Count me among those skeptical of rebooting the Spider-Man series just five years after its prior entry, the scatter-brained Spider-Man 3.
It didn’t help that this version appeared to be employing a very similar tone and visual style. Why bother rebooting if it looks
indistinguishable from the prior series of films?
I was wrong.
Despite its similarities, The Amazing Spider-Man is an energetically directed, superbly cast and extremely fun piece of pop entertainment.
The film is truly led by its leads, a couple rising stars in Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
Garfield is a great Peter Parker, striking the perfect balance of awkward comic timing and heroic drama.
Perhaps even better is the lovely Emma Stone as fellow student and love interest Gwen Stacy. Like Garfield, Stone’s performance is filled
with youthful energy and the two have a great chemistry.
The best moments of the film feature their interactions and they are just fun to watch together.
The supporting cast is also filled with good performances from Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Sally Field.
Unfortunately, Rhys Ifans is wasted as Dr. Curt Connors aka The Lizard. The glaring weak spot in The Amazing Spider-Man is its villain. He is
a completely stock baddie with no believable motive and little real menace.
Thankfully, the film doesn’t focus too much on Connors, and director Marc Webb (Yes, Webb) always keeps Parker and Stacy as our focal
A relative newcomer, Webb shows great potential in juggling a large, action-filled production without sacrificing character.
There is a great energy to Webb’s film and the performances are equally enthusiastic.
I also found some of Webb’s POV camerawork for Spidey’s web-swinging to be quite stunning, especially when it leads to the trademark
suit's first grand reveal.
I also have to give a lot of credit to the director for employing a classical orchestral score and utilizing it brilliantly. Composer James
Horner’s music is really excellent and a refreshing change of pace from the usual rock/electronic-infused tendencies of some of the recent
The score soars with optimism and a heroic title theme and elevates the film’s most thrilling and dramatic moments.
The visual effects are also light years ahead of the occasionally miserable work in the previous trilogy. Director Sam Raimi’s 2002 original
has always looked particularly awful.
It’s hard not to compare the two films as they contain many of the same plot points relating to the web-slinger’s origins.
I wouldn’t say either is exclusively better than the other. Raimi’s original had his inventive visual style and some key events, particularly
Uncle Ben’s death, are a bit more dramatically accomplished in the previous film.
It also had the benefit of Willem Dafoe’s far more entertaining Green Goblin.
But overall, The Amazing Spider-Man stands up well and is arguably a better overall film because of its extremely likeable cast and Webb’s
more focused direction.
Both are good films, however, and the core players of Webb, Garfield and Stone show great potential for the inevitable future installments
to be even better.
Despite all the skepticism and reservation, the movie wins us over in the best way possible. We love its characters and its great sense of
fun is infectious.
It succeeds so well in this regard that we can look past the film’s obvious flaws.
There may be a prevailing sense of déjà vu to the plot and its villain is ultimately forgettable, but The Amazing Spider-Man is just too much
fun to write off. With a great cast and a sure-handed director, there may be true greatness in this new series’ future. It just needs to find
its own path.
* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent and
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans,
Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan
Music by: James Horner
Cinematography by: John Schwartzman
Released: July 3, 2012; 136 Minutes