got the look, attitude and inherent confidence that goes against it; in other words, he’s just too smooth and cool to be looked down on. On the flip side, Garfield accomplished something Maguire was never able to do, he brought the character to life. Maybe it was just me, but I always though Maguire’s portrayal lacked conviction and enthusiasm.
Another thing that I liked was the new villain. There are a few iconic antagonists in the Spider-Man universe, many of which have been featured in previous films. It was important for the filmmakers to bring a new character into the fray, which they did with the Lizard, played brilliantly by Rhys Ifans. While I’d have preferred the movie-version Lizard to have a snout like in the comic books, I must admit I found the character intriguing, visually appealing (great CGI) and an all-around badass.
The addition of other new characters like Captain Stacy and Gwen Stacey, was also a pleasant spin on the story. Both have had big roles in the Spider-Man universe, and the filmmakers did a good job shying away from the Mary Jane Watson love story to that of Peter Parker’s first love, the blonde bombshell Gwen Stacey, played superbly by the very-talented Emma Stone. Interestingly, Stone had to change her hair from red to blonde to play the leading lady, while years earlier Kirsten Dunst had to go from blonde to red.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben respectively. They had limited roles, but they lit up the screen when they were on, especially the latter. I liked these two characters in the first Spider-Man film, but I loved them in the reboot.
I will admit that, at times, The Amazing Spider-Man felt a lot like it’s predecessor, but truth be told I like the new version better. It was more modern, Garfield proved to be a great Peter Parker, and overall it generally felt more true to the comics. I had an awesome time at the film, despite not being able to see it in 3D because of a sold-out theater, and I have no doubt it will inspire an enduring and successful franchise. Kudos to director Marc Webb, who has an appropriate name for the film.
Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 85%