Film Review: Jo and Kristen Look at THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Release date: July 3rd, 2012
Director: Marc Webb
Writer: james Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field,

Great minds think alike: Within hours of each other, Kristen and Jo wrote reviews of the new Spider Man film.

Kristen Micek:
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is a tale about Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as an orphan, a teen, and a burgeoning superhero. When Peter discovers a leather satchel that used to belong to his father, it leads him to Oscorp where Peter continues his father’s work on cross-species genetics with one of his old colleagues, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). After Peter is bit by a genetically engineered spider that leaves his with super-strength and the ability to scale walls—his webbing is a scientific invention—he finds that a large reptilian being is terrorizing the streets of New York and suspects that Dr. Connors has had his own brush with their research. As Peter tries to adjust to his abilities, he is left to deal with a devastating loss, the responsibilities that come with his unique powers, and high school.

The reboot from director Marc Webb is grittier than the 2002 SPIDERMAN without being overly dark. There is a sense of realism in that this Peter Parker acts as any teen would when given superhero abilities. He combats the criminals with a sense of snarky sarcasm that is both funny and immensely human—something that Garfield pulls off perfectly. Throughout, he realizes his own motivations and is left to question what his new abilities mean for him as a person and a figure. He isn’t changed entirely into altruistic, saintly figure just by a spider bite and newfound responsibility, but rather is an inherently good, but normal person torn between revenge and justice, which the film portrays without falling into melodramatic extremes. The film also doesn’t shy away from the physical toll that being a superhero and fighting crime would take on someone, even with superpowers. This helps to ground the film in a way that heightens the tension of the action scenes and the reality that he isn’t just a superhero, but also still a teenager.

The romance between Peter and Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone)—Peter’s classmate and the daughter of the Police Captain—is not made to be the focus of the film, although it is a significant part. She is a nice counterpart to the traditional love interest and isn’t an inherent damsel in distress that Peter runs around saving the entirety of the film. The storyline between the two highlights his desire to trust someone and the realization of how dangerous his new persona can be to those around him, without ever taking away from the focus on his desire to find out more about his parents’ past and what it means to who he is. Both Stone and Garfield are fantastic in their roles, managing to balance humor with the serious tones of the film in a way that helps to round the characters out as actual people that are immensely likeable.

I’m a self-admitted fan of comic book movies, although I’m the first to admit that I know nothing about comic books themselves. While I can’t compare THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN to its source material, it hits the mark as a film. Some of the storylines and plot points are unsurprisingly used from the 2002 version of Spiderman as they are the key scenes for the character, but the story never seems stale or recycled because of it. While, there are likely some who will compare if a reboot for the series was too soon, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is, well, pretty amazing and I can’t wait to see what adventures await in the inevitable (and welcome) sequels.

Jo Schmidt:
There is so much working against “Amazing Spider-Man” it’s difficult to imagine it can live up to the heights it needed to. Remaking a franchise that’s only 5 years old is not only risky, but just plain stupid. It would have been perfectly fine forgetting “Spider-Man 3” and just moving on to number four. But here we are, trying it anew with a big reboot; can it compare, at all, to the first trilogy?

The good news is that “Amazing Spider-Man” is the movie that works even though you were worried it wouldn’t. Barrowing heavily from the Ultimate Marvel line of comic books we get a Spider-Man movie that is closer to what Spidey is. Even though Peter Parker graduated from high school 40 years ago some of his best adventures were when he was there. The chemistry of Spidey and high school was something that the original trilogy lost. Director Mark Webb brings Spidey back to school and a lot of what was missing from the originals was felt in his direction. That also is, in a big way, thanks to Andrew Garfield, who’s not only a perfect mix of Ultimate and regular Peter Parker, but a perfect Spider-Man. Garfield is a fantastic actor who brings an awkward edge to Peter Parker that goes beyond just nerd. As Spidey he soars with the confidence and quips just like Spidey hilariously does. Thanks to Garfield you believe Peter Parker is Spider-Man.

So many great things go out to the phenomenal cast. Sally Field is such a wonderful Aunt May, Martin Sheen is, as always, powerful in his performance as Uncle Ben. Dennis Leary shines in a small role as Captain Stacy. After Garfield, the performance of the movie is Emma Stone. Emma Stone has always been known for stealing scene and delivering real, honest performances in all her movies. As Gwen Stacy, Peter’s girlfriend, she brings an innocent, sweetness to the entire film. The connection between Garfield and Stone as Peter and Gwen makes every scene they’re in, even if it’s just talking, engrossing. You want to watch their relationship grow and you root for them almost more than when Spidey is fighting the Lizard. Nearly the entire cast is perfect. As Curt Connors/the Lizard Rhys Ifans does a bit too much overacting. He just pushes each scene he’s in a little too much. It’s not bad or distracting but kind of like he seemed to not take the film seriously.

The characters in “Amazing Spider-Man” are what it’s really about. At first glance the plot is loaded with information and seems impressive with how much is put into it. After sitting and thinking about it for a bit you realize, there isn’t really a story. The Lizard’s plot really isn’t overly impressive and is very simple. The love story between Peter and Gwen is nice and lovely to watch but isn’t very deep. How Peter becomes Spider-Man is done in a new way, but we still know how it’s going to end. Those different small stories are put together in one movie and give off an illusion of a full plot. This isn’t a major complaint. All those little stories are good enough to carry the movie, but to watch it a second time I’m sure that thinness of plot would show. The story that is the most interesting is what happened to Peter’s parents. Their disappearance is the overarching story for the new trilogy. That is what the people want to know about. It’s intriguing and will be a selling point for ASM 2 and 3.

One of the things that bugged a lot of people about the first trilogy was how bright it was. Literally, sunny. Spidey does his thing in the sun a lot. The darkness this film showcases adds a lot to the feeling of the film. It makes the web-swinging scenes glow. The special effects team really outdid themselves with the swinging shots. They are stunning. What is said is that Garfield did a lot of actual swinging (against a green screen obviously) so that’s probably why it looks so real. Because it is. It was the right thing to do and kudos to everyone that worked on that part for making it work better than it ever had before.

“Amazing Spider-Man” is a great film. It’s a lot of fun and really makes you glad you get more Spidey. It’s the unnecessary film you didn’t know you wanted. But now that it’s here, we do want it. And we want more.