“The Amazing Spider-Man” is not just the first film in a new series about the iconic superhero – rather, it marks the beginning of a whole new cinematic era for the character. Though only five years have passed since the original trilogy, the Spider-Man reboot takes the hero in an entirely different direction, exploring more interesting interpretations of the characters and weaving complex and engaging storylines. Still, the movie never departs from the central themes of the comics, maintaining the ideals of responsibility, family, and sacrifice that originally made people connect to the character.
Peter Parker never really knew his parents – they mysteriously left him at his uncle and aunt’s house when he was four, only to die in a plane crash shortly thereafter. Years later as a teenager Peter begins working with Dr. Curt Connors, a cross-species geneticist and former colleague of his father, whom Peter is hoping to learn more about. Yet Peter’s life is changed forever after he is bitten by a genetically-enhanced spider, giving him arachnid-like abilities and leading him to become the superhero Spider-Man. However, Peter is not the only one to be changed – after experimenting on himself, Dr. Connors becomes the Lizard. Now Spider-Man must stop the insane villain before he can carry out his plan of mutating the rest of humanity.
Director Marc Webb should be lauded for evolving the Spider-Man franchise, giving an original take on familiar characters much like Christopher Nolan did with Batman. The mystery surrounding Peter’s parents is refreshing new ground for the series, and it surely will be interesting to see the storyline play out in upcoming sequels. At the same time though, Webb never loses sight of who Spider-Man is and why he is a superhero; in fact, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is in a lot of ways more faithful to the comic books than the Sam Raimi-helmed films, returning to the smart-alecky Spider-Man who uses synthetic webbing. However, the movie goes beyond the typical comic or action film – at its heart, it is a moving story about a teenager coping with the loss of his parents while trying to discover who he is as a person.
All of the actors were wonderfully cast. Andrew Garfield is phenomenal as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, capturing the character’s courage and vulnerability. Garfield truly embodies the iconic hero more than any other actor previously. Likewise, Emma Stone is excellent as the strong-willed love interest Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans is brilliant as the Jekyll and Hyde-like Dr. Connors. Though they are in the movie for a limited time, Martin Sheen and Sally Field demonstrate why they are Hollywood legends playing Uncle Ben and Aunt May, giving their characters presence larger than their roles. Sheen and Field effectively convey their characters’ deep love for Peter, and though disappointingly there is no “With great power…” speech, it is evident that Peter is profoundly influenced by the lessons his uncle and aunt taught him.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” is a gritty, modern take on a fifty-year-old character, trumping all of the Spider-Man films before it. If this first movie is any indication, it seems as if a very interesting new series lies ahead.
The Setonian gives this movie 5 out of 5 stars.
Sean Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.