I still remember when Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man arrived in theaters like it was yesterday. It was only ten years ago after all. That, along with Bryan Singer’s first X-Men ushered in a new wave of superhero gluttony that even now seems overbearing. Ironically, both of these series have the same thing in common, the second feature of their original trilogies stood as the best of the best until a fourth film comes along to reboot things. But while X-Men: First Class now stands as the best of that series, director Marc Webb (who made a brilliant debut with (500) Days of Summer) brings us Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s The Amazing Spider-Man, a film that can at least stand alongside Spider-Man 2 even if it doesn’t best it.
In this new chapter of our friendly neighborhood Spider-man, we meet young Peter Parker (Max Charles) playing a night game of hide and seek. When Peter discovers someone has broken into his father Richard’s (Campbell Scott) office, Richard grabs Peter, mother Mary (Embeth Davidtz), and a satchel. They make their way to Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May’s (Sally Field) house where Peter is left to live with them. Now in his teens, Peter (Andrew Garfield) is the awkward teen we know and love who pines for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), walks around with his camera in tow, and takes a beating by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) for standing up for the little man at Midtown Science High School.
When Uncle Ben has Peter look into their flooding basement, Peter discovers his father’s satchel. In it, Peter finds an Oscorp employee badge and a photo of his father with the one-armed scientist, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Curt Connors worked with Richard, and is obsessed with regenerating his right arm, but hasn’t been seen or heard from since Richard and Mary abandoned Peter. Peter finagles his way into Oscorp pretending to be an intern only to run into Gwen who works directly under Dr. Connors. It’s here that Peter sneaks away to the “Biocable Development Unit” where what could be thousands of genetically altered arachnids are contributing to the making of a new kind of super strong cable and Peter is of course bitten.
After hilariously discovering his newfound powers Peter is anxious to learn what his father was working on called the Decay Rate Algorithm and Dr. Connors wants the missing formula, which makes the algorithm complete. With Rajit Ratha (Irrfan Khan) breathing down Dr. Connors’ neck to make their way to human testing, pulling the plug on the project to use it on volunteers at a VA hospital, Connors uses the concoction on himself, unleashing our villain, The Lizard, upon Manhattan. Meanwhile, Peter is also looking for the thief who gunned down Uncle Ben and Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) is hunting down the unitard-wearing vigilante. Now Peter is caught in a web looking for the truth behind his missing parents, keeping Gwen out of harm’s way, and trying to stop The Lizard from unleashing the drug using a cloud-forming device conveniently located in the Oscorp building.
Most of the story remains the same, but as it’s based on the comic book that should come as no surprise. Yes, Andrew Garfield looks too old to be playing a high schooler, but a 28-year-old was probably cast in order to have the same actor for multiple films; as should be the case for all franchises. Thankfully, with Spider-Man, Marvel has never gone the route of The Hulk where he’s been played by a new actor at every turn. Gwen Stacy, as played by Emma Stone, is a far better love interest than Mary Jane Watson. Garfield and Stone have more chemistry than most actors could ever dream of having on screen. It comes as no surprise the two are currently dating in real life and only adds more depth to the fate that could belie their relationship.
Denis Leary gets the funniest line in my opinion, Stan Lee makes his requisite cameo (his funniest to date), and of course there’s a pay off scene hidden in the end credits. So while Marc Webb may have been an odd choice, (considering the script could have been a complete disaster with three credited writers: James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Alvin Sargent (Spider-Man 2and 3), and Steve Kloves (who wrote all but one of the Harry Potter films). But Webb delivers some astounding action sequences while dousing the proceedings with the appropriate amount of characterization, only further helping make The Amazing Spider-man live up to its name and relaunch the series to new heights.
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