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The Amazing Spider-Man
dir Marc Webb
scr James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
prd Avi Arad, Matthew Tolmach, Laura Ziskin
with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, C Thomas Howell, Chris Zylka, Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Max Charles
release US/UK 3.Jul.12
12/US Columbia 2h26
Does it hurt here? Stone and Garfield
R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
It's a mystery why Marvel remade this origin tale only 10 years after Sam Raimi's version. Sure, this is a slightly different mythology, but it's impossible to engage in a story that can't surprise us. Fortunately, the rom-com subplot is thoroughly involving.
After his parents disappeared, Peter (Garfield) grew up with his aunt and uncle (Field and Sheen). A high school science nerd, he has a crush on the hot-brainy Gwen (Stone), who works as an intern for geneticist Connors (Ifans). When Peter learns that Connors was his father's colleague, he takes an interest in their cross-species research. So when he's bitten by a mutant spider, he becomes his own experiment, learning to climb buildings, swing from webbing and spread some vigilante justice. But Connors is also experimenting on himself.
Unsurprisingly, Webb's directing strengths are strongest in the teen romance as well as the visually whizzy Spidey antics, all of which are played with sharp humour and a strong sense of the characters' personalities. Scenes between Garfield and Stone are especially strong, played by both actors to bring out some sassy wit and raw emotion. In this sense, Garfield holds the film together beautifully, infusing his scenes with Leary (as Gwen's cop dad), Sheen and Field with real pathos, even if the other actors don't have much to do.
So it's rather annoying when Ifans' mad scientist takes over the film, as if it's a Marvel requirement to have a big action climax followed by an even more enormously spectacular finale. But these scenes are the film's weakest moments, mainly because they're essentially animated battles between digital creatures who might as well be Transformers. Frankly, frantic fights atop New York skyscrapers are boring cliches, especially when accompanied by a ticking-clock timebomb.
Much more interesting is the exploration of identity in Peter's interaction with people around him. Garfield is superb as a teen who's afraid to reveal his secrets to those he loves. As he begins to explore the responsibility that comes with his abilities, we can see hope for a continuing franchise about a young man coming to terms with the legacy of his parents and the realities of the world he now inhabits. Alas, Marvel won't let him do this without another distracting supervillain.
R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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