Do you remember the first Spider-Man trilogy in the two thousands? Forget it. No, I really mean it. Forget pretty much everything you remember from the series that starred Toby Maguire as the titular superhero if you want to fully enjoy the new movie that opened July 3, The Amazing Spider-Man. In fact, you should go into the theater with an open mind regarding nearly the whole origins story of Spider-Man. Director Marc Webb does stay true to the essence of the much beloved Spider-Man character, but he takes this movie in a much different direction that may both surprise and possibly upset traditionalists. Putting that aside, The Amazing Spider-Man delivers with excitement, action and some emotional moments.
The basic premise remains the same, nerdy kid gets bitten by a spider and suddenly finds himself with superhuman strength, the ability to climb walls and a unique sense to warn him of impending danger. Ultimately he is faced with a larger-than-life villain who only he can defeat with his new found powers (oh, and throw in a love interest for good measure). The rest of The Amazing Spider-Man is very different than its predecessors in terms of content, tone, visuals and acting, which in many ways benefits this reboot of your friendly neighborhood superhero.
The most obvious changes will be seen in the characters who are missing from the movie. Don't expect to see J. Jonah Jameson, Harry Osborn, or Norman Osborn. Not even a mention of Mary Jane (MJ) Watson is made. The Amazing Spider-Man instead focuses on Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey as the blossoming teenage couple (comic book aficionados can confirm this is also a story line in the Spider-Man world but not the one most typically recognized). The movie also gives more prominence to formerly lesser-known characters such as Captain Stacey (Gwen's Dad and the head of the NYC police) and Dr. Curt Conners (a genius scientist obsessed with finding a way to grow his right arm back).
The Amazing Spider-Man also takes on a much more serious tone than the previous Spider-Man series by creating a more realistic and less-campy world. For example, while Peter Parker is still portrayed as an un-athletic teenage nerd, the character is played with more depth than Toby Maguire's version of Peter and allows the audience to see Peter as any typical teenager instead of a caricature of an imagined nerd. Making the familiar comic book character more realistic and easier for audiences to relate to is a testament to the work of both the director and the great cast.
Emma Stone (most recently nominated for her role in The Help) is wonderful as Peter's love interest, Gwen Stacey. She is a strong and loveable every-girl who is very convincing in every scene (a difficult job when hiding from a fictitious giant lizard who isn't really in front of you). Andrew Garfield (he was the other geek in The Social Network) is clearly a much better actor than Tobey Maguire and his ability to act in both emotional scenes and over-the-top action scenes makes the film much more enjoyable and credible than previous incarnations. However, the character of Peter does seem a little more like a jerk at moments than a loveable kid just having fun. It is hard to tell if that is the fault of the writing or the acting but either way it was a little off-putting. The other cast of characters does a similarly credible job of making comic book characters into more realistic people that allow you to believe you might just bump into them on the street.
The Amazing Spider-Man is also very pleasing to viewers' eyes. The improvement of special effects and CGI in the past ten years since the first Spider-Man series began is evident by the way Spider-Man glides through the air and fights like you would imagine a human imbued with spider powers would. These new effects set against a more realistic and darker New York landscape add to the depth of what can only be called a serious take on a Spider-Man classic. The computer-generated Lizard was impressive but at times contrasted too intensely with a world that clearly worked very hard to remain as realistic as possible in nearly every other aspect.
Final Cut: The Amazing Spider-Man is a strong offering in a Hollywood landscape that seems to produce a new superhero-based movie nearly every month. It is a thrill-ride for both adults and children (though make sure the kids are old enough to handle a few scary moments and a giant lizard). The Amazing Spider-Man should be able to defend itself against the harshest critic, even if not able to completely satisfy him or her.
Did you see The Amazing Spider-Man? What is your opinion? Make sure to share your comments and thoughts.