The Amazing Spiderman
Spidey’s been around for 50 years now. In the original comic book through various TV incarnations and most recently the Sam Raimi directed trilogy, the enduring story of an insecure superhero caught up in his own obsessions of responsibility, vengeance, sex and saving the world from bad guys hits something primal. Peter Parker is archetypically nerd cool and his alter ego, Spiderman, is totally boss. The new franchise treads over the same grounds and is ably serviced by music vid director Marc Webb in his first mega-budget 3D spectacular. In The Amazing Spiderman, he quickly sketches high school Peter (Andrew Garfield), jonesing for sexy smart Gwen (Emma Stone), getting bit by, here a mutant spider, finding himself implicated in the death of Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and after much inner sturm and drang, becoming the superhero that saves Manhattan. A back-story of Peter’s disappeared parents sets up the psychological rift of Peter/Spidey’s struggle with a series of father figures, some benign – his Uncle Ben and police chief and father of Gwen, Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary) – and some evil. His father’s old lab mate, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) fills the role of the bad guy. The Nietzschian Conners eventually becomes the supremely buff and evil man-lizard who wreaks havoc upon NYC in his quest to turn everyone into uber-lizards. Andrew Garfield rides the waves of Peter’s painful growing up sympathetic to the wild states of a teenager cursed and blessed with super powers. And boy, is it painful. After every outing fighting crime he returns home to Aunt May (Sally Field) more and more bruised and wounded. His masochism takes on a particularly sexual edge when he pops in on love interest Gwen after being severely clawed by lizard man. Though shackled by some truly painful dialogue Emma Stone gives Gwen her darndest. Martin Sheen and Dennis Leary give the clichés of tough love a bit more depth than expected. And Sally Field exists mainly as window dressing. Of course, the main excuse for a film like are the effects, the 3D and how much gets destroyed. Webb is a little lazy with his visual logic, and compensates with sloppy fast editing. The Williamsburg Bridge gets trashed, leaving at least one plot thread hanging off of it. The completely misguided sequences taking place in the sewers of Manhattan conflates rats with lizards and our bad guy with the phantom of the opera. The final fight, where working class crane operators help Spidey get to the foreboding skyscraper where Lizzy plans to bomb the city with lizard dust brilliantly follows every cliché of modern action movies. Oh and, the 3D is fun, especially the tongue-in-cheek the money shot at the end.
Originally published in EL Magazine, July, 2012