Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
There are two things you absolutely must have for Spider-Man to work as a character and as a hero:
1. With great power comes great responsibility.
2. He cannot win for losing.
Director Marc Webb, whose only previous feature credit is the exceptionally twee "(500) Days of Summer," manages to keep those two points in focus even as "The Amazing Spider-Man" tweaks the hero's origin a bit for a reboot that is as enjoyable as it is unnecessary.
Superman is a messiah, more or less, the "perfect man who came from the sky and did only good," as writer Alan Moore once put it. Batman is pulp wish fulfillment: What if I were incredibly rich, physically perfect and, well, really into bats?
But Spider-Man, now and forever, is everyday people, the hero who could be you.
Here, Peter Parker is played (quite well) by Andrew Garfield, and you better believe it's tough not to think of him as Eduardo Saverin in "The Social Network," even if Garfield's Peter Parker is a far cry from a Harvard techie. (The movie-going public might recall that Tobey Maguire played Spider-Man in the earlier cycle of movies.)
The recasting works. If Maguire is the Spider-Man of Spidey co-creator Steve Ditko, this is the Spider-Man of artist John Romita: a little slicker, a little more modern. Spider-Man in skinny jeans, if you will.
Anyway, gone is some of the goofy humor of the earlier franchise, which some will miss and some will not. Here, Parker is an orphan, a small boy stuck with his aunt and uncle (Martin Sheen and Sally Field) as his parents leave town with secrets, never to return. (There is something more than a little Harry Potterish about this new Peter Parker.)
Parker grows up bullied by athletes and loved by his aunt and uncle. Even with a thick coating of teen angst, Garfield is less awkward geek than skate-boarding outsider and hard-core science obsessive. His crush is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who works afterschool (huh?) at Oscorp, where scientist Curt Connors (British actor Rhys Ifans) is working with animal DNA to restore his missing arm. As Parker sneaks in on a tour, he gets his spider bite, and we are off.
And no, the webshooters are not organic this time. And wrestling still plays a part in his origin. And yes, that thing you think might not happen judging from the preview does happen. You know the one.
Oddly, Webb manages to pack a tremendous amount of story into the two-hour-plus movie (and the scene in which we are reminded that Spider-Man is a working-class hero is pretty excellent), but there are still moments that drag.
There's an odd tension between needing to retell the origin for a new round of movies and a need to get to the story (as, come on, who in the theater isn't going to know the story of Spider-Man at this point?)
Connors' transformation into the Lizard is appropriately horrific and reminds you that Spidey stories are often a battle between two scientists, adding a layer of body horror to the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Parker is having to deal with Gwen's dad, police Capt. George Stacy (Denis Leary, now in the part of his career where he will play Irish cops and firefighters roughly forever), who loathes Spider-Man, for obvious reasons.
And now we get to the part where Spider-Man comic book fans get to argue among themselves, given the extremely important roles George and Gwen play in the Spider-Man mythos.
Of course there's a sequel in the offing. We know what must come next, and, against all odds, we are curious as to how Webb is going to get there.
Contact Joe Gross at 912-5926