When fans of the Spiderman movie franchise learned that the film would retell Spiderman's story and recast it, as compared to the recent versions featuring Tobey Maguire as the web spinner, they had trepidations about the success of the newest installment, The Amazing Spiderman. As it turns out, however, the film earned an impressive $65 million in its opening weekend and $140 million in the first six days. And it's easy to see why. Though a bit darker than its predecessors, it's packed with exciting action scenes, strong morals, and a likeable cast.
Rory Bruer, Sony’s head of distribution, explains the idea behind this new edition: "This was never modeled or was never meant to be 'Spiderman 4.' This was always a relaunch with a new cast and different stories to tell, and quite frankly, it succeeded beyond our imaginations.”
Ten years ago, the original Spiderman, directed by Sam Raimi, chronicled the life of a gawky teenager who was bitten by a radioactive spider during a class trip and transformed into a true hero.
The Amazing Spiderman retells that story, with a few twists. In this installment, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is not so much a nerd as a slightly introverted skater. And his encounter with the spider that gives him his impressive abilities is entirely different. One thing remains the same, however. Like the original Peter Parker, the new Parker is struggling to cope with feelings that he has for a female classmate. But in this retelling, Peter is not smitten with Mary Jane Watson, but Gwen Stacy, played by the endearing Emma Stone.
The new film begins with a very young Parker being abandoned by his parents at the home of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) just before his parents’ mysterious disappearance, though Peter is told that his parents died in a car crash.
Once Parker becomes a teenager, he discovers his father's briefcase in the basement, which holds his father's secret notes regarding his genetic research firm called OsCorp. The notes compel Peter to meet with Curt Connors (Rhys Ifan), who worked with Peter’s father. The one-armed Connors has desperately been working for quite some time on a formula using lizard genes that he hopes will regenerate his arm.
As it turns out, Peter’s father had already created a formula that does just that. Peter reveals the formula to Connors, who injects himself with it. But the formula has an even greater effect than simply helping Connors regenerate a limb. It turns him into a lizard that is larger than the average man. Connors develops the alter-ego of "Lizard Man," who seeks revenge on the owner of OsCorp, who had intended to pull the firm’s funding.
But Peter Parker, with his newly discovered powers, intends to stop Connors in his evil plot. And once Connors discovers who Peter is, he determines to kill him. A battle between good and evil unfolds.
The Amazing Spiderman is action-packed from start to finish, though it takes a bit of time for the story to fully develop. The alterations to the original plot prove for some interesting storytelling, though this film lacks most of the humor found in the Spiderman trilogy.
And unlike the romance between Peter and Mary Jane, Peter and Gwen develop a passionate relationship early in the film. However, most viewers would rank this change as a positive one since the chemistry between the two is unmistakable.
Several story elements from the first film remain intact. For instance, when Peter first acquires his powers, he does not seem to know quite how to utilize them. And as in the original story, Peter seeks to find and kill the man who killed his Uncle Ben; plus, this new edition also depicts Peter’s moral journey from a vengeful teenager to a true superhero.
Peter’s aunt and uncle remain the voices of moral reason throughout, constantly pressing him to do the right thing above all else. Their messages resonate well with Peter, who eventually transitions from a bratty, vengeful vigilante into a humane and selfless superhero. And that transformation makes for some intriguing storytelling.
In addition to the emphasis from Peter's aunt and uncle that he must do the right thing, the film also seems to make commentary on doing the right thing in science, highlighting the fine line between science that seeks to do good and science that could be used for nefarious purposes. The original intent of the lizard formula was to help humans regenerate lost limbs, and to find cures for a number of different illnesses. Of course, as the movie reveals, this sort of science can easily be turned against humans as well.
The Amazing Spiderman also boasts some prize-winning acting. Garfield does an excellent job of playing the snarky, wise-cracking superhero we love to watch on screen. And Emma Stone’s usual brand of warmth and her inviting nature make her a pleasure to watch as well. Garfield and Stone prove to be an excellent match onscreen and really make the story and their relationship come to life. (In fact, that chemistry may explain the rumored relationship that the two are reported to have off-screen as well, though I rarely ever take note of Hollywood romances.)
In the end, The Amazing Spiderman proves to be an exciting and entertaining film. The acting and direction are both superb, and the film’s emphasis on morality, and even some patriotism, adds layers of quality to an already worthy story.