Wednesday, July 4, 2012

'The Amazing Spider-Man' Review - The Spider-Man Movie I've Been Waiting For

Words can't express just how impressed I am with Marc Webb's 'The Amazing Spider-Man'. Many will say that Webb's film is unnecessary reboot, coming just a mere five years after Raimi's final outing, 'Spider-Man 3', but I don't agree. Not only is 'The Amazing Spider-Man' my favorite of all the Spider-Man films so far, but it also one of my favorite comic book adaptations to date. Featuring excellent direction by Webb, an outstanding cast, a strong script, and a great score, there is very little to not love about this movie. This is the movie I've been waiting for since I discovered the Marvel comics as a kid.

When Peter Parker's parents leave him at a young age, he is taken in by his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). As the years pass, Peter (Andrew Garfield) still has many unanswered questions about why his parents left him. But when he discovers his dad's old briefcase, he uncovers more then he could have ever anticipated. Following the clues, Peter meets with his father's old work partner, Doctor Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). But the trip doesn't go exactly according to plan, and Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider. Given powers beyond his wildest dreams, Peter begins to use his love for science and newly given powers for good, and begins going after small time crooks to find the man who killed his uncle. Peter ends up being noticed by the NYPD, in particular, Captain George Stacy (Dennis Leary), father of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who wants nothing more then to bring the masked vigilante to justice. But when a new villain, The Lizard, emerges and threatens the safety of New York City, Peter will stop at nothing to bring him to justice.

The thing that really stuck out to me about Webb's version immediately was the characters and their interactions. These aren't just cardboard cutouts, these are real, fleshed out characters. Webb made sure that not only do these characters feel real, but their interactions do as well. That's part of what made him so perfect for the role. Especially the brilliant interaction between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Their chemistry is just palpable, oozing off the screen. Anyone who saw Webb's film '(500) Days of Summer' knows that he knows characters and interactions, which is I'm sure why Columbia Pictures hired him to do the film. He focuses so much on these aspects, it really sets this film a part from many other comic book films. The scenes between Peter and Gwen are so beautifully done, that the chemistry between them feels real. It feels like a real connection, and that awkwardness we all feel with our first love. That aspect of the film is handled so carefully, and is easily one of the many highlights. Many forgot that at the core of all of Spider-Man's stories, there is always a love story. As much as people want to scream that this version is the 'Twilight' version of the character, a comparison I absolutely loathe, it couldn't be farther from the truth. This is one aspect of the comics that has been transferred over and given center stage, and it works.

But this wouldn't work if it wasn't for Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, who are both absolutely perfect for their roles as Peter and Gwen. Andrew Garfield, for me, IS Peter Parker. He just so perfectly embodies the character, it's one of the best casting choices I'm happy I've gotten to witness. He loves the character, and it shows. Everything from those wonderful and awkward high school scenes, to the smaller and more intimate scenes between Peter and Gwen, or Peter and Aunt May and Uncle  Ben, or just as the quipping version of Spider-Man, he's nothing short of excellent. Then we have Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, who I've been a fan of for a long time. I really enjoyed her in things like 'Easy A', 'Zombieland', and 'Superbad', and I'm glad to see her really get to shine in this. She's perfect as Gwen Stacy, and you can't help but love her. She's a smart, strong, and sassy girl that really stands out. No more are we stuck with the damsel in distress character that Peter has to save time and again, but we have a character who is strong on her own and wants to fight as well. Stone is just perfect all around as the character, and as I've mentioned before, her chemistry with Garfield is just excellent. These two together are nothing short of incredible, and they alone make the movie worth watching. 

But I can't forget about the rest of the cast. Martin Sheen plays Uncle Ben with so much sincerity and honesty, I couldn't help but love his version. All his small scenes with Peter really stuck with me, and I couldn't help but love him. He's such a great presence, and his work with Garfield is just outstanding. When Uncle Ben loses his life at the hands of a gunmen, I couldn't help but fight back tears, even though I knew it was coming. Then we have Sally Field as Aunt May. She's a much stronger character this time around, and less of a damsel in distress as well. I really enjoyed her in the role, and I just wish she had had a bit more time on screen to shine. There is a scene between her and Peter when he comes how late one night that really stands out for me, and again, just goes to prove that Webb was the correct choice because all these little scenes with the characters and their interactions were nothing short of spectacular. And of course I can't help but mention Rhys Ifans who plays Doctor Curt Connors. I thought Ifans was very good in the role, and I really liked how he was a respectable scientist who wanted to help the world who descended a bit into madness to become more than human. His screen time with Garfield is great, and I especially like when they're working on the serum together at Oscorp. The hope in his eyes when they may have found a way to bring limbs back is one of my favorite moments in the movie. He's just great in the role, and I really liked how he was handled. But last I'd like to talk about Dennis Leary as Captain George Stacy, who may be one of the best supporting characters in the film. He's almost like this films J Jonah Jameson, who is bent on bringing Spider-Man to justice. He's just so good in the role, and you couldn't help but root for him every time he was on screen. He also serves some of the best comedic moments in the film, which shouldn't be surprising for many. He just really gets a  chance to shine, and a scene between him and Gwen in their apartment hallway where they talk about hot coco may be one of my favorite scenes in the movie. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the film, besides the character interactions was the small plots dealing with Peter's parents and Oscorp. While some may be upset that the whole story with Peter's parents isn't dealt with in just one movie, Webb has already said that the storyline will play out over three movies. I like that it's playing a big part on this new take on the character. Which leads me to Oscorp side of the story. It's interesting to see it played this time more as a very powerful, and evil, company and organization. I'm very interested to see how this plays out over the next few movies. Especially with it seemingly playing on the fact that Norman Osbourne is more of a 'Wizard of Oz' type character who is behind the curtain pulling the strings. The set up for an eventual Goblin storyline is beginning as well, and I can't wait to see it play out, especially now with Gwen Stacy is in the mix. There is so much set up for future movies, but without taking away from this film, which is really great. It really makes me hope that the next film gets to be even stronger, now that the origin story is finished. I can't wait to see where it goes. 

Since this is a Spider-Man movie, you really can't talk about it without talking about the action, which there is plenty of here. I'm so glad that Webb decided to shoot the movie in 3D, because it really made him think about how he was going to shoot and frame the fight scenes, which really works in this movies favor. The action scenes are nothing short of great. There are a few fights between Peter and the Lizard, but my favorite two being the fight inside Midtown High and the climatic final battle on the Oscorp building. Webb has a very strong sense for action, and the way the camera moves and pans really gave the action scenes room to breathe so we could take in what was happening. There isn't once where you have to question what is going on, it's all clear as day. And that's a good thing. Far too often in movies I find myself scratching my head at exactly what's happening, be the shots zoomed in too much, or the camera is moving to much. None of this is a problem here. These action scenes are gorgeous and look great. It's very impressive, especially considering Webb really only had one indie romantic comedy under his belt. Then there is the score of the film. It really worked for me. The only downside is there isn't an iconic theme for Spider-Man in the film. I'm hoping that they find one for the second one, because Spider-Man, just like Batman and Superman, really deserves to have something that I can hum that makes me think of the film. But other than that, the score really worked in the movie's favor. 

'The Amazing Spider-Man' is much different then the many superhero movies that have come before. Focusing more on character than action really strengthens the film and separates it from the pack. With an outstanding cast that really gets to shine, excellent action, a good story, a good score, the film delivers in every way. I am thoroughly impressed by what Sony has done, and I'd say it's probably the best Marvel comic film done outside of Marvel Studios, right up there with X2. By sticking to the comics, 'The Amazing Spider-Man' really shines overall. I can't recommend the movie highly enough, and I can't wait to see what the sequel brings. This is the Spider-Man movie I've been waiting for, and I'm glad to say it's finally here.

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