By Aditi Mishra, Daily Arts Writer
Published July 5, 2012
To compare “The Amazing Spider-Man” with its 2002 predecessor, or not to compare, that is the question. As our friendly neighborhood web slinger makes his way back to the big screen a mere 10 years after Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man”, the answer is a resounding, and inevitable, yes. But comparing the two films is no straightforward ordeal; the question isn’t simply whether this year’s Spider-Man reboot is good, because it is good, it’s also whether it’s necessary. And after all’s said and done, “The Amazing Spider-Man” offers nothing we haven’t already seen in an origin story that’s still very much alive in our memories.
The Amazing Spider-Man
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It’s been 10 years since Raimi breathed life into the geek-by-day, superhero-by-night Peter Parker. 3-D is now the new measure of a studio’s faith in a film’s success, and big budget films are almost intentionally sacrificing good scripts for a more “visual spectacle” approach. If “The Amazing Spider-Man” has any clear advantage over its antecedent, it’s because of the technology that director Mark Webb (“(500) Days of Summer”) had at his disposal. Every scene is consciously aware of being shot in 3-D, and an obscene amount capture cool shots of Parker slinging his way through the dense and nauseatingly high Manhattan skyline — scenes that, after a certain point, only detract from the story and lessen it’s intensity.
They only work because the story is a familiar one. Like the original “Spider-Man,” Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”) is a geeky genius photographer who’s smitten with popular high school girl-next-door/fashionista/scientific genius (eat your heart out Mary Jane), Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, “The Help”). Parker lands himself at an Oscorp gene transplant lab in the hopes of running into his father’s old friend and colleague Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans, “Anonymous”), and gets bitten by a rare laboratory-bred spider. The mutations occur, Parker turns into Spider-Man and starts to experiment with his new powers. He lets a criminal escape, the criminal kills Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, “The Way”) and Parker becomes increasingly mindful of his responsibilities as a vigilante.
There are definitely a few differences in the story. The reboot delves deeper into the mystery of Parker’s missing parents. Predictably, the film also makes it clear that one might need to sit through a sequel to see this mystery solved. As for Spider-Man himself, Garfield’s Parker makes Toby Maguire seem like the epitome of geekdom. Garfield brings very little awkwardness to his non-superhero persona, and manages to snag the girl a good hour or sequel sooner than Maguire was able to. Perhaps the biggest change of all is Stone’s Gwen — an unlikely image of perfection that Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane was not. Gwen’s family is far from dysfunctional and she’s a bright, beautiful high schooler who’s managed to secure an enviable head intern position at Oscorp that many college kids would kill for.
While Maguire and Dunst’s characters had imperfections that made them all-the-more loveable, Garfield and Stone play their roles with more finesse. They’re cute, they’re enthusiastic and they bring a freshness to their parts that makes this film both funny and intense. Ifans, as the antagonistic reptile trying to remove all weakness from humankind, is simply exceptional. So is every other member of the cast.
There’s nothing not to love about “The Amazing Spider-Man” other than the somewhat inconvenient fact that we’ve seen this movie before. It’s better in some ways, no doubt — it’s smarter, faster, funnier and more breathtaking, but it’s the same thing. Which makes it very hard not to believe that Columbia only revamped the series thinking, “if Thor’s making millions, so should Spider-Man!”
But no matter the studio’s questionable motives, the film’s agenda remains genuine.