REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man

Again & again
Review by Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer Libre, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man
Directed by Marc Webb
Based on the Marvel Comics character by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

For the upteenth version of the Spider-Man comic character, Marvel reboots the film franchise that made tons of money with the last trilogy by Sam Raimi starring Tobey Maguire. Hard not to compare, but here’s my take on the Marc Webb version starring Brit boy Andrew Garfield.

Let’s just say this origin story has a very pronounced cause-and-effect narrative. Garfield will get raves for acting, but for me it’s a little too BIG kind of hey-look-I’m-really-acting-acting. Therefore: I liked it, and not liked it in equal measure. Because in the end, the bottom line is: WHAT FOR?

It’s almost impossible not to know the origin story. Garfield plays nerdy Peter Parker who gets bitten by a super-enhanced spider from a secret laboratory, in this story operated by reptile expert Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans.) Physical changes happen to Peter which confuse him, emotionally affecting his relationship with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field.)

One night after attempting to instill the meaning of responsibility to Peter (while the script tiptoes around avoiding to repeat the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” popularized by the 2002 Raimi-directed version), tragedy befalls Uncle Ben on the street, the result of which Peter sort-of gets the idea that he has to help innocent people.

What’s new: Peter’s new girl, Gwen Stacey – played by Emma Stone. Stone is simply morning sunlight through the window. I swore to watch all movies she appears in. All she has to do is smile and I’m won over, no matter what the movie is. Well, maybe not this one.

This superhero movie has more exposures on character inter-relationships (especially between Peter and Gwen) than action scenes which are mostly Parkour-inspired. A friend of mine Tweeted to describe this movie as “Peter Parkour.” Even the class jock-bully isn’t 100% a bad person stereotype. Anyhoo, the movie is more character driven than anything else which is its strongest suit. However, to me, it’s also the film’s achilles heel.

In exposing more character motivations as to how and why Peter Parker eventually embraced his destiny, the movie goes through many plot points that signify the causal progression A + B = C. This starts with the suitcase which leads him to Connors, at whose laboratory he gets bitten by the spider, which makes Peter superhuman, which helps him solve the equation that turns Dr. Connors into The Lizard that wreaks havoc in the city, which Peter needs to stop. But grounded by a love story disapproved by Gwen’s dad, the city police chief (Denis Leary.) The best scene is in the school hallway where Peter and Gwen first arrange for a date. Intimate, as if it’s not a superhero film.

But it is a superhero film designed to be the first of a new trilogy. The Amazing Spider-Man is the sum of all things that would appeal to the Twilight fans, to the Raimi-version fans, even The Dark Knight fans (from the last scene where Chief Stacey tells Peter, “The city needs you. But you will make many enemies.”)

It’s all a big formula, and all the people lining up the theaters to watch what they have already seen simply encourage studios to reboot these franchises to kingdom come.

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