Even in this age of Hollywood re-boots, it seems odd that, only five years after “Spider-man 3,” a new Spidey-flick, with a new, but familiar, origin story would be made. But the powers that be at Columbia, seeing how well the “Batman” franchise has done, have given us a darker look at Peter Parker and company.
We first meet Peter as a four year old (Max Charles). He’s in the middle of playing a game of hide and seek with his father, Dr. Richard Parker(Campbell Scott). While looking for his dad he discovers that someone has made a shambles out of the doc’s office. Discovering the damage, the good doctor gathers up his wife, young Peter and a leather briefcase. He rushes over to his parents house and asks them to look after Peter. In a final moment, Dr. Parker tells Peter the words he will always try to obey: Be Good.
Other then this prologue, “The Amazing Spider-man” is a pretty much by-the-(comic) book telling of the story most people know. Peter (Garfield) is accidentally bitten by a spider who has been exposed to radiation and begins to take on that creatures characteristics. He also has a crush on a girl from school – Gwen Stacy (Stone) – and uses his superior smarts to meet a doomed fellow braniac. This time it’s his father’s old lab partner, Dr. Curt Connors (a well cast Ifans). He still lives with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), who dote on him as if he were their own child. However, circumstances and bad luck combine to pit Peter – and his alter-ego, Spider-man, in a battle that will affect those he knows and loves.
First the good stuff. The casting here is top notch. Garfield, so good in “The Social Network” and just winding up a run where he appeared opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Willy Loman on Broadway as Biff in “Death of a Salesman, gives Peter a dimension that wasn’t really stressed in the original trilogy – darkness. Like Timothy Dalton playing James Bond, some fans may not realize that this is how Peter is in the comic books. He’s not your friendly neighborhood web slinger…he’s a revenge bound vigilante. And this is how he is regarded by the public, including a local police Captain (Denis Leary) who also happens to be Gwen’s father. Garfield is solid in the role and should grow even more comfortable in what I’m sure will be a sequel or two. Stone does what she can in what is really a small supporting role and Ifans is very surprising in a dramatic role. And kudos to both Sheen and Field for making Uncle Ben and Aunt May three dimensional characters with emotions…not just kindly old people.
Now the not so good stuff. There is almost too much background filler here. Even though he goes out of his way to let the public know he’s doing good things Spider-man is still deemed a bad guy. If the public isn’t rooting for him why should we? Peter is shown carrying a camera around and often gets bullied for it. However, he goes to a SCIENCE High School…seriously, how bad could the “bullies” be? The visual effects are fine, especially when Spidey is flitting from building to building, but the advertised 3D was nothing spectacular. And there was a great point of view (POV) segment when Spider-man first learns to use his webs for swinging but, sadly, it wasn’t utilized more. The transformation of Dr. Connors to the Lizard is pretty impressive, as is the Lizard as an enemy. James Horner’s score is played loudly but not very memorable. And no J. Jonah Jameson?? Stop the presses!
“Amazing Spider-Man?” Not quite. But he’s certainly more than capable to keep the franchise going.