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Friday, July 13, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (Release Date: 6-3-2012)

        Want to take a pot shot at The Amazing Spider-Man? Trust me; it's not hard. There are a myriad of complaints that are ready to be made, pre-packaged even. First and foremost, there's the fact that it arrives a mere 10 years after the original Spider-Man first came out, inspiring the comics-at-the-movies sensation that we're still toiling through today. There's the re-casting of the leads, the over-familiarity of some of the TV spots, and the inclusion of 3-D, always good for a cynical crack or two. Yes, if you go into this Spidey flick expecting to be underwhelmed, you will be, and this review probably doesn't really pertain to you. If you're going at it with fresh, un-skeptical eyes, your opinion might land a bit closer to my final take.

        You know the story: High School after-thought Peter Parker (played here by Andrew Garfield) is bitten by a radio-active spider, attains glorious super powers, watches his Uncle Ben (a scowling Martin Sheen) get murdered, and pledges his powers for good. The Amazing Spider-Man makes sure to run down these plot points, but it also finds some clever ways to subvert the, 'been-there, done-that,' vibe that the flick could have so easily fallen into. These include a mysterious past for his parents, a new villain (The Lizard, played by an especially hammy Rhys Ifans), and a whole new love interest in the nerdy-chic form of Gwen Stacey (miles removed from Kirsten Dunst's bubbly girl-next-door).

        Even with all of this said, there's simply no way The Amazing Spider-Man can disguise itself as an entirely new entity. The moments that it essentially copy/pastes from the first one (spider bite, Uncle Ben bites the dust) feel rushed and unimportant, as though director Marc Webb and company were all too aware that their audience already knew the backstory. I suppose this is better than belaboring expected plot points, but why include them at all if you're so disinterested in taking the time to do it right? Even aspects that aren't directly lifted feel awfully informed by Raimi's vision: how many real, substantial differences can you name for me in the character arches of The Lizard and The Green Goblin? I've got nothing.

        It's worth noting that I personally LOVE the first two Spider-Man movies. To me, they are a perfect realization of the Spidey who I'd grown up with, appropriate in terms of casting, mood, aesthetics, effects, humor, and all the rest. In other words, I already saw my ideal vision of this movie, and merely visited The Amazing Spider-Man to see a remix of my perfect song, and, what do you know, that remix is kind of a jam.

        I'd still take geeky, smiling Maguire over the insular, goth-lite Garfield any day, but the latter certainly does have quite the chemistry with Ms. Stone, who's great here, as always. Visually, the movie is among the most breath-taking of the year, all dark, sleek, and wholly immersive in 3-D. Swinging along through nighttime New York is worth the price of admission in an of itself, and that doesn't even take into account the plethora of stylish, eye-popping set design choices on display. Above all else, this Spidey is an aesthetic wonder, which would be damning it with faint praise if it weren't so, well, wonderful to behold. As previously alluded, there are problems with this flick, including an absolute rag list of plot holes and cheese-infused dialogue, but it their own strange way, these goofy short-comings feel homey and fun. When the dust settled, one thing was clear: I'd had a blast watching The Amazing Spider-Man, and if you can table your sneers and mockery for a couple of hours, my guess is you will too.

Grade: B+

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