Combustible Celluloid
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With: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Zylka, Max Charles, C. Thomas Howell
Written by: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
Directed by: Marc Webb
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
Running Time: 136
Date: 06/13/2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Web and Flow

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Amazing Spider-Man is a total reboot, from the ground up, replacing just about everyone who had been involved in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy: Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007). Unfortunately, Raimi's Spider-Man 2 is perhaps one of the two or three great superhero movies to date, and the new movie has some big shoes to fill.

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) now plays Peter Parker/Spidey, taking over for Tobey Maguire. Garfield may look more like a superhero than Maguire did, but Maguire was a much better fit. The true appeal of Spider-Man isn't necessarily Spider-Man. It's Peter, the lonely, nerdy guy whose problems never end. He has girl troubles, family troubles, friend troubles, money troubles, job troubles, and more. Putting on a red-and-blue suit and beating up bad guys is actually the least of it. Whereas Maguire was nerdier, more uncertain, and more vulnerable, Garfield is tall and handsome, with piercing eyes and good hair. He's upset and angry about things, but he's also aggressive and decisive in many situations. He seems to be able to handle things, including asking out the pretty Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

His worst problems stem from a new origin story in which we meet Peter's father (Campbell Scott) and mother (Embeth Davidtz) in a flashback. They are working on some kind of secret project that has placed them in danger, so they whisk young Peter away to live with his aunt May (Sally Field) and uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). From there, the Spider-lore is the same: Peter gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and uncle Ben is shot and killed, even though Peter could have saved him.

Our requisite supervillain is the Lizard, a.ka. Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a scientist who experiments with reptile DNA as a means to grow back his lost arm. We learn that Connors once worked with Peter's father, though the rest of this mystery has apparently been left for the sequel.

The director on this reboot is Marc Webb (a perfect name for Spidey!), whose only other feature is the excellent (500) Days of Summer. His direction here is competent, while faltering a bit on the action/effects sequences and using quick cuts to disguise any uncertainty. However, he makes up for it in the character department, with fewer characters and more concentrated interactions than Spider-Man 3. Even though the new movie comes up short compared to Raimi's work, it still hits the mark.
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