‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Spider-Man was an angsty teen that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created in “Amazing Fantasy” comics in August 1962 – a character that’s apparently a perfect fit for Andrew Garfield in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Garfield sweeps aside memories of Tobey Maguire as the web-spinner. He captures the personality split – incipient do-gooder trapped in the body of a nerd – playing Peter Parker in Marc Webb’s reboot of the comic-book franchise.

After three films about Spider-Man guided by Sam Raimi, Webb takes over and takes off. The director of “(500) Days of Summer” uses all the visual and digital tools at his disposal, just as Raimi did – except the tools are slicker, glossier, more digitally seamless than those long ago days of 2002.

Webb and his writers, James Vanderbilt (“Zodiac”), Alvin Sargent (whose credits go back to “Julia,” “Paper Moon” and further) and Steve Kloves (all the “Harry Potter” movies), capture that strange blend of the cartoony and the operatic that was always endemic to the original material. Taking the story back to zero, they imagine a new origin tale, one that occupies much of the film’s time. As a result, some may find the level of exposition during the first hour too high for their taste.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” were the words of wisdom from Uncle Ben, played by the late Cliff Robertson in the first version. This stand-in father is played by Martin Sheen, with an antic streak, in the new version. But his message is much the same.

This time around, Peter is the son of a genetic scientist, Richard Parker (Campbell Scott), who vanished mysteriously when Peter was 4, then died in a plane crash shortly afterward. Peter was left with Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Sally Field) by his parents, on a night when someone broke into the Parkers’ house in search of Richard’s research.

Now a gangly, tongue-tied high schooler, Peter is the type whose spirit forces him to stand up to the school bully but whose skills result in him getting smacked down for his trouble, because he’s kind of a dweeb. While helping his uncle clean out a flooding basement, he uncovers his father’s briefcase, which features some hidden formulas and a picture of his father’s old partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).

Intrigued because he’s never heard of Connors, Peter goes to visit the scientist, disguised as an intern. Connors, who has lost an arm, is studying trans-species genetic manipulation; he hopes to graft the DNA of a lizard, which can regenerate a missing limb, into a mammal – such as himself. But he’s been missing a piece of the puzzle, until Peter turns up with Richard’s research.

Oh yeah – and Peter is bit by a radioactive spider…

This review continues on my website.

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