Amazing Spider Man, The B
Sony’s reboot of its successful franchise, which began over a decade ago, is an intelligent and satisfying, if not really exciting or thrilling installment in the ongoing saga.
Should you wonder if there was need for reboot? As always, the decision was based on strictly commercial and demographic considerations. Let me explain.
The last Spider Man was a weak chapter, which seems to have run out of good ideas. Star Tobey MaGuire was getting a bit older and more than a bit expensive, and ditto for director Sam Raimi. And here is where demographics come in: the primary target audience for the Spider Man pictures is very young, children and adolescents (My undergraduate students said they began losing interest in the concept when they turn 19!).
The producers have made a number of shrewd decisions. First, they cast a young, hot star, Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”), who can act. Second, they hired a director, Marc Webb, with little experience in the technical aspects of making blockbusters, but one who has shown interest with human interest stories (“500 Days of Summer”) and is good with actors.
In their ad campaign for the picture, which opens in 3D on July 3, Sony promises an untold story that tells a different side of the Peter Parker story, but, truth to tell, there is not that much new in the origin story.
“The Amazing Spider Man” benefits from its secondary cast, whose members include the very talented and gifted Emma Stone, as well as characters actors, such as Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, and two vet screen performers, Martin Sheen and Sally Field.
The screenplay is credited to James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, who penned the previous chapters, and Steve Kloves, who has established a name for himself as a great adaptor of the “Harry Potter” long and successful series. Obviously, the scribes are restricted by the source material, Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. But there is more attention to detail in charcaterization, motivation, and psychological make-up of the young hero than there was in the previous installments.
The first reel may be too expository in relating the basic facts: how Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler, was abandoned by his parents as a boy to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field).
When first met, Peter Parker is a seven-year-old boy, before his parents left, handing him off to Aunt May and Uncle Ben. The fact that he is an orphan is one of the most important influences on his life. His parents vanished in a mysterious way that made his quest for answers all the more upsetting and complicated.
In this origin story, Peter is still an outsider, but outsider by choice, bearing a chip on his shoulder. He is the kid who rejects people before they can reject him. The humor, the sarcasm, the rebellious streak stem from that little kid who got left behind.
Like most teenagers, Peter goes through identity crisis, trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter, like other horny adolescents, is also experiencing his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone). And as a couple, they struggle with love, commitment, intimacy, and inevitable secrets.
The plot is truly minimal. When Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance. The search leads him to OsCorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father’s former partner.
As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter has to make some risky, life-altering choices, of when and how to use his powers, choices which will shape his destiny as a hero for his times.
As he showed in “(500) Days of Summer,” Webb knows how to infuse humor and heart into his story. In this picture, he places strong emphasis on the emotional consequence of the biggest tragic event in Peter’s life, the loss of his loving parents.
Informed by overt Freudian psychology, “Amazing Spider Man” unfolds as a familiar melodrama about a youngster who goes out looking for his father, and in the process finds himself.
Garfield proves to be an adequate choice, turning Peter Parker into a likeable and relatable everyman, stressing the facts that he’s a “normal” ordinary kid, who is shy and not very popular with girls, well aware of not being rich and powerful. Garfield is an appealing actor that youngsters can identify with emotionally.
It should be pointe out that, sporting a boyish appearance, Garfield looks younger than his age–next month he will be 29 and thus over a decade older than his character is meant to be. It would have been interesting of Sony and the producers cast an actor who’s a real adolescent in age.
Two other characters are well developed and well played. Emma Stone commands as Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s first love, and first real connection to the world around him. If the relationship between Peter and Gwen is more significant here, it’s also due to the fact that Gwen is a self-assured character and his rival intellectually. Stone gets to do more than Kirsten Dunst did in all of the previous chpaters, though the fault was in the writing, not in Dunst’s work.
Peter’s last link to his father is Dr. Curt Connors, his father’s former partner and the only person who might have some insight into what happened to Peter’s father, and into why Peter’s life turned out the way it did.
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- Jimmy P.
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