There are two ways you can approach reviewing The Amazing Spider-Man. You can compare it to the Sam Raimi trilogy that came before or you can pointedly ignore those films and judge it solely on its own strengths and weaknesses. There are two sides to every coin and now there are two sides to how to tell a Spider-Man origin story. As I sit down to write, I realize that people will complain if I mention Raimi’s films and people will complain if I don’t. It’s an interesting dilemma that's almost akin to deciding whether to pick heads or tails on a coin flip. However, let me preface this review with the notion that If you think that we’ll be done with the whole Raimi, Maguire, Dunst comparison by the time we get to an Amazing Spider-Man sequel, think again. We’ll have plenty of other opportunities for the next decade or so to make these comparisons and for that very reason, I choose tails, and I’ll look at Marc Webb’s origin piece based solely on its own strengths and weaknesses.
Point blank, this film was mediocre but was raised a few notches on the ratings meter thanks to stellar performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The screenplay and editing combine at inopportune moments to create some truly jarring storytelling. If you've followed all the numerous clips, trailers, b-roll footage and featurettes then you’re probably aware that a lot of those scenes were left on the cutting room floor. And the dialogue in the film is very uneven and is clearly the product of having a multitude of voices working on the script. This is most observable between moments where it's obvious that Webb wrote the dialogue and then someone else wrote the next scene. The film takes a decidedly step back from its whimsical interpretation of teenage maturation (which is really the heart of the movie and what Spider-Man is all about) whenever someone else’s hand is scripting. For the sequel, I wholeheartedly suggest to Sony that it would be in their best interest to let Webb write and direct, if Webb is returning.
Aside from the editing and screenplay, the film is otherwise, very enjoyable. Garfield brings some much needed humanity to comic book character, Peter Parker and Stone gives Gwen Stacy a saucy, girl next door vibe that refreshing to see as opposed to trite ‘damsel in distress’ motif. Their chemistry on screen together is palpable and is the greatest strength of the film. The awkwardness in the scene where Peter and Gwen kinda,sort-of make plans for a date is the best scene in the entire film. Martin Sheen and Sally Field are also great as Uncle Ben and Aunt May while Dennis Leary has a few scene-stealing moments as Captain George Stacy. Rhys Ifans also turned in a fine performance as Dr. Curt Connors although his character probably needed more screentime to flesh out his motives and personal pains. Overall, this was a stellar cast assembly and it’s hard to imagine a better actor in any of the respective roles.
As far as origin stories go, the plot works fairly well and moves from ‘puny Parker’ to Spider-Man at an even and believable-as-possible pace. The cinematography and SFX are some of the best I’ve seen all year as the shots of the New York skyline and a web-slinging Spidey are truly astonishing. I strongly advocate seeing the film in 3D.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man was a solid film that should've been spectacular but is hampered by a tepid script and inconsistent editing. I give the film---
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