Tuesday, July 31, 2012

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)

Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent & Steve Kloves


Directed by Marc Webb


Where & When: Vista Theater, Hollywood, CA. July 10, 2012  3:15PM



It doesn't seem that long ago since Tobey Maguire was swinging through a CGI Manhattan in a skin-tight spandex suit as the web-slinger off to rescue his true love, Mary-Jane Watson (played by Kirsten Dunst) in a film directed by Sam Raimi.

Well, in fact, it was only six years ago since this team made the last of three "Spider-Man" films and yet the series is starting over from the very beginning with a new cast and director. It feels a little soon to be rebooting this character since the previous films are still very fresh in people's memories but there's just too much potential money to be made to allow "Spider-Man" to sit on a shelf for any extended period of time.

Andrew Garfield, the British actor who is really only known in film for his supporting role in "The Social Network", has been hired to fill in the red & blue suit for "The Amazing Spider-Man". Physically, he is the polar opposite of Mr. Maguire as Garfield is tall and lanky with him playing Peter Parker as less of a nerd and more like a shy, awkward outsider. The basic origin story remains intact; the highly-intelligent teenager, Parker is bitten by a genetically-modified spider which gives him super-strength and gives him the ability to climb walls. Peter neglects to stop an armed thief and as a result, his Uncle Ben is killed by this criminal. After this tragic loss, Parker creates a costume, calls himself, "Spider-Man" and uses his powers to fight crime throughout the city.

That is where the similarities end between these films as this revamped version has made changes (most of them are minor but enough to be noticeable) and sticks much closer to the comic-books in which the films are based. We are introduced to Peter's parents who feel forced to leave their young son with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field in two of the film's many inspired casting choices) due to Peter's scientist father (Campbell Scott), whose work on a secret project might threaten Peter's safety. He also leaves behind documents hidden in briefcase.

Years later, a teen-aged Peter discovers his father's papers that indicated he was working on an experiment with Dr.Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) at Oscorp. After Peter tracks down the doctor, he reveals his identity and the documents. This proves helpful to Connors as he has been working on using lizard DNA as a way to replace his missing arm with this being the missing link that could help him succeed. While exploring the laboratory, Peter's life is changed by the bite of a spider.

Shortly after Peter becomes "Spider-Man"and takes on crime throughout Manhattan, he becomes a hero to some and a menace to others, most especially to George Stacey (Denis Leary), the police captain, who is determined to take down the masked hero. However, Captain Stacey also just happens to be the father of Gwen (Emma Stone), the high school classmate and new girlfriend of Peter's which creates some additional complications for the teenager.

After Dr. Connors achieves success with regrowing a limb on a laboratory mouse, he tries the formula on himself. While his arm is regenerated but there is a terrible side-effect which turns the doctor in to a giant hybrid of a half-man and half-lizard with incredible strength. The drug also alters his mind which makes Connors extremely violent and deadly. With a diabolical plan to change all of mankind in to a creature like himself, only Spider-Man can possibly stop the Lizard as these two super-beings battle fiercely, destroying half the city in the process.

It's a little surprising that the studio took a chance on their big-budget franchise with a director who has only made one previous film which was the delightfully charming romantic comedy, "(500) Days of Summer". After seeing "The Amazing Spider-Man", it becomes more clear on what they wanted to accomplish with this reboot as Marc Webb's major contribution was his emphasis on fleshing out the characters and his effective touch with emotion and intimacy. Much like what Christopher Nolan did when he revived the "Batman" franchise, Mr. Webb wisely surrounded the film with dramatic actors not usually associated with this type of cinema and they don't fail him as they ground all of the excessive comic-book intensity with charm and good humor. Emma Stone is always a pleasant addition to any film as she plays Peter Parker's actual first girlfriend in the comics (Mary Jane Watson became his girl only after Gwen Stacey's death caused by the Green Goblin). Her character is intelligent, funny and pretty, very much like the actress, and when she is together on screen with Mr. Garfield, they truly connect, making a dazzling team.

The script offers your standard issue super-hero plot but the writers have added nice, clever touches to make the characters feel more human and create heartfelt moments in the middle of all of the meteoric action sequences. This hero is brought down to Earth as he actually feels intense pain after each of his battles and has to figure out how to creatively explain all of his many cuts and bruises.

It seems rather pointless to question whether this film is necessary or even compare to the earlier films but this "Spider-Man" manages to hold it's own and is actually pretty amazing thanks to a well-assembled cast and it's remarkable ability to bring a winning, fresh touch to this familiar character.