Spider-Man is back: back to the beginning. The Amazing Spider-Man is the reboot of the wall-crawler's franchise, leaving behind the Tobey Maguire films for a darker, more conspiratorial movie.

As a child, Peter Parker was left with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) when someone seemed to be after his scientist father Richard and mother Mary (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz, appearing very briefly in the film). Jump ahead, and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a lonely teenager picked on by jock Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) and with a crush on Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). An accidental discovery leads Peter to Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans), a colleague of Richard Parker. Curt and Richard worked together on splicing together human and animal DNA; Curt imagines this would both let him regrow his missing arm and improve humanity by removing its weakness. Of course, during the visit Peter Parker winds up in an area where experimental spiders are, and when one bites him, it leads to superhuman spider powers -- and, eventually, the spandex-clad Spider-Man. Similarly, Curt's experimenting on himself transforms him into the Lizard: a giant, disturbingly powerful cgi creature with plans for his transformational formula...

Oddly, Gwen Stacey isn't just the romantic interest; she's the center of several plotlines. She's the daughter of Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), the police officer determined to arrest the masked vigilante. She's the intern of Curt Conners, involving her in the movie's scientific endeavors. And she's a "regular" pretty girl at school, turning up in the halls and classrooms to run into Peter.

As with most comic book relaunches, The Amazing Spider-Man spends too much time retelling an origin we largely know. While the parental conspiracy is new (and a led-in to the sequel), pretty much anyone who's heard of Spider-Man knows the fate of Uncle Ben and its affect on Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker more as a sullen, rebellious teen than geeky outsider, neither particularly good not bad in the role. Emma Stone is a bit better as the teen with numerous responsibilities, but Rhys Ifans is fairly boring as the movie's villain, who goes from put-upon scientist to cgi monster interested in his own power and transforming others without their consent. The action is well done -- but it doesn't really kick in until quite late in the movie. The Amazing Spider-Man is decent, but amazing it ain't.

Overall grade: B-

Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: