TWe might as well call him ‘Soul-Man’. In The Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey’s alter ego Peter Parker is depicted on screen with a beautiful faithfulness to its source material, which is moving enough to entangle the hearts of both comic book fans and casual film goers alike. Credit must be given to director Marc Webb who, as in his directorial debut (500) Days of Summer (2009), manages to unmask powerful performances that are both sincere and tender. While I don’t usually become emotional while viewing films, The Amazing Spider-Man had me reaching for the tissue on more than one occasion.
The performances are quite amazing. Of special note is the role of Ben Parker, brilliantly played by Martin Sheen. Ben and his on screen wife May Parker (Sally Field), play the role of aging surrogate parents to their nephew Peter, all the while managing the teen’s anxiety over the mysterious disappearance of his parents. They are ably supported by a strong performance from Emma Stone who plays the role of Peter’s love interest Gwen Stacy. The scenes in which she falls for Peter are surprisingly as sweet as young love can be. Their romance and chemistry is the strongest I’ve seen in a superhero film, rivaling even that of Lois and Clark in Richard Donner’s Superman (1978). But the actor who really steals the show is Andrew Garfield. As the film is a reboot of director Sam Raimi’s previous trilogy, which is still fresh in our minds, comparisons are drawn automatically. But while Toby Maguire was quite good in the previous movies, Garfield is Peter Parker personified. Although the actor is said to be 28, he is extremely convincing as a gawky teenaged high school geek. When costumed as the web slinging spider-man, Garfield displays martial arts skills, physical flexibility, and athleticism that should satisfy longtime fans of the superhero. Furthermore, and in what was missing from Toby Maguire’s depictions, here Spidey characteristically taunts bad guys with a barrage of one-liners which should leave purists nodding in approval. Interestingly enough, Peter Parker has significantly more screen time unmasked, but Garfield’s embodiment of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is so seamless, that it feels welcome.
On the whole, the narrative is quite good, and those familiar with the story of Peter Parker’s accident with a radioactive spider will know what to expect in this origin tale, especially those who have seen Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002). Where this reboot differs is that it offers a grittier and more realistic version that is clearly inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, and an overall truer examination of Parker’s origins. New on screen are aspects such as Peter’s first love Gwen Stacey, mechanical web shooters, and a bigger mystery over his parent’s disappearance.
Also new on screen is the film’s antagonist, the amputee scientist Dr Curt Connors, who while experimenting with a serum that might help him regrow his lost limb, predictably transforms him into the psychotic and powerful scaly super villain, The Lizard. With his hulking size, menacing demeanor, and massive tail, The Lizard is a foe for the web slinger, yet the character is far too clichéd and one dimensional to be compelling. Still disappointing are the film’s 3D effects, which feel as slapped on as they come.
The 3-D lapses aside, The Amazing Spider-Man’s action scenes are perked up by some fine CGI and are also given some gravity by the soulful script, resulting in action sequences which stimulate on multiple levels. With The Avengers behind us, and The Dark Knight Rises to follow, 2012 will be known as the year of the three great comic book films, with each one offering something unique. This one clearly offers heart.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 15th, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ