I don’t think any movie in recent years has ever had more of an uphill battle than The Amazing Spider-Man. The movie is fighting not only the stain of a poorly reviewed and received previous chapter, but also the stigma of a reboot so shortly after the previous incarnation. This is a fight that could be too much for even Spider-Man.
It’s hard to talk about this movie without comparing it to others, not only the previous Spider-Man films, but also last year’s X-men First Class which fought a similar uphill battle against it’s previous franchise incarnation. However, that is to do Amazing Spider-Man a disservice, this film is strong enough to stand on it’s own and be the start of a new take on the franchise.
While the story itself is hardly a new one, in fact the argument could be made that the plot elements are nearly identical to the first Spider-Man film. Then again, it’s a fairly common story, especially in the superhero genre. The strength of this film lies in it’s direction, writing and strong casting.
Andrew Garfield brings a nice outsider feel to the role of Peter Parker. Emma Stone is Gwen Stacy, Peter’s first love, whose fate in the original comics has remained largely unchanged even in the world of comics where nothing is permanent. Fans who know the characters ultimate fate are hoping that the movies will go that direction in the subsequent films. It could be the cornerstone of a dramatic arc for this new web slinger.
Rounding out the main cast is Denis Leary, who seems to be perfectly cast as the overprotective father and police captain, George Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, a brilliant scientist with many a demon and skeleton to hide.
Director Marc Webb, while this is not his first feature, this is his first large budget action and effects centric film. But this film feels like it is in the hands of a seasoned veteran. The action scenes are never unclear or hard to follow, and they make good use of the space available, much how Spider-Man himself would.
Webb also gives us a story with real heart and emotion. Because this is essentially retelling the origin story of Spider-Man there are certain elements that are integral to the character, we know the fates of nearly every character. Those integral moments still play out with as much emotion as if we entered the movie with no foreknowledge.
The film does have some faults, partially that this is a story we have heard before. It does have new elements and some new wrinkles, but this is still the same story we got a decade ago. While Peter Parker is a great outsider in the beginning of the film, by the end he seems to have lost much of the outsider status and has become one of the popular kids with really no reason given. It’s like the characters know he’s Spider-Man, but no one ever acknowledges it.
One popular scene in fantasy and sci-fi movies is the villain struggling between his humanity and ultimate villainous nature. This has almost become a cliched scene, and one that was executed with near perfection in the Lord of the Rings movies. It was also a staple of the previous Spider-Man films, so it feels like a retread when we get a similar scene in this film as well.
In the end, this is a solid beginning to a refreshed franchise. We cover some familiar ground, but also there is enough new material to pull this film out from the shadow of the previous trilogy. The true test will come in the sequel, as fans hope to see a longer story arc covering multiple films and not just self contained stories.