July 5, 2012

High Flying Adored Superhero

I didn't think a Spidey reboot was necessary but I wanted to see The Amazing Spiderman because of the solid cast.  I love Andrew Garfield and his real life leading lady, Emma Stone, so I celebrated the 4th of July by watching a British actor play one of the most popular American comic book superheroes.  And I had an amazing, spidey-senses-tingling good time!

Robert Parker (Campbell Scott) works for Oscorp, a bioengineering company. After a break-in at their house, the eventually orphaned Peter is left in the care of Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen).  The 28 year old Mr. Garfield is very convincing as a lonely, gawky, socially awkward teenager. You see him gain confidence as he becomes the crime-fighting webhead.  He also happens to have great comedic skills, and not just when delivering Spiderman's snappy one-liners to the villains---an element missing from Sam Raimi's trilogy.  The scenes where he learns of his growing powers are hilarious. But when he's in dramatic scenes, he's utterly devastating and always made me teary-eyed. I always thought Spiderman was the superhero I could most identify with, because he is human and lived an ordinary life.  (Unlike Batman or Iron Man with their wealth, or Superman the alien.) We see this here a lot, as Peter comes home hunched over, bruised, sheepishly grinning, to a worried Aunt May.

There aren't any new origin story revelations but it was a good idea to set the story in high school---although I missed J.K. Simmons as  J. Jonah Jameson. (Denis Leary's Captain Stacy is on hand to order the arrest of the masked vigilante.)  We meet Peter's first girlfriend Gwen Stacy.  She is a strong and intelligent young woman as played by Emma Stone, so different from Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane. We see the science genius as he figures out his father's work, and creates his own web-shooting device.  There's plenty of live action and acrobatics, instead of obvious CGI.  Much of the CGI was probably reserved for Robert Parker's colleague, Dr. Curt Connors (a tortured and conflicted Rhys Ifans).  In yet another cautionary tale of human arrogance and science gone wrong, he transforms into The Lizard terrorizing the Big Apple.  (Side note: Pat on my back for recognizing C. Thomas Howell as the father of Jack, a boy trapped in a car dangling off the Williamsburg bridge.)  Irrfan Khan plays Norman Osborn's enforcer, Rajit Ratha, who we can safely blame for all the mayhem.

So ignore holes in the plot and implausibilities, go see this film and just enjoy the ride with a web-slinging man flying through New York City.  And watch out for what is probably Stan Lee's best cameo. EVER.

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