Movie Review: "The Amazing Spider-Man"

Let's be honest from the get-go. The question on everyone's mind when it comes to "The Amazing Spider-Man" is, "How is it in comparison to the three Tobey Maguire movies?" After all, it's only been five years since the last film in Sam Raimi's trilogy about the web slinging superhero. Forgive me if my review reads like a comparison chart, but isn't that what everyone is looking for?

There's really no comparison between the two except the source material. While "Spider-Man" was trying to be everything to everyone, much like 1978's "Superman: The Movie," this new version of the story is more geared to the teenage demographic. It's hipper and has an air of teen angst to it. If you've seen it, imagine "Kick-Ass" but the hero of the story actually has superpowers.

The Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in "The Amazing Spider-Man" is a rebellious smart-mouthed skater kid who is also a genius. Tobey Maguire's take on the character was nerdier and straighter than what we get from Garfield. There's really not much to compare between the two.

The tone of the movie is also more serious. Is the story as ironed out as Raimi's "Spider-Man" or "Spider-Man 2?" No, it's not. The structure of the film is three-fold. The first part examines the strange events surrounding Parker's parents leaving him with his aunt and uncle. The second part deals with Parker becoming Spider-Man. Thirdly, we get the superhero battling the Lizard.

The first part of the film leaves a lot of unanswered questions in the end. The second part is well-done as we see Peter deal with his new super powers, put together his costume, and use his scientific smarts to make his web shooters. While all this is going on, he delves into a romantic relationship with Gwen Stacy which further complicates things. The Lizard sections of the film may frustrate some and leave them feeling a bit rushed and searching for more story. There's also a part where I was left wondering, "Why did they introduce that situation and then completely drop the ball on it?"

Most of the acting in the film is perfect. Garfield is a believable Peter Parker and emits the angst, nervousness, and excitement a teenager would feel in all the given instances he faces. Emma Stone does a wonderful job convincing us she is a high school genius and is very likeable. Sally Field is a stronger Aunt Mae than we saw in Raimi's "Spider-Man" series. Denis Leary plays a toned-down version of himself as a cop and father. The only weak point in performance is Rhys Ifans as the Lizard / Dr. Curt Connors. For the most part, he's good and pulls off the role. However, he goes a little over-the-top when spewing his crazy-talk at Spider-Man during their battles.

The special effects and CGI in the movie look great. They're much better than the the first "Spider-Man" trilogy. There were a lot of complaints directed at the effects and CGI when it came to the hero's aerial escapades in Raimi's films. Producers and the effects houses hired for this really stepped it up. The POV shots of him swinging through the city are brilliant. I thought the Lizard melded well with the live-action backgrounds and characters as well.

The 3D was useless and unneccesary. It was well-utilized during some of the POV and wide shot web swinging scenes, but for the most part it really didn't matter. I found myself getting a little eye-fatigue in the beginning because of blurry background images. I haven't had that in a long time while watching a 3D film.

Is "The Amazing Spider-Man" a good movie? Yes, it is. I would recommend every fan of the superhero go see it. Put aside any skepticism and expectations you have because of Raimi's version of the character. It's better than those films in some ways and not in others. Three things it is for sure are endearing, heartfelt, and entertaining. Director Marc Webb obviously has a love for the source material. I can't wait to see where the story goes from here.

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