Does Whatever a Spider Can: Spider-Man Returns to Form
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:07
In what seems to be the age of superhero movies, director Marc Webb was chosen to provide audiences with a fresh take on an iconic Marvel Comics character in The Amazing Spider-Man. In only his second feature film — his first was (500) Days of Summer — Webb does not shy away from the challenge of surpassing the three previous installments, which each ranked in the top 40 highest-grossing films of all time.
Webb uses the film, a complete reboot of this superhero franchise, to create a darker, more emotional, but also funny portrayal of the human-arachnid. The story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) begins in his childhood, when a mysterious break-in prompts his parents to leave him with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) to ensure his safety. This sets the stage for the remainder of the plot which revolves around the mysteries of Parker’s past.
Garfield — best known for his breakthrough role in The Social Network — portrays an equally shy, slightly less awkward, and considerably more rebellious Parker than Tobey Maguire. His performance of the classic character is extremely convincing, a credit to his acting chops. Garfield’s performance in this both comedic and emotional role especially shines in his character’s interactions with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), with both stars sharing a chemistry that renders laughs, gasps and goose bumps in their awkward encounters and intense exchanges.
At the film’s start, Webb forgoes a quick start to the plot in favor of rich character development, resulting in the impactful exchanges of later scenes that justify this trade off. The beginning is light and funny with a mixture of sarcasm, uncomfortable situations, comically candid comments and references to Godzilla by Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) taking center stage. This humor — at times a bit excessive and forced — comes to an end though when the plot picks up with a convenience store robbery. It dramatically alters the tone of the movie, making it darker and more solemn. This is the turning point.
Certain changes differentiate this film from its predecessors. The most significant of these was the decision to eliminate some arachnid powers Parker receives after being bitten by a spider. Instead, these skills are obtained through his own savvy and technical ability — he creates the artificial web shooters that allow him to swing freely through the city. This is more loyal to the character’s origins in the comic book series, and thus a welcome change for many fans.
Amongst other key differences are the heavier involvement of Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) within the plot, and the decision to include Gwen Stacy — who Parker dates early on in the comics — rather than Mary Jane Watson. These small changes will appease long time fans of the comic book hero.
The Amazing Spider-Man presents a refreshing interpretation of the character’s story, while effectively relaying the trademark message behind the franchise: the importance of responsibility and the moral obligation to help those in need. The film contains spectacular visuals, including astonishing first-person perspectives of Spider-Man swinging through the city, incredible acrobatic fight scenes and an inspiring sequence highlighting the coming together of a community in a time of need,.
Although it would be unfair to say the film is without fault, it vividly depicts the story of the beloved Peter Parker and succeeds in its attempt to reinvent the image of this iconic character.