While deep down Sony engineered a reboot of “Spider-Man” in an effort to secure the rights, “The Amazing Spider-Man” uses the opportunity to correct the mistakes made by previous franchise runner Sam Raimi. Where Raimi opted for camp and schlock with his installments, “The Amazing Spider-Man” launches a more dramatic approach. Where Raimi opted for the traditional Spider-Man, Marc Webb constructs a more radical re-thinking of the Spider-Man mythos. And unlike Raimi, director Marc Webb opts to side step the camp flavor as much as humanly possible. This reboot is much more true to the Spider-Man we all know and love, and thankfully it’s a superior film that promises to age better than Sam Raimi’s films.
The romance between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker is adorable and often times feels like something out of an eighties dramedy. Gwen Stacy is the exact woman Peter needs in his life. She challenges him, she’s charismatic, she’s independent, and she rarely provides angst for an already sullen Peter Parker. The Parker and Spider-Man duo are also vastly improved. Peter Parker is less a doof with a social deficiency and a lot more a pariah whose genius is understated and completely dwarfed by his own sense of inadequacy in a world filled with take charge men like Flash Thompson and his Uncle Ben. Spider-Man is a goof ball that allows Peter Parker to break out of his shell. Often times Peter loses a battle with his powers and can only really retain the strength and will to battle his foes until he dons the costume and mask.
“Put on the mask,” Peter tells a child in danger in one of the most awe inspiring moments in the film, “It’ll give you super powers!” And nothing is more truer than in the finale where Peter faces off against the dreaded Lizard in his school and gains the upper hand only when he is able to run off and slip his costume on. The dynamic of character is wonderful and often played for stark drama. Aunt May is no longer a ditsy old woman waxing poetic at convenient times, she’s more a stable support system for Peter, while Uncle Ben is a more charismatic man who feels a disciplined approach toward Peter’s upbringing will set him on a right path and never realizes how wrong he is. Peter in essence is a selfish character, but manages to redeem himself and continue to seek redemption when allowing a grocery store robber to get away leading in to a bullet riddled confrontation with Uncle Ben that leaves him dead. The best conflict emerges with Peter Parker and Captain Stacy, as both men butt heads over the morality of Spider-Man and the purpose of the vigilante.
Denis Leary as Captain Stacy is thankfully very downbeat and for the most part, serves as the first of many protagonists in Peter’s life destined to challenge him and provide him with a further purpose to become the Spider-Man. Leary is very convincing in his role as Captain Stacy, who hates the violent implications of Peter’s journey to find his uncle’s killer, and this gives Peter as Spider-Man a harder time of fighting crime and seeking vengeance. “The Amazing Spider-Man” definitely isn’t a masterpiece, but I’ve yet to see a Spider-Man adaptation that aces the character and his personality. The Lizard is a complex and rich character filled with pathos and demons and is instead transformed in to what feels like a stock character, and the excellent scene involving Peter tracking the lizard in a sewer is destroyed in a large plot hole. Why would a genius like Peter Parker seeking stealth label his camera with his name allowing easy access from his enemies and his family?
Nevertheless, those caveats are very forgivable because “The Amazing Spider-Man” takes a more stern and awe soaked approach to the web crawler with stunning performances from Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield who gives Peter a dignity and humility Tobey Maguire lacked. All the while the evolution of Spider-Man is more science fiction and less campy fodder for laughs and kicks. The web shooter is included to demonstrate Parker’s understated genius, and is no longer an annoying metaphor for puberty. While it’s surely no masterpiece, it is a wonderful start to a potentially excellent franchise. I hope it continues to blossom. While flawed in some respects with a few plot holes, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a rich and wonderful start to a potentially great reboot. With sharp performances, a change in atmosphere and tone, and a more snarky depiction of the wall crawler, this is an adaptation I can get behind.