After being unable to make it to the theaters — thanks, senior year — I decided to delve back into the familiar crimson kiosk to review another film that debuted during our extended publication vacation, or, as you know it, summer.
Going back in time to this summer, “The Amazing Spider-Man” seemed to get lost beneath “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” and rightfully so. Besides a couple new faces and small changes, this reinstallment feels and looks similar to the original — albeit with a much better cast.
Everyone knows the story of Spider-Man, so it’s hard to put a new spin on the high school outcast who gets bitten by a biologically engineered spider and starts using his powers to fight off criminals, the police and whatever comic-book creature the director decided to throw into the mix — this time, it’s a genetically developed lizard scientist, hell-bent on destroying New York City.
The movie does what it can to differentiate itself from Sam Raimi, Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst’s version, but, like I said, there’s not much to change. Instead of redhead Mary-Jane Watson, it’s blonde hair, blue-eyed Gwen Stacey, played by Emma Stone. Instead of a nerdy, photography-loving high school reject Peter Parker, it’s a nerdy photography-loving high school reject who likes skateboarding Peter Parker, played by Andrew Garfield. Instead of Spider-Man producing his web organically, this version developed web slingers to shoot engineered web from his wrist.
You get the picture.
With that said, I do wish this version was the one that came out when I was in middle school, back when Spider-Man could have been a larger part of my life than it is now. This version far exceeds the original in almost every way. After getting past the comic book aspects of the story — like a spider-man and a lizard scientist — this felt like a real movie, unlike the 2002 version, which never felt like it adapted to the real word.
The portrayals of the title character aren’t comparable. Garfield continues to show why he’s one of the best actors under 30 years old, as he did in “The Social Network,” stealing the majority of scenes he appears in with a hint of cockiness and a little slur of his lines — a certain calmness that works well for the laid-back protagonist.
When Stone was pegged as the female lead, it was widely assumed the natural redhead would play Mary Jane, one of the more famous scarlet-haired female characters. Yet, to separate itself from its decade-old counterpart, Stone played Gwen Stacey, the daughter of police captain George Stacey, played by Dennis Leary. Stone and Garfield’s chemistry on screen was better than Dunst and Maguire, yet still felt a little adolescent for what was supposed to be high school.
Captain Stacey took the role of the authority trying to paint Spider-Man as a criminal, similar to the Daily Bugle’s role in the first film. Other than a quick shot that showcased a printed version of the Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle were mostly absent from the film. After getting over the satisfaction of having a proud Bostonian in Leary portray the captain of the NYPD, Leary’s performance was good for the small amount of development he had. But that wasn’t enough to have me get over the fact they left the newspaper editor out of the movie. I’ve got to stick up for my kind.
As the original Spider-Man series’ downfall was it’s immense cast of villains it built up in the third installment, “The Amazing Spider-Man” stuck to one villain, which is traditional in the first installment of a series. And if you don’t think this won’t be a series, you’re kidding yourself. While Dr. Curt Connors was featured in the first series, he never turned into his alter ego: The Lizard.
This time around, director Marc Webb decided to lead off with the scaly one, with Rhys Ifans taking over the Dr. Connors role from Dylan Baker.
While Parker’s great aunt and uncle were pretty forgettable in the first trilogy, they were played by Sally Fields and Martin Sheen this time around, and they always warrant mentioning. While Fields’ Aunt May character was pretty timid throughout the film, Sheen’s performance as Uncle Ben was a nice touch. However, every time he lectured Parker about responsibility, I couldn’t help but think if Sheen wished he said that to his own son Charlie a couple more times during his transformative years.
It might be unfair to always compare this version of Spider-Man to its predecessor, but that’s what happens when you reboot a series that has been gone for all but five years. Regardless, it’s probably for the best for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” because it stacks up well to its older counterpart.
Other recent superhero movies?
Not so much.