The comics call him 'Sensational', 'Spectacular', and even 'Astonishing' at times, but none more fitting than his long standing title of 'Amazing' for his latest trip to the silver screen. That's right friends and fan boys alike, your favourite friendly neighbourhood wall crawler is back on the big screen yet again in The Amazing Spider-Man.
Still scarred by the emo eyeliner stint of '07? Well you should be, because Spider-Man 3 was flat terrible. Rest easy, this is no Spider-Man 4, The Amazing Spider-Man is full-fledged reboot from start to finish with a brand new cast and director. I'll get into the whole reboot argument in a bit, but first let me bring you up to speed on how The Amazing Spider-Man restarts the web slinger's franchise.
The Amazing Spider-Man does bring the classic story of Peter Parker back to its beginning, yet this film not only adds more to Peter's past but also stays true to the source material of the Marvel comics. Something Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films deviated from. The same things like Peter being Flash Thompson's high school nerd punching bag, to living with his Uncle Ben & Aunt May, and being bitten by a genetically altered spider (thus giving him superpowers) all still apply but this time around. Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) takes his time with everything else and retells this classic story in proper comic book lore order; for all you none geek readers.
I could go into The Amazing Spider-Man's plot more but even my grandmother knows Spider-Man's origin story, so what's the point? But what I will do is quickly break down the good and the bad revisions this second big screen outing has to offer. Thankfully most of the changes are in the 'good' column. Here we go:
What Sony/Columbia Pictures and Marvel did right this time around was scale down their cast and scope in exchange for quality for both. Practically zero of the minor characters in Spider-Man's universe are used here. Characters like J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Betty Brant, or Harry Osborn are never introduced so the intention can remain on Peter and his small beginnings. I have yet to mention him so far, and no offense to those Tobey Maguire fans, but Andrew Garfield is leaps and bounds more superior in the role of Peter Parker. Where Maguire impressed some with his psychical transformation Garfield will impress many more will emotional transformation; on top of the psychical as well. Garfield embodies all the relatable qualities that made, and continues to make, this character significant for a younger audience. However Garfield is alone as The Amazing Spider-Man has a small group of top calibre actors/actresses join him in this new franchise.
Playing Peter's Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Sally Field and Martin Sheen have a more central role, again, compared to the original. No Norman Osborn even introduced here (only hinted at), rather more time is focused on Rhys Ifans' character, Curt Connors/the Lizard, being probably the perfect villain to start Peter on his path of heroism. Another couple reasons why The Amazing Spider-Man got things right was one bringing the Stacy family, Gwen and her father police Captain George Stacy, into Peter's journey first and two casting Emma Stone and Denis Leary in those roles. I would have liked a little more scenes with Leary, but the trade-off was more excellent scenes between Stone and Garfield. Being a natural red-head Stone would seem like the obvious choice to play Peter's true love interest, Mary Jane, but she knocked all the smart, funny, compassionate qualities of Gwen Stacy right out of the park. Hearing that Stone and Garfield have continued their on screen relationship in real life is no shocker because their chemistry together is fantastic.
The character of Spider-Man is debated as being either the #1 or #2 most recognizable/popular comic book characters of all time (Superman being the other), so its not surprising this reboot happened. It was inevitable. However, what is a bit surprising is the timing of this reboot. Which is 10 years since the original Spider-Man (2002) and 5 years since the last in that series, Spider-Man 3 (2007). There will be many moviegoers with reservations on revisiting this character's origin story so soon, and that's a valid point I can't really argue against, but what I will say is The Amazing Spider-Man is an improvement to its predecessors in virtually every area. The visual effects have obviously improved exponentially since 2002, but what this version has over the original is a better quality story. Sure rebooting the Spider-Man brand may seem like, and pretty much is, a giant cash grab for the studios, this film escapes those criticisms because The Amazing Spider-Man was done right and done well. As long as there is no emo song & dance in Mr. Garfield's future he will quickly replace Maguire legacy as the famed superhero; if his hasn't already.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.