Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Film Review – The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

You know what came out in theaters ten years ago? The first Spider-Man movie. It has only been five years since Spider-Man 3 hit screens. That seems like a short turnaround for a reboot on a major franchise. But I suppose it had to happen. No way was Sony going to let such a cash cow sit on hiatus just because Tobey Maguire and crew didn’t want to play ball. They wanted to make sure that they were getting their money’s worth with the character. That’s why we got this reboot. Money. It’s not about an artistic vision or building a world the way the Marvel cinematic experiment has been, though those films have been an exercise in aggregating money as well. This is a film about maintaining possession of a character first and foremost. Does that mean that it isn’t a good movie? Not at all. In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say that I enjoyed this take on the character more than I did in Sam Raimi’s trilogy. What I have to wonder is if this film will have its merits overshadowed by the circumstances of its own existence.

While the film is in no way connected to the Marvel cinematic universe and the Avengers franchise, the tendency in those films to mine more from the Ultimate universe of comics carries over here. Many elements of Brian Michael Bendis’ work on the title finds its way here. At the same time, there are just as many elements taken from classic Spider-Man stories  of the sixties and seventies. Even the look of the Lizard is taken from the silver age rendition of the character as opposed to the current animal-like interpretation. The current look, which seems to evoke more of a crocodile appearance, a sharp contrast to the original appearances which retain more of the human features of Curt Conners which seems to be what the filmmakers were going for in their adaptation. I know there have been some comments about the design being evocative of the Super Mario Bros film goombahs but judged within the confines of the film it works well.

The quickest rundown I can give of the movie is that everybody does their respective parts very, very well. I didn’t have many doubts about Andrew Garfield or Emma Stone. Having seen their recent filmography I knew they were going to  do well. I had a few more reservations about Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and Sally Field as Aunt Mae. Martin Sheen gives the film a bit of gravitas that it might have lacked otherwise. He makes the role his own, he really does. Sally Field doesn’t really get the chance to do anything at all. I can’t say that she disappointed me because she really didn’t get the chance. Denis Leary does a good job as Capt. Stacy, giving him a real sense of blue collar weight that works for the character and even though his arc is somewhat truncated, his presence in the film works to fill the hole left by a lack of J. Jonah Jameson, as shoehorning in the Daily Bugle would have made the movie seem overly bloated.

There are honest points to be made for this one being the best Spider-Man film to date. The interplay between Peter and Gwen is excellent, the action scenes are impeccably filmed, the cast is about as top notch as you could hope for and while the origin story is repetitive the makers of the film were able to differentiate it from the previous trilogy enough that you’re never bored. That was my biggest reservation about the film; that the origin would be so dull that it would overshadow anything that may have made the film worthwhile. I’m happy that I was wrong, as the streamlined take on the death of Uncle Ben as well as the nod to the infamous wrestling match are handled in such a way that they feel fresh and entertaining. I really was quite surprised.

I may have said some bad things about the film before I even got a chance to say it but I’ll eat my words and say that I was wrong. The Amazing Spider-Man is well worth your time. Don’t let the lackluster previews fool you, this thing is the real deal.

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