Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-man (4+ of 5)

July 9, 2012 at 9:55 pm 1 comment

Tobey who?

I took the family to see The Amazing Spider-man last weekend.  Everyone of us thought it was great, even my wife who’s getting kind of burnt out on superhero movies.  Both of my teenage daughters loved it and want to see it again, and I concur.

Yes, the Sam Raimi Spider-man is only 10 years old and Spidey 3 was just 5 years ago, but the reboot provides a different take that is as every bit as good as Raimi’s version and a bit better in one specific manner that I’ll get to later.  As a point of fact, I also re-watched Spider-man (2002) the day after seeing the new one in order to have a fair comparison.

I was initially biased against Spidey 2012 because I thought Andrew Garfield (from The Social Network) is too handsome to be nerdy Peter Parker, a role that Tobey Maguire seemed born to play.  Garfield is much better looking than Maguire, but he manages to capture the essence of Peter as the painfully shy science nerd nearly as well without being dorky.  He still gets bullied, but because he’s not one of the cool kids rather than simply because he’s weak.  And especially nice, Peter does the right thing and stands up against the bullies to protect a weaker kid even before the famous spider bite.  The new Peter Parker works.

We also get Gwen Stacy instead of MJ Watson and boy is that an improvement.  Not because Emma Stone is a better actress than Kirsten Dunst, but because Gwen is a more attractive character.  She’s smart and attracted to Peter for his intelligence and good character (she witnesses him standing up to bullies mentioned above).  By contrast, MJ is a pretty fickle and superficial character especially when all 3 of the previous movies are taken into account (an analysis of Raimi’s version of MJ is worthy of a post all by itself).

As to how it is an improvement:

We have fewer characters which allows Spidey 2012 to spend more time developing them and their relationships. We don’t have to meet Harry Osborn, so there’s no messy love triangle.  Norman Osborn is a background character that’s referenced only.  There’s no J. Jonah Jamison, Robbie Robertson or Betty Brant.  And no Mary Jane Watson.

Instead we get to know Peter as a lonely outsider.  Not a dork or a clutz, but not an obnoxious teenager either (John Connor in T2).  He’s smart, but uncomfortable talking to girls or pretty much anyone.  He’s socially awkward which makes him a prime target for bullies.  The introduction of Peter’s parents is weak and provides no real payoff in this film, but they do induce him to track down Dr Curt Connors (an old friend and coworker of his father’s).

Surprise!  Peter gets bitten by a radioactive spider!

We still get a montage of Peter exploring his new powers, but we also get webshooters!

Uncle Ben doesn’t survive this movie either, but we avoid the wrestling match for a more realistic scenario.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field are good actors, but I really did miss Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris.

And I have to say that I prefer the Lizard to the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe not withstanding).

So I recommend this movie wholeheartedly.

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