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The Amazing Spider-Man (Frank's take)

01/08/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy The Amazing Spider-Man in the USA - or Buy The Amazing Spider-Man in the UK

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America’s favourite web-slinging wonder is back for some exciting summertime action in the heralded rebooted film franchise of Stan Lee’s celebrated comic book wall crawler. In The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel’s web-headed hero marches to the same beat of adventure, angst and adulation but there is a sense of freshness and purpose that is also distinctive from its animated predecessors.

The Amazing Spider-Man slings its way into a whole new chapter of colourful entertainment. It has been a decade since Tobey Maguire took on the role of do-gooder Peter Parker/Spider-Man in 2002 and cultivated a sensational action figure that had lingered between the consciousness of conflict and courageousness. However, gone are the old guard in Maguire/love interest Kristen Dunst/director Sam Raimi that catered to the nostalgic exploits of Spidey and his caustic confrontations.

And so a new era begins in the trio of Andrew Garfield/Emma Stone/director Marc Webb to continue the blueprint of one of Marvel Comics’ popular iconic superheroes. Garfield (“The Social Network”) is a natural fit for our protagonist Peter Parker a.k.a Spider-Man—an emotional dynamo willing to do battle when duty calls but at a costly price. The hangdog look of innocence and impishness fills the void for the talented Garfield to step into with creativity and confidence. There is not a whole lot of originality in The Amazing Spider-Man that radiates anything that is uniquely special or stylish. Nevertheless, there is a solid soulful and sweetness aura about The Amazing Spider-Man that should have one not missing Maguire and his collaborative cohorts too much.

The aptly named Spider-Man filmmaker Marc Webb (who helmed the critically acclaimed indie 500 Days of Summer) provides some invigorating jolt and introspection to this updated instalment that does not miss a single beat. It is rather tricky to try and serve practically the same dessert twice in one meal and expect a different yet even more favourable action. Notably, Webb pulls this off with The Amazing Spider-Man as the concept and execution in flourishing theme never seems to stray away from the familiar formula of the Spider-Man phenomenon.

Peter Parker (Garfield) is a curious kid by nature. Inquisitive, ambivalent, hormonal and searching for a sense of belonging, his life is about to be transformed when he gets bitten by a radioactive spider in Dr. Curt Connors’ (Rhys Ifans) research laboratories. Soon, Peter discovers the peculiar powers that he has inherited. Stronger, faster and more agile than ever, Parker is astounded by his athletic abilities. Climbing walls and experiencing his evolution into the crime-fighting Spider-Man is a startling revelation to both the empowered Parker and the audience.

The new superpowers for Parker had given him a sense of reassurance. It has certainly helped his relationship with the object of his affection in the form of ultra-pretty galpal Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, “The Help”). Parker’s pulsating powers could not come at a better time as Dr. Connors soon encounters a transformation of his own—morphing into a raging reptile (a jumbo-sized lizard) bent on causing destruction. There you have it…a blooming love affair and villainous beastly adversary all swept together in one perilous package.

The CGI effects are predictably enthralling for a summer actioner. The movie’s cautionary mantra about responsibility and facing the consequences of one’s actions is dutifully reinforced (much like in the previous Spider-Man editions) courtesy of veteran actor Martin Sheen’s turn as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. Oscar-winning actress Sally Field is also on board as Aunt May but the film does not give her much to do beyond commenting about her nephew’s ruffled look and suspicious whereabouts.

Webb employs a decent shifting in The Amazing Spider-Man’s overtone that handily coughs up the movie’s rambunctious popcorn-pleasing moments of frivolity with that of the tender timing of Peter/Garfield’s and Gwen/Stone’s intimacy. Ifan’s bad guy in the lumbering lizard that wreaks havoc in the city is considerably compelling as the vile element at large.

The old saying is that “three’s the charm”. Still, a challenge can be made that the fourth time around can also be a charm as The Amazing Spider-Man is the number four entry in the 10-year span of our beloved web-headed wrangler reminding us why we fell for his spell of comic-book crime-fighting craftiness in the first place. The real “amazing” wonderment about Spider-man is how he managed to stay so engaging and enticing after decades of existence in the fickle field of pop cultural relevancy.

2 hrs. 15 mins.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Denis Leary, Sally Field
Directed by: Marc Webb
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action-Adventure/Comic Book Fantasy/Science Fiction

Critic’s Rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)

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