The Amazing Spider-Man (TheByteScene Review)

3.75 Biocapable-radioactive-potentially-life-threatening-spiders out of 4

Remakes, sequels, adaptations and reboots are becoming a Hollywood trademark to the point that a supposedly “New” film is released every single year with the sole aim of capitalizing on an already existing property, or franchise. I’ve already mentioned that Hollywood has run out of ideas, and while The Amazing Spider-Man does little to deny this claim, the fact remains that it’s single-handedly one of the best Hollywood films this year, one of the best superhero movies of all time, one of the best looking films in recent history, in addition to the best remake/reboot that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in recent memory.

Being a retelling of Spider-Man’s origin story, the film features many of the same characters that have been shelled out, characterized, developed, and introduced in every piece of Spider-Man media since the character’s introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15. Peter Parker is a highly intelligent, if slightly unpopular, high-school student who gets bitten by a genetically enhanced spider that grants him the abilities to cling to walls (much like a spider), in addition to the standard arsenal of regenerative abilities, superhuman strength and speed, and superhuman intuition. Effectively, the only thing the spider doesn’t grant Parker is the ability to create spider-silk webbing, which he develops on his own, and incorporates into a set of mechanical “Web-slingers” of his own creation.

Spider-Man’s origin story features the loss of his parents at a young age, in addition to the subsequent loss of his Uncle, Benjamin Parker, whose death allows Peter to realize the true meaning of power, and the responsibility that goes along with it. In addition to the death of Uncle Ben, Peter Parker routinely experiences the difficulties of balancing a regular life alongside his journalistic endeavours at The Daily Bugle, his school life, his personal and romantic lives, and his superhero identity. In a way, Spider-Man is Marvel’s most human character in that his powers act as an allegory for his ascension into adulthood; Parker is frequently caught between making the moral choice of saving lives and helping New York City as Spider-Man, and acting on his selfish desires to leave behind the mask and live life as a regular civilian.

The Amazing Spider-Man covers all of these aspects of Parker’s character, all while adding a romantic interest in Gwen Stacy (played quite well by Emma Stone), a father-like relationship with Curt Connors, who later becomes the film’s main villain, and a strained relationship with his Aunt, May, who is forced to take care of Peter on her own, all while coping with the loss of the man she had called her husband for 37 years.

It’s difficult, and I can imagine more than annoying, for a director to have to tackle a project that’s been done before so many times, all while adding aspects to make the viewing experience enjoyable for the audience. Marc Webb (whose name is so deeply ironic, that coincidence is the only plausible explanation) has been put in a position of rebooting a character whose last film was only five years ago, in addition to having to tackle a property that fans believe has been done well anyway. In every sense of the word, if the film had been terrible, if the plot was weak, if the writing was sub par, if the characters were hollow and lifeless, no one would have given Webb any trouble – many would have expected it, and many did expect it.

Frankly, if the film was dreadful, Webb would’ve been off the hook, so to speak, immediately, or so I’d imagine.

Instead, Marc Webb, through his brilliant usage of Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors, managed to create a film that is fun to watch, fun to experience and, honestly, absolutely astounding. The plot is beautifully detailed, the characters are incredibly realistic, despite a lack of Aunt May (which I found to be a bit odd), the cinematography is fantastic, and the acting is sublime. Garfield did a stellar job as Peter Parker, finding the perfect balance between held back and restrained, as Parker, and courageous and arrogant, as Spider-Man. The character has the same issue that every superhero has – finding balance – and the fact that Garfield was capable of bringing this balance to the character was stupendous. His evolution from the timid, stern, and scared Peter Parker, before being bitten, to the confident, slightly arrogant, and whimsical Spider-Man, after the exposure to the bug, is handled superfluously. The evolution of the character is also expressed as Parker evolves into Spider-Man; his journey to discover his self is somehow described, elaborated, and explored within the time frame of the film, and through extremely well written plot points, realized.

The supporting cast is as well played, with Emma Stone carrying a significant amount of weight and presence as Gwen Stacy. I thought that the casting would have been a bit odd, considering that Stone’s past experiences with characters have always had her playing incredibly strong and self-made, empowered female leads, but her casting as Stacy worked very well, with Stacy being portrayed as head-strong and the perfect match to the cocky Spider-Man. Her scenes resonate quite well, and Stone does a fantastic job of really selling herself as a girl forced with losing her father every morning, all while never being sure if he’ll return home (being a police captain, after all). I wasn’t expecting to be so taken in by Stacy’s turmoil and inner conflict, but Stone gave such a wonderful performance, that I was deeply captivated.

As for Sally Field as Aunt May, I was surprised that she wasn’t given as much screen time, considering her importance in developing Parker as a character. I noticed that a majority of the film had Field in a weaker position, struggling to deal with the loss of her husband, and the sudden emotional development of Parker into Spider-Man (despite her not knowing about her nephew’s dual-identity). It’s a minor gripe I had with the portrayal of Aunt May, but on the whole, Field did a good job of bringing Aunt May down-to-Earth; she’s willful, but deeply concerned for the well-being of her nephew, she’s prying, but very motherly, and that helped cement the film’s realism.

Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors was one of the weaker casting decisions, with the character growing from a concerned humanitarian into a deeply fanatic fundamentalist as quickly as he evolves into the Lizard. Sitting down and thinking, I wonder if that was the purpose behind his development; it’s more than possible, but though Ifans did well as Connors, his role didn’t seem as important as the film seemed to stress. Regardless, his anguish was well written and acted, and though his fundamentalism was a rapid development, it was still oddly believable.

I cannot continue without mentioning the cinematography, the filming, and the editing. This film is a feast for the eyes, and if nothing else matters, the movie has some of the most beautiful set pieces portrayed on film. New York changes from a booming metropolis, to a shirking hub of crime and villainy, and the change from night to day is so beautifully dramatic that I was left gasping at the difference. Of course, being a film about a man slinging above New York City, the cinematography is gorgeous.

I didn’t watch the film in IMAX, though I did make the right choice of watching it in 3D; the same problems with 3D are always there, but the extra dimension adds so much to this film. Once again, this film proves that scenes involving flying and incredibly wide screen angles are best done in 3D. Allow me this one dramatic statement: The Amazing Spider-Man has a vivacity to it that must be experienced in 3D to truly be taken in, and this is only if one doesn’t want to see it in IMAX.

The movie is gorgeous, and is, for all intents and purposes, another cinematic masterpiece hidden under the mask of another superhero movie. Honestly, I’m flourishing yet again, because The Amazing Spider-Man is an amazing superhero movie, an amazing reboot, and an amazing film that can easily be described as gorgeously amazing cinema, with self-discovery, and a story about the individual discovering himself at its core.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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