Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne

Review: ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ (2012)

Posted by Max Lalanne on July 3, 2012

I should probably say that going into “Amazing Spider-Man,” I was completely unfamiliar with the cinematic exploits of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy and whoever else resides in Spidey’s universe. Meaning, unlike a great majority, I haven’t seen Sam Raimi’s original trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, and therefore have no unfortunate preconceptions of watching a reboot shamelessly propped up not even ten years after. Which is a great thing, trust me. Spidey’s story is so well-known, even to me, that “Amazing Spider-Man” is mostly predictable and contains no outstanding surprises – but yet manages to be satisfyingly entertaining after the 2-hours-plus runtime comes to an end. “Amazing Spider-Man” is like the guinea pig for a category of superhero movies that fit in between that of “Avengers” and “Dark Knight,” neither a shiny, huge blockbuster nor a darker and considerably smarter spin on our dear costumed vigilantes. It’s a mix between the two, more relatable and down-to-earth. Younger kids will love it, certainly. Teenagers? Too basic, cute, and schmaltzy.

“Amazing Spider-Man” opens with a young Peter Parker who sees his spooked parents, including his scientist father (Campbell Scott), bid him a tearful adieu, with the fateful promise that they’ll be back one day, etc. Fast-foward to now, and Peter (Andrew Garfield) is now a lanky, twitchy and slightly geeky high-school student. You know the story. Bullied, even if he’s not exactly a geek and more of a loner, he catches the eye of the apparently faultless Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and they start an adorably cutesy and awkward romance, with heartfelt chemistry that might have something to do with Garfield and Stone dating in real life. (Hey, you never know…) Peter’s always felt neglected and alone, though, and when he discovers his father’s hidden notes in the basement of the house of his uncle (Martin Sheen) and aunt (Sally Field) – where’s he lived ever since his parents left – it leads him to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a one-armed biologist at Oscorp who worked with his father on some highly secretive scientific work regarding cellular regeneration and whatnot. However, everything turns on its heels very fast – Peter gets bitten by perhaps what is now the most famous spider in cinematic history. As he deals with the sudden transformation and the subsequent, newfound skills that come with it, he’s soon forced to realize that yes, with great power comes great responsibilty, especially as some scientific blunders lead to Dr. Connors to becoming a mutant lizard.

Here’s the thing that ticks me off about “Amazing Spider-Man.” Though Garfield and Stone give excellent, likably sweet performances together, their characters are so underdeveloped and one-note that it becomes very absurd. I understand if Marc Webb, the director, wanted to make a superhero film containing elements of everyday high-school angst with grounded characters. But what ended up being translated to the big screen is that our characters, none more than Peter and Gwen themselves, simply don’t react accordingly to what’s going on – look, a big green lizard in a high school! – and it becomes annoying, and very unfortunate for “Amazing Spider-Man” as it as it reveals gaping, lazy plot holes in the story. A flawed script aside, some true thrills occur when Peter puts on his mask and becomes Spidey for the first time. From the amusingly inventive sequences from the morning-after of the transformation, to when he battles street criminals, jumping from darkened alley to alley, these moments have a inarguably fun energy. (The many fight scenes with the Lizard grow old fast, though.) And if you’ve seen the original “Spider-Man” movies, even the good parts must come with a glazed haze of thick deja-vu that’s impossible to shake off as you watch the action unfold on well-worn territory. As for me, from watching only “Amazing Spider-Man” alone, nothing feels outstandingly new or original. It’s a fine enough film, but not one that feels particularly inspired and remarkable.

“Amazing Spider-Man”: B+

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