In Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” we are re-introduced to high school genius Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”), a wiseass know-it-all living in New York City. Peter mostly keeps to himself and only bothers others when he needs to. This all changes when Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, “The Help”) takes interest in him after he intervenes in an unfair schoolyard fight and gets his aforementioned wise ass handed to him.
Peter’s Aunt May (Sally Field, TV’s “Brothers & Sisters”) becomes concerned about him coming home beat up, but Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, “Mass Effect 3”) offers words of encouragement about growing up. But when Peter discovers documents his father left to his aunt and uncle before he and Peter’s mother died in a plane crash, his concern shifts from high school drama to understanding what happened to his parents.
Peter connects the documents to one of OsCorp’s top scientists, genetic splicing specialist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans, “The Five-Year Engagement”). When Peter sneaks into OsCorp’s headquarters to meet Dr. Connors, his curiosity gets the better of him, and he finds himself in a room of genetically altered spiders. After a less than dramatic scene of Peter receiving the destined spider bite, the now-bitten Peter starts discovering his powers through series of humorous fights and death-defying stunts.
After tragedy strikes home, Peter seeks revenge toward a criminal with a distinctive tattoo. Realizing he must conceal his identity on the nighttime streets of New York for his own safety while searching for the criminal, Peter begins to define himself as the part-man, part-spider superhero. Peter’s search leaves him with a reputation for fighting petty crime, and Spider-Man is soon being hunted by the New York Police Department. In a twist of fate, Peter learns the head of police, Captain Stacy, is Gwen’s father, and as Gwen and Peter grow closer, so does Captain Stacy to catching Spider-Man. But even Captain Stacy will need Spider-Man’s help when Dr. Connors’ experiments go terribly wrong.
Compared to the 2000s’ “Spider-Man,” this reboot feels more natural and fluid. Ousting Tobey Maguire as Peter in favor of an actor who can pass for a high school senior was the right choice. Peter’s dialogue is wittier, and Garfield’s comfort and ease being Peter make the film easier to watch. There is a greater emphasis on acting quality given the reputation of the cast. Emma Stone, for example, is no damsel in distress as Gwen Stacy. Smarter and more driven than Peter, Gwen plays a vital role in helping Spider-Man defeat the Lizard, while Stone uses her charming and witty personality to swoon the audience. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone — far superior to that between Maguire and Kirsten Dunst — keeps the audience’s attention during long periods where Spider-Man is absent.
No expense was spared in making “The Amazing Spider-Man” shine visually. Special effects are crisp and detailed, and action sequences are well planned out. Responsible cinematography and lighting capture New York City’s dark side but keep the atmosphere of the film overall light but serious. While nowhere near as ominous as “The Dark Knight’s” Gotham, director Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer”) mixed New York City’s reputation as a world capital with homage to its violent past. The mood of the film is pulled together by an excellent soundtrack and themes composed by James Horner.
Despite its runtime of over two hours, “The Amazing Spider-Man” flies by. The film slowly builds up to Spider-Man’s overall character by emphasizing Peter’s quick growth into not only a superhero, but also a responsible adult. It’s easy to engage with and relate to Peter, making the progression to action-packed thriller all the more satisfying. Seeing Spider-Man struggle to master his powers throughout the film keeps things fresh and believable.
However, this Spider-Man film is easy to nitpick for plot-holes and inconsistencies: The Lizard’s thought process is convoluted and makes little sense, even for a mad-scientist, and sneaking into buildings these days is much harder than the movie makes out to be. Let’s use locks on doors, people, seriously. These add up to enough “What?” moments to hinder the film’s overall appeal.
Effects and production quality put “The Amazing Spider-Man” on-par with “The Avengers,” and its emphasis on acting alongside action sequences makes the film far superior to its immediate predecessor. Overlooking plot holes, “The Amazing Spider-Man” will not disappoint as another great summer action flick.
4 out of 5 stars