The Amazing Spider-man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-man: based on the comic-book character created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee; written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves; directed by Marc Webb; starring Andrew Garfield (Spider-man/Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Rhys Ifans (Curt Connors/The Lizard), Denis Leary (Captain Stacy), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben), and Sally Field (Aunt May) (2012): The Spider-man reboot gets a number of things more right than the first three Sam-Raimi-directed, Tobey-Maquire-starring features.

Peter Parker is now a young super-genius, just as he was in the original comic books, and his cleverness will aid him in his adventures. As comic-book-writer/artist John Byrne would say, only Peter Parker could have been Spider-man. It especially helps that, as in the comic book, he has to build his own web-shooters: they don’t just conveniently pop out of his wrists as they did in the Raimi movies, though there they really should have popped out of his bum if we were to be even vaguely realistic about this whole human-spider schlemozzle.

Andrew Garfield is appropriately slighter than Maguire, while Emma Stone makes an appropriately cute Gwen Stacy, moved from her place much later in Peter Parker’s life in the comic books to the start of his career. Betty Brant really gets no respect in these movies. This Gwen Stacy is also something of a science prodigy, which means she gets more to do than just scream and offer romantic support to the web-spinner.

The performances are all really quite solid, with Rhys Ifans as the scientist who will become the villainous Lizard and Denis Leary as Gwen’s Police Captain father. A complicated back-story for Peter’s family looks to be the thread that goes through all these new movies. I like my superheroes with much simpler, original origins; unfortunately, Hollywood Screenwriting 101 has taught us that everyone and everything has to be connected, that there are no coincidences, and that every superhero must ultimately be motivated by revenge rather than altruism.

They do a nice job here of setting up Peter’s guilt over his Uncle Ben’s death (the whole wrestling story has been discarded, which may be a good idea) and the existence of his capacity for heroism before he gains his powers. Still, his battle with the Lizard is ultimately a personal one because, you know, Motivation 101 and all that crappy studio crappy crap.

The visual effects are mostly serviceable, though nothing stands out as spectacular or even amazing. And I’d really have kept the comic-book Lizard’s alligator-like head, complete with snout: here, Spider-man’s either fighting the Scorpion or perhaps the Abomination from the second Hulk film. It’s a strikingly unoriginal bit of character visualization, and frankly it looks way too blobby and way not enough scaly to be called The Lizard. And where is his giant white lab-coat and giant-lizard-sized purple pants????? Recommended.

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