College Times

Amazing? This 'Spider-Man' comes pretty darn close

By Aaron Tavena, College Times

Published: Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Updated: Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

Directed by Marc Webb

Rated PG-13

Opens Tuesday

Grade: B

There is a maxim that is true of any tale ever told. Strife makes good storytelling. No one wants to see a movie about a popular kid who has everything going for him and then gets superpowers. He has to earn those abilities through suffering, because that makes him relatable. Good superheroes have real-life issues, like holding down a job during tough times, nervously talking to that cute coed or dealing with intolerance.

This can be used as a crutch for storytellers when it’s assumed that darkness equates to depth. It’s not enough to give characters a rough childhood and expect that to handle the character’s definition. However, when used properly, strife can give characters purpose and, in turn, give audiences heroes that inspire.

Such is the case with Spider-Man, who by now needs no introduction. After three previous movies, half a dozen TV shows, the many versions in the comics and Marvel’s marketing machine, this web-slinger is cemented into the popular culture lexicon. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is both a reboot and a retelling of Spider-Man’s origin story. And yet, despite all that, this Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man to date, though the movie is not quite as good as “Spider-Man 2.”

Here’s the rundown. Much like Marvel Comic’s Ultimate line, “Amazing” is a modern day version of the 1960s hero. Peter Parker, here perfectly personified by Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”), is the nerdy type. He also has eyes on Gwen Stacy, the popular, smart, beautiful, love interest played by Emma Stone (“Easy A”). Meanwhile, handicapped geneticist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) works to combine human and lizard DNA, with mixed results.

From there, genetically modified spiders, spider bites, super powers, sticky webbing, puberty references, it’s all here, with a few minor tweaks. For example, Parker develops web shooters instead of the weird wrist pumps that Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man had. There’s really no issue with that, despite the familiarity of the whole first act.

This is because Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is so well cast, making seeing this origin story a second time worth it. The sideline cast, including Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Denis Leary bring their A game, adding credibility to the movie. The Uncle Ben moment is handled in a way that defines Spider-Man’s character, which is exactly what that story point was intended for.

Now let’s get a little geeky here. Spider-Man is a genius, before he gets super powers. He is also a giant smartass. The great power, great responsibility speech gets an overhaul, courtesy of the fantastic Sheen playing Uncle Ben. The anger over the big dramatic twist and the eventual turn to a super hero feels organic and true to the comic’s initial storyline. Simply put, this Spider-Man is the truest movie version of a comic book character, only slightly short of the great performances from Robert Downey Jr., Heath Ledger and Christopher Reeves.

And the rest of the movie? Well, coming back to the darkness and depth idea, it’s a surprise that this version feels alive, despite the big, sad moment. There is a sense of energy, fun and wonder to the fights, with Andrew Garfield delivering some great zingers. Much like the first half of this year’s “Chronicle,” hero work doesn’t have to be a drag. The “great power” theme works perfectly, overshadowing the villain’s arc, making this solely about Spider-Man.

Go see it.

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