THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Marc Webb, 2012)
I am not a true blue comic book enthusiast, but this latest SPIDER-MAN big screen reboot feels amazingly fresh. First of all, Andrew Garfield is more than capable in playing Peter Parker, effectively manifesting Peter's curiosity, rage, and teenage exuberance. Second, the treatment employed takes a darker approach from the get-go, unlike in Sam Raimi's universe where it gets murky only during Part 3- and this is a welcome departure because we are able to glimpse upon Peter's unresolved issues with the disappearance of his parents. Third, the same formula and treatment for the villain is there, where such is recognized as a victim of consequence, and therefore presented in the end as a human being. Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Curt Connors/ The Lizard impeccably, reminiscent of Alfred Molina's charmed performance as Doc Ock.
Using the latest in 3D technology, the filmmakers maximized the visual feast (the film is best seen in IMAX) while refusing to sacrifice script quality. The fight scenes, though not as many as I'd hoped (SPIDERMAN 2 still ranks as my best pick in every category) are brilliantly choreographed and photographed.
The leading lady this time is Gwen Stacy, irresistible in the hands of the always sunny Emma Stone. If at all, I liked how the writers did not present Gwen Stacy as another damsel in distress. Of course, Emma Stone is no stranger to playing tough heroines. It seems I just got tired of seeing Kirsten Dunst get kidnapped, leveraged, dropped from a skyscraper, and used as a scapegoat to weaken Spider-man and be caught by his enemies. In THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Gwen is not a tool of burden for Peter whatsoever. Of course, their young love threatens both of them sooner or later, but Gwen doesn't get in the crossfire this early, and for me that is already a creative achievement.
Martin Sheen and Sally Field who play Uncle Ben and Aunt May, respectively deliver solid performances, proving their age and experience in the acting craft. Then we go back to Andrew Garfield, whose portrayal of Peter/Spider-man is so empathetic and playful at the same time you can't help but be compelled to watch. He reaches out to the viewer with his character-driven performance, beckoning to understand his character's emotional journey, and sharing in the imbibed values underneath.
Even Denis Leary is perfectly cast as Gwen's father, Captain Stacy. The story provides for a great moral measurement between hero and lawlessness, and this can only be achieved if you have good actors playing cop and vigilante. In this aspect, Leary shines.
Sure I missed J. Jonah Jameson, The Daily Bugle, and that skinny girl living across Peter's apartment, but what THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN lacks in routine, it makes up for an unwavering sense of heroism, of duty.
Oh, and Spider-man runs out of web in this movie, because here his web does not shoot out of his body. He has a device, which shoots out his thread, unlike in the Raimi films. I think this is one of the merits of this film, which is actually telling us how this and that works. On this note, the story is grounded further in reality than in fantasy.