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Review – ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Delivers Thrills But Seems All Too Familiar

'The Amazing Spider-Man'
Columbia Pictures

Many fans of the beloved Spider-Man franchise let out a collective groan when Marvel Comics announced they were rebooting the film series with The Amazing Spider-Man. Only five years have passed since Sam Raimi’s¬†Spider-Man 3 was released, and ten years since the the director’s first movie in his trilogy. The Amazing Spider-Man is out in theaters this week with a whole new cast and new director at the helm, but uses the same old Spidey formula.

Despite a successful trio of films starring Tobey Maguire as the super-powered webslinger – and a fourth entry in pre-production – plans were scrapped and the original cast and Raimi parted ways with Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios. The Amazing Spider-Man was announced in 2010 and Marc Webb signed on to direct the reboot, an odd choice considering the only movie he had directed so far was the indie comedy 500 Days of Summer. British actor Andrew Garfield was cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Emma Stone was revealed to portray Parker’s original love interest, Gwen Stacey.

The Amazing Spider-Man contains all the ingredients from 2002′s Spider-Man, so a sense of deja vu is unavoidable. Viewers revisit Peter Parker’s phase as an awkward teen in high school, being bullied and not knowing where he belongs. Part of this is because of the way his parents suddenly left him with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) and disappeared into the night when he was a child. Peter’s mother and father were apparently involved in a super secret science project that happened to revolve around – you guessed it – genetically enhanced spiders and appeared to have perished in a plane crash. The back story of Peter’s parents have hardly any impact on the overall narrative and provides no payoff in the end.

Garfield’s Spider-Man has a sense of humor that Maguire’s lacked at times. The burden of doing the right thing with Peter’s new-found powers isn’t as overwhelming as in Raimi’s films. Thankfully, we don’t have to witness emo Peter Parker strutting around NYC like in Spider-Man 3. Garfield pulls off a more down-to-earth approach to the title character, balancing the humorous and dramatic tones surprisingly well. While there are times when the comedic one-liners are out of place, they don’t detract too much from their respective scenes.

We’re also introduced to Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), who comic book fans know is the first high school crush that Peter has before eventually meeting Mary Jane Watson. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is charming, but seems to have untapped potential that can be explored in a possible sequel. It’s hard not to smile during their initial awkward puppy love exchanges. Gwen’s father, NYPD captain George Stacey, is played by Rescue Me star and overall badass Dennis Leary, whose deadpan humor and his crusade to capture Spider-Man is one of the highlights of the film.

The main villain is Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard, who is portrayed by Welsh actor and musician Rhys Ifans. Connors is a scientist at the industrial firm OsCorp, which longtime fans will know is owned by Norman Osborn, A.K.A. the Green Goblin, one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes. Connors was a partner of Peter’s father and has spent years trying to discover how to regrow his right arm. With the help of Peter, Connors discovers a breakthrough in cross-breeding reptilian and mammal DNA and out of desperation, injects himself with the serum. This turns him into the Lizard and proceed to go mad, rampaging through the streets of New York City. While Ifans gives a solid performance as the conflicted Connors, the template for the Lizard follows Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2.

The action scenes are definitely impressive, though some of the CGI effects for the Lizard come off as a little too cartoon-ish. The costume design for Spider-Man borrows many elements from the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series, giving our hero a sleeker and more agile look. The Lizard possesses a more humanoid appearance than his printed counterpart, but utilizes the character’s classic tattered lab coat aesthetic. I watched The Amazing Spider-Man in 3-D, but it wasn’t a mind-blowing experience.

Overall, Marc Webb brings us a solid summer blockbuster,¬†although not without its flaws and the still questionable decision to retell the origin of Spider-Man on the silver screen so soon. The film score is also lacking anything memorable, which has been a problem since Raimi’s 2002 entry. Purists will appreciate Webb’s desire to stick closely to the source material, including having Peter develop cartridges for his webbing. Some fans may cry foul over the way Uncle Ben’s story plays out, but this film’s interpretation makes more sense in Webb’s grounded view of the Spider-Man lore. However, no one will mistake this for Christopher Nolan’s reality-based Batman films. While The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun way to pass two hours, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Final Score: 3 out of 5

Watch Trailer for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’

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