In 2012, Marvel cemented its name as the leader of superhero film franchises. Sure, Batman has done well on film but DC doesn’t hold a candle to Marvel when it comes to consistent quality and a variety of characters and storylines. Fifty years ago Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created one of pop culture’s most recognizable characters: Spider-Man, a nerdy kid from Queens who gets bitten by a genetically-engineered arachnid. He then transforms into web-swinging crime-fighter, the subject of the latest reboot by Director Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man (with Andrew Garfield as the webslinger). This is the fourth time Spidey has graced the screen with his presence in a major film series all his own, with the first three starting back in 2002 with Sam Raimi’s vivid and somewhat campy trilogy (with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst) which ended in 2007.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a much darker film than Sam Raimi’s campy blockbuster. It explores the character of Peter Parker in vivid detail. From childhood to late teenhood, his life is complicated, filled with misfortune and secrets. Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) plays the troubled young man and the results are pretty fantastic. He resides in Queens with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). He has a huge crush on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who just so happens to be the daughter of police captain George Stacy (Denis Leary).
Things get crazy when Parker is bitten by genetically-engineered spider and eventually becomes a masked superhero. Things get even crazier when a scientist, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) partly responsible for Parker’s transformation experiments on himself only to become a psychotic monster known as The Lizard.
The Amazing Spider-Man is more than just a popcorn action flick. It is a film about human beings and meaningful relationships. The love story between Parker and Stacy is brought to the forefront and really shines with the sensitive performances of the film’s two main stars. Their chemistry is strong and puts Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst onscreen romance to shame. Garfield and Stone click and seem perfect for one another.
The supporting cast is also pretty stellar. Rhys Ifans plays a dual role as a devoted scientist and as a beastly villain. His work in the film is great and his double personality serves as a very interesting storyline. Sally Field and Martin Sheen are veterans in the film industry and their performances are incredible and genuine. Denis Leary rounds things out nicely as a cop hot on the tail of Spider-Man. He is also quite good in a role that seems like he was born to play.
Director Marc Webb (coincidence?) has put together a truly special film here. Instead of having just action sequences dominate the screen, he has opened up Peter Parker’s world and explored his psyche. Andrew Garfield is a much better Parker than Tobey Maguire ever was. Garfield’s performance is layered and filled with genuine emotion. The Amazing Spider-Man is not so much a superhero film but a film about relationships and people.
These days, superhero films are deep and thought-provoking. Audiences identify more with characters who are flawed and have “real” problems. Garfield and Stone are a couple in real life and that fact helps fuel their performances. The fact that they are together in real life says something about their onscreen romance. They are young, care about one another and seem pretty great together. The Amazing Spider-Man is a familiar story but the genuine performances coupled with top notch visual effects and tight direction make this film a winner.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
The bonus features for The Amazing Spider-Man are pretty amazing themselves. There is The Amazing Spider-Man Second Screen App, which syncs the film to your tablet for a truly wild viewing experience. There is Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn with over 90 minutes of featurettes. There are deleted scenes, audio commentary with Marc Webb and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, stunt rehearsals and lastly, an art gallery.