The Amazing Spider-man

Initially when a franchise reboots a series not five years from its last installment this can often be seen as a sign that they’ve run out of ideas. It was reportedly the inability to find a suitable script that drove director-producer Sam Raimi and the stars of the Spider-man series away from a possible fourth outing and forced Sony/Columbia start fresh.

Selecting the relatively new Marc Webb who, outside of “500 Days of Summer”, had worked on music videos and most recently directed episode of The Office and the pilot for Lone Star, seemed like a very odd choice to turn over the billion-dollar franchise. The selection of American-born English actor Andrew Garfield also seemed to be an interesting choice to don the tights of the wall crawler.

Thankfully this is exactly the fresh start that the series needed. Even though I went into the film with guarded and reserved expectations I must say that I’m absolutely delighted with how the final product came out as this is a very fresh and faithful adaptation of the beloved comic book character that, in my opinion is the best adaptation to date on film.

The screenplay by James Vanderbilt was based on a story credited to three other writers all of whom clearly understand the character and the source material and are focused first and foremost with being respectful to it rather than putting their own unique stamp and take on the franchise.

The film does take a little bit of liberty by showing Peter Parker’s parents as they place young Peter in the custody of Ben and May Parker (Martin Sheen and Sally Fields) as they flee into a rainy night from implied danger, never to be seen again.

The film continues with teenage Peter (Andrew Garfield), plodding his way through high school. As brilliant as Peter is academically, he is extremely awkward around girls especially the lovely Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who never fails to catch his eye. When a clue from his father’s past arises, Peter finds himself at Oscorp where Gwen works as an intern. Peter also finds himself on the radar of his dad’s former partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who becomes intrigued by young Peter’s scientific theories and even more so in his abilities when he learns that he is the offspring of his former partner.

Dr. Connors is working on cross species genetics and hopes that not only will it someday replaces missing arm, but will also pave a bold new direction for humanity. During a visit to the lab Peter, is bitten by a radioactive spider, and as any fan of the series knows, begins to exhibit amazing strength, agility, and perception, as well as the ability to walk on walls and cling to ceilings. In a very refreshing return to form, Peter fashions his famous web slingers rather than have them be organic as the previous film series did.

When a twist of fate puts Peter on the path of vengeance, he becomes a masked vigilante who uses his newfound abilities to rid New York some of its less pleasant citizens. These activities do not sit well with Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), who also happens to be Gwen’s father. As Peter and Gwen become closer, the duality of hiding his new identity from Capt. Stacy and Aunt May becomes even more imperative.

Naturally, it would not be much of a superhero film without a super villain, and Dr. Connors is more than willing to step up to this. Faced with pressure from his bosses he decides to use an experimental serum on himself. At first he is delighted as he seems to regrow his lost limb, but then in a Jekyll & Hyde-like transformation he transforms into a gigantic lizard creature bent on revenge and destruction as he attempts to complete a plan that will devastate millions of New York citizens.

Since Peter helped provide the equation that led to the formula that transform Dr. Connors, he feels obligated to stop the raging creature and to save his mentor no matter the cost. What follows are some truly spectacular action sequences including sewer battles in an extremely memorable finale across the Manhattan skyline.

While the film did take its time getting started as it established its back story and introduced the characters, once it got rolling it was an extremely fun and exhilarating ride. Garfield and Stone have a very good chemistry with one another and the reports of them recently dating off screen further solidifies their on-screen bond. Garfield wonderfully captures the conflicted emotions of Peter Parker as well as the brilliantly awkward genius that he is.

He runs the gamut of emotions from showing his anger and frustration to the dopey awkwardness of his interactions with Gwen and very believable manner. When he becomes infused with his new abilities you can almost share the glee that he has as he swings and flips around the landscape. The sheltered, socially awkward young man disappears when he dons the mask. He’s free to let himself go and Garfield does this with a childlike delight as well as the trademark quips and wisecracks that made the character such a beloved icon.

Garfield handles the physical duties of the role quite well and shines both in and out of the costume. I thought Tobey Maguire did a fantastic job bringing the character to life previously, but in my opinion Garfield has captured the essence of Peter Parker/ Spider-man and made it his own with a truly wonderful performance all around.

Stone does a great job as the love interest in the film as she is more than just eye candy and the typical damsel in distress far too common with this type of film. She challenges Peter and you can see some gleeful delight in her eyes when Peter awkwardly stumbles around her in an attempt to ask her out. Because she clearly enjoys the situation Gwen is not about to make it any easier on Peter, even though she’s been waiting for him to muster the courage for ages. She’s a strong and determined woman who gives a good range of emotions in her scenes and complements Garfield exceptionally well.

The supporting cast was very good especially Leary and Fields and Ifans does a good job as the quietly restrained Connors. In what could’ve easily been a scenery chewing, over-the-top Machiavellian bad guy, Ifans portrays Connors as a very sympathetic and understandable figure. He is a scientist first and foremost who is trying to do what he believes is right. He is not suited for the political machinations of a large corporation and when he begins this transformation and the animal side takes over there is still a hint of humanity amongst all the CGI work for the re-imagined Lizard.

While it did take me a while to get used to the look of The Lizard having become accustomed to his portrayal in comics and cartoons, I have to say it was a good updating it still stayed faithful to the essence of the original character.

Webb wisely decided to shoot in 3-D and not do a post filming conversion. It is the visually captivating and at times stunning cinema photography that really sets the tone for the film. You can truly get an idea of what it is like to be Spider-man as he swings and flips through the city and the point of view shots of his web firing out to latch onto objects and take down opponents are a lot of fun. Webb clearly knows the subject matter and gets the most out of his very talented cast and tells a very entertaining yet human action story and lets the effects support the film rather than carry it.

The film was much better than “Spider-man 3”. I am so happy that the franchise is in good hands and is moving forward in the right direction. Although the movie did take a while to get up to speed once it got rolling I did not want it to end, and I commented to my wife that I don’t want to have to wait 2 to 3 years for the next installment of the film I’m ready for more now. As a lifelong fan of comic I can honestly say I am beyond delighted with the new film, cast, director, and direction for the series.

4 stars out of 5.