The Amazing Spider-man

starstarstarstar

Andrew Garfield

Emma Stone

reviewed by Tom-Tom

There have been many films, TV shows, songs, video games, key chains, books, and even simultaneously published comics of Spider-man: Spectacular Spider-man, Amazing Spider-man. There was even a Japanese series where he battled giant enemies in an enormous mechanized battle suit called Lepradon. In the first half of the 00’s, Sam Raimi delivered three mostly successful movies starring the webslinger. Camp was at work in most of it but to great effect in at least the second one. Now Marc Webb (fitting name for a Spiderman film director) brings us yet another reboot. What direction will he take the series?

We already know everything about Spiderman the same way we know everything about Superman or Batman. They’re international icons as well as standards of different kinds of heroism: the pure Boy Scout, the dark brooder, and the wisecracker. “The Amazing Spider-man” seeks from the very first moments to give us a glimpse at what we don’t know nor have ever really asked about: Who were Peter’s parents and what happened to them and why? Some cynics make ask, “Who cares?” but this film makes us care and makes the abandonment an organic part of who Peter Parker is and even who is fated to become.

Raising your sister’s kid isn’t easy and I was happy to see two cinema greats playing Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) with pragmatic populism and blue collar ethics about hard work and responsibility which gives their famous advice to Peter more natural than theatrical. Ben and May are adults with real lives not just aloof adults spouting aphorisms which lead our hero to the next scene.

A bully appears early in the picture making it easy for us to see the true character of Peter, meek, shy, but with an ingrained sense of fairness which isn’t heroic more than it is moral. Later on, we learn a touching fact about the bully which fleshes out even his seemingly theatrical antics. Another very welcome improvement in the series is Gwen Stacy played by the excellent Emma Stone. Finally we get a woman of a girl who is critical, active, intelligent, and a word for word wisecracker herself rather than a seemingly helpless waif, who cries, whines, and seems to be on stand by to be saved or placed in danger just to scream. She is a triumph in female lead character writing and I hope to see more in not just comic book adaptations either.

Dr. Curt Connors appears in Peter’s life as a possible missing link to Papa Parker’s past. It is in this capacity that our hero meets his radioactive spider of destiny. Connors is attempting to find a way to introduce splice reptilian genes to allow amputees such as himself (he’s missing his right arm from the elbow down) to regrow their lost limbs. Pressured by deadlines for funding and aided by info from Peter via his father’s research, he initiates human trials on himself. Similar to Doc Ock from the second of the original Spider-man films, Connors finds his mind taken over by the darker side of the treatment. He fights with himself with the reptilian side winning. This is no theatrical villain but a good man gone wrong. This is apparent to the very end.

Peter Parker as Spider-man is a wonderful evolution. He stretches his abilities more and more via his skateboard which he’s had since the beginning of the film. He tries and fails and tries and fails and finally succeeds in developing his web shooters spun from the very spiders that bit him which he buys online from the company that houses them. This is a delightful improvement from the “organic web shooters” Tobey Maguire used.  His masked countenance doesn’t only inspire heroism but arrogance as well, also natural considering his age. His efforts stymie a long term car thief sting operation the police have been on for months. This is told to him by Captain Stacy (Denis Leary at his laconic best), Gwen’s father at the dinner table where the practical merits and flaws of vigilantes are discussed intelligently and not a little emotionally.

The real and organic nature of all these elements never feels overly heavy or preachy. The finale is pretty darn exciting although not over-the-top. It is within the natural evolution of the film. Even the villain has real, redeemable qualities that leave a sense of satisfaction by the picture’s end. What a success as a story to take the hero we know so well so very seriously but not to excess. With more practicality and less excess or theatricality, Marc Webb and his team have given us a great film, not just a good comic book movie.

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