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MOVIE REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man

A great untold story surrounding Peter's superhero origin, coupled with great character casting, unbelievable action aerials and fights, and fine comics drama, you will be caught in this movie's web!

Simply Amazing

RATED: ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | WORTH: Friday Night and a BluRay

Rated: PG-13  Sequences of action and violence.
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Runtime:  2 hours 16 minutes

Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Cast:  Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field

SYNOPSIS: Young Peter Parker is left in the care of his Aunt May and Uncle Ben by his parents. As a high schooler, Peter finds clues to who his parents were, the work they did, and the associates they kept - becoming a powerful superhero in the process.

REVIEW: (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, also known for video documentaries for 3 Doors Down, No Doubt, and Green Day, gets bitten by an irradiated spider in a web of superhero films for the some say too-soon reboot of the Spider-man franchise. Based on the character created by Marvel Comics' Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and written by the team of The Losers James Vanderbilt, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3scribe Alvin Sargent, and Harry Potter franchise screenwriter Steven Kloves, Marc Webb has a rich comic history to draw from to reinvent the onscreen teenage hero once more.When their house is broken into in search for hidden documents Richard (Campbell Scott,The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davidtz, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) take their son Peter to the young boy's Aunt May (Sally Field, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) to care for. Leaving their son behind, Richard and Mary Parker disappear and do not return. As a teenager in high school, Peter (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network) is an awkward loner who takes his fair share of abuse from fellow student Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka, Shark Night 3D) while he looks out for the other cannon fodder in Flash's path. When he finds his father's briefcase in Uncle Ben's flooded basement, Peter finds scientific evidence that links his father to both Oscorp and former colleague Doctor Curtis Connor (Rhys Ifans, The Five-Year Engagement). Investigating further, Peter goes to Oscorp to find out more from Connors, but also gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider of his father's own creation. Gaining powers from the bite, Peter finds that he can stand up to Flash and whoever else stands in his way. But when his change in behavior and poor decision-making results in his Uncle Ben's death, Peter dons a costume of his own design to exact vengeance on the man responsible. As the masked vigilante Spider-Man Peter swings rampant through New York City in search of his Uncle's killer, gaining the attention of police captain Stacy (Denis Leary, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs). He also gains the attention of fellow classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, Crazy, Stupid, Love) in a more favorable way. When Peter gives one of his father's equations to Doctor Connors, the geneticist is able to complete a regenerative serum that his boss Norman Osborn needs to survive. Forced to the point of testing the serum on himself, Connors regains his missing arm but also turns into a hulking lizard-like monster. In spite of being hunted by the police, Peter's alter-ego Spider-Man must give it his all to protect Gwen, his aunt, and the city from the rampaging and destructive Lizard (see The Amazing Spider-Man: Who is the Lizard?).

Marc Webb and his team of writers reimagine the popular Sam Raimi and Toby Maguire Spider-Man franchise by tearing the lead character down to his roots with a new web spin of one of Marvel's most beloved characters. With this controversial reboot launching only a few years after Raimi's Spider-Man 3, it is near impossible to not draw comparisons between the two franchises. Pulling inspiration starting from 'The Amazing Spider-Man' #365 and the 1997 'Untold Tales of Spider-Man' #1, this version opens with the introduction of Peter's parents as scientists working on something so important that others are trying to take the work for their own ends. Instead of Mary Jane Watson as Peter's love interest, we are treated with Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy, Peter's original love interest. Raimi may have cast for Mary Jane because she is more recognizable in the Spider-Man mythos, but Gwen Stacy is a pivotal character in Peter's life ('nuf said!). I will also say that Emma Stone is wonderful and breathtaking as Gwen, drawing more than just Peter Parker into her confidence. The origin of the radioactive spider bite has changed with the times (again), this time dealing with genetically altered arachnids that Peter's own father helped to create.

Webb's Peter Parker is a young brilliant mind in the body of a withdrawn loner, more comfortable behind the camera lens as the high school photographer than being part of the human dynamic. Raimi did the same thing with Maguire's Peter, but Garfield is more skater and hoodie than Maguire's straight-laced boy scout protagonist. Looking at this movie, I realize that Garfield's portrayal is much more faithful to the comic version of the character than Mcguire ever was - in look and in style. Garfield adds in facial ticks, eye aversions, and social awkwardness that add layers onto the character. Raimi's Aunt May (played by the incomparable Rosemary Harris) looked exactly the way you would expect her to look if pulled straight from the comics, but Sally Field more embodies May's fierce, capable and loving nature. And while a fan of Cliff Robertson, Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben is more vibrant and alive, with years ahead of him before he sleeps.

This time around, we get to see a Spider-Man rogue that hasn't appeared in any of the previous films. Well, that is not entirely true. Dylan Baker played Doctor Curt Connors inSpider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3, but never evolved (or devolved?) into the monster known as The Lizard. While I feel for Baker and his time 'on the bench', Rhys Ifans does a spectacular job in the reboot of the franchise. His villainous reptilian monster is more than capable in dealing with the novice hero. I miss the elongated alligator-type snout of The Lizard from the comics, but I understand that choices had to be made for practicality in order for the Lizard to speak intelligently - not just hiss mindlessly. The numerous battle scenes between Spider-Man and The Lizard are brilliant, with brutal thrashings and stomach-dropping aerials. And Webb does his arachnid homework by introducing the interesting concept of the sensitivity of webbing as a tracking device just like a spider on its web waiting for a fly to buzz to close. In Amazing Spider-Man faces off against a worthy adversary in the hulking form of The Lizard. And along the way, we also find ourselves sympathizing with Doctor Connors as a redeemable individual, not just a villain.

In truth, I was blown away by Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. I enjoyed Toby Maguire as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. I loved the antic of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, Contraband) and the semi-campy nature of the films. I also considered Doctor Octopus from the first sequel as the best of the series' villains, unhappy with the mechanized Green Goblin from the first film. Marc Webb and his collaborators take Peter down a darker road (a la Batman Begins) with strong ties to the source materials. There was still a little feel-good campiness in Webb's version that I was distracted by, namely a bunch of crane operators, but The Amazing Spider-Man will delight and awe.

The Amazing Spider-Man, in spite of the supposed rush to reboot and revitalize the Sony property as a tent pole franchise, delivers on its promise. A great untold story surrounding Peter's superhero origin, coupled with great character casting, unbelievable action aerials and fights (check it out in IMAX 3D!), and fine comics drama, you will be caught in this movie's web!

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