Wednesday, July 4, 2012

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone

Finally, we have a Spider-Man film that really captures what the character and story are really about. This is a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise that I think was the best possible move they could have done, seeing as the Raimi films…well, they weren’t exactly anything to write home about. This one, directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, is the truest to the comics I’ve seen yet and a spectacular friggin’ movie to boot, maybe the best summer blockbuster we’ve seen this summer yet. Does that get your ears perked up? Let’s dig into why.

First, the acting is just great in this. Andrew Garfield was an odd choice to play Peter Parker, as he looked very little like what we always associate the character with being. But he does a really good job at playing both Peter as the sometimes-troubled and awkward high school student with a brilliant mind and Spider-Man as a witty, wisecracking vigilante. He’s not as outwardly geeky and soft-spoken as some past incarnations have been, but he feels more like a three dimensional, real kid, and that’s why I think this is the best Peter Parker we’ve seen on any screen yet.

The scenes where he’s discovering his powers are really cool and show the wonder of it combined with the awkwardness and absurdity that Peter no doubt feels – there are numerous bits where his newfound strength completely destroys everyday tasks like opening doors and brushing teeth. Hell, when Peter is going home on the subway right after, he wrecks an entire car and gets into a huge fight scene all by accident by hitting people when he does not mean to. There’s one scene where he’s just sitting on his bed, wide-eyed and half-crazy after seeing what he can do now, that just encapsulates everything that a normal kid would feel after having these things happen to him. It’s silent, wordless moments like this that are spotted throughout the film and really show me what a talent this kid is, and how well the director managed to use him.

The humanity of the character really comes out through Garfield’s emotive and spot-on performance. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, who despite playing the usual Emma Stone kind of performance – you know, the whole sassy and independent girl thing she does in every movie – this time the writing is strong and actually supports her very well. So she does a good job.

Another great performance is veteran actor Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, who just does a really great job at playing a parental figure for such a troubled kid – you get the tender side and a more strict side, as well as just a great sense of personality and wit about him. At the end of the day, you really, really like Uncle Ben in this movie. I liked all of these characters a lot. Even if you knew nothing about Spider-Man, you could like and really care about these characters as much as you have with any movie – that is the sign of great acting and great writing.

The setting and lighting are wonderful, with beautifully lit shots of New York and some very pulpy old school-style comic book-esque locations – witness the glowering green lights and the cavernous depths of the sewers where The Lizard makes his infernal concoctions, and in contrast, the Parker house, warm and full of all the things you’d expect from an aunt making delicious things in the kitchen to movie posters and camera equipment in Peter’s bedroom. So aesthetically the movie gets it right – small stuff, but it counts. The settings all reminded me of comic books in their layouts and how they were set up.

The real meat of the movie comes from the bigger moments, though, like any time when Spider-Man is doing his thing around the city. This movie rocks some great, funny dialogue for him and some cool scenes where he apprehends all these small time crooks with his webs and super-speed and strength – they are scenes you will find in anything Spider-Man related, but they’re a lot of fun here and stand up to the past 50 years of his history with ease. One of the better moments comes when he saves a kid from a burning vehicle – I won’t spoil much else, but the grace and power with which this scene is handled are just epic, and the scene is really, really cool. The finale is a fast-paced, boiling thriller of a set-up that just rules. A great, blood-pumping finale for a great film.

The film remains entertaining whether it’s about Spidey kicking the crap out of a crook, about Peter Parker interacting with Aunt May or Gwen Stacey and her family or about Peter’s quest to find Curt Connors and solve the mystery of what happened to his dad. That’s really the mark of a first-rate script and director. The Amazing Spider-Man is one of those great cinematic moments where everything just came together like magic for a real winner of a movie.