movies: the amazing spider-man

the amazing spider-man - the untold story begins
I went into The Amazing Spider-Man with very, very low expectations and wondering why we even needed another Spider-Man movie, much less a reboot this close to the original movies.

I could not have been more wrong.

In fact, I wish that we could erase the Tobey Maguire movies from existence and just have this one as the only Spider-Man movie.

Everything about this movie is spot on.

The casting is perfect. Without doubt Andrew Garfield the perfect choice for Peter Parker, he brings that sense of pain and loss that was missing from Maguire's performance. This Peter Parker is a character in so much pain. Not just the lingering pain of his parent's abandonment/deaths, but also the loss of his Uncle Ben. And Garfield nails it. That doesn't mean that there isn't a sense of lightness and fun at points, but the pathos is just right.

There's a scene with a little boy on a bridge about halfway through that perfectly sums up everything that's right with this movie. Parker isn't an untouchable hero, he's "just a regular guy" that's had some fairly extraordinary things happen to him.

He feels like a real person going through all this stuff, rather than an over the top caricature. When he gets slammed around, he hurts... when he feels things, you see it.

There's also a brilliant integration of spider-like movement into Garfield's performance... Parker's not just swinging around in a spandex suit... he really as become the spider and it helps to make the whole thing feel more natural (which is saying something given the subject matter).

All the characters feel real actually, right down to Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson... he's not just a mindless bully, there's depth there, and one of his scenes actually had me choked up a little bit.

There were a few moments of that actually... not just during the emotional scenes, but there's a great payoff towards the end of the movie that got to me.

But where I think the absolute casting master stroke lies is in the casting Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May respectively. These are actors that, for me anyway, I already have a connection with and it allows for there to almost be a shorthand when it comes to how I feel about them as actors translating over to the characters.

Previously those roles have almost felt like an afterthought, especially Uncle Ben, since he really has very little screen time, whereas here, I cared about them almost instantly and since pretty much everyone knows what happens to Uncle Ben (in the same way that we know about Bruce Wayne's parents or who adopted Superman), you knew what was coming and it added to the pathos.

I also loved the fact that instead of the usual Mary Jane love interest they went with Gwen Stacey. Now I'm not completely up with my Spider-Man lore, I know that she's an existing character in the Marvel universe, however I'm not sure how she fits within the canon. But she works beautifully here.

Although, honestly, given that she was being played by one of my favourite female actresses, Emma Stone, the specifics of the character don't matter as much as how well Stone plays her.

She and Garfield have beautiful chemistry, there's an ease to their scenes together, and again I come back to the fact that both their performances and their dialogue is wonderfully real and natural.

Stone is also no wilting damsel just waiting to be rescued by our favourite web slinger... Gwen Stacey is a smart, brave and wonderfully warm character that more than holds her own (granted it's only in a couple of spots, but still).

Rhys Ifans does a decent job as the villain of the piece, Dr Conners aka The Lizard, and while his performance is solid, the whole Lizard storyline isn't really the most interesting thing in the movie, however it's well done in so much as it allows Parker to become the hero he needs to be.

The effects work this time around is brilliant, as is the fact that they seem to often switch between shots of Garfield in costume and the CGI version, but unlike the earlier version where the CG Spider-Man never looked right, this one is, in essence, seamless and I almost never noticed the effects (other than noticing that I wasn't noticing them, if that makes sense).

And from me, that's pretty damn high praise.

The end of the movie doesn't just leave the door open for the inevitably sequels, it pretty much removes the door from the hinges and sets fire to it. However, if they make any/all sequels to the same quality of both script, direction and acting as this one, bring it on, I say!

yani's rating: 5 stable formulas out of 5

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