Of the three major superhero movies that hit the cinema in 2012, The Amazing Spider-Man fell under the radar of most moviegoers. For most, the movie came too soon after the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man. Sullied by the cheese ball aftertaste of Spider-Man 3 – Spidey fans hung up their webbed intrigue in favor of The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.
Introducing a new Peter Parker in Andrew Garfield and a reworked Spider-Man origin story helmed by (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man presented an ostensibly better wall crawler tale than its predecessors. A darker world, better acting and chemistry between Garfield and his co-star Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy) made this Spidey tale a delightful popcorn flick. Gone were the circus costumes of the Green Goblin and the emotionally bland scenes with Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. The new movie focused on real problems with grayed lines of good and evil. Rhys Ifans, as The Lizard / Dr. Curt Connors, wasn’t a canned villain. Instead, he was a father figure for Peter, driven by the desire to fix himself (he was physically missing his right forearm) and create a world of equals.
The movie began with a Peter Parker who wasn’t a one-dimensional nerd. As a child Peter was abandoned – without reason – by his parents and left in the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Instead of a cliché geek, Peter was more of a loner, which motivated his social awkwardness. The story pushed Spidey into the modern world, filled with technology. Peter doesn’t just have a lock on his bedroom door, but rather has a remote control lock. He doesn’t use webbing from his hands, but rather designs web cartridges that shoot super-strong webbing. These subtle changes gave us a smarter Peter, one that could rival his love interest Gwen.
While the movie does focus a lot on the relationship between Peter and Gwen, none of the scenes feel painful to watch. This stands in sharp contrast to the Maguire-Dunst relationship, which always brought a cringe. The relationship sequences blend in well with the action. Gwen truly fears for Peter’s safety and understands the danger of crime fighting because her father (Denis Leary, Rescue Me) is a police captain. The action scenes, several of which are done mostly in CG, still feel realistic and are filled with adrenaline.
Although CG was used for the lizard, rather than a costume, the special effects looked more realistic than the Green Goblin’s metal suit in the prior trilogy. Ifans as the broken Dr. Connors became the tragic villain.
There’s something especially poignant about watching the tail end of the film. With the New Jersey/New York coast battered from Hurricane Sandy, it’s great to watch a film that reminds us of the indomitable spirit of New York’s blue-collar class. The union workers who band together to join Spidey become the real heroes as well as the super-powerless police officers that are willing to risk their lives for the greater good. Unfortunately, if you are a New Yorker, you’ll notice several art direction problems with the subway stations and other key locales, which snap out of the film.
The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray release comes packed with an over abundance of bonus features. The second screen app gives your mind a chance to wander into Spidey’s world as you watch the movie in real time. “Rite of Passage” is a 90-minute documentary on the movie, broken down into several featurettes. The mini-doc starts with the decision to abandon Spider-Man 4 sometime into the fourth film’s development and instead choose to reboot the franchise.
Pre-Visualization Sequences and Image Progression reels show you how the film is taken from animatics and storyboards to the final picture. You’ll also get to see how the CG fight scenes were developed. The featurette on the Stunt Rehearsals is a little spotty. You’ll see the fight choreographers and stunt actors perform scenes like the lizard fights and the subway sequence, but there’s no narration or dialogue with the choreographers and stuntmen to walk you through what’s going on during the rehearsal.
The Amazing Spider-Man is an excellent reboot to a time-tested tale. Although we had three Spidey movies already in the past decade, this Spider-Man feels much more authentic thanks to Garfield and Stone. The consequences are bigger in this film and open the story up to a healthy ripple of story arcs throughout the next few Spidey flicks.