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Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Spider-Man has a terrific cast but not enough thrilling action; odd, but sweet 'Moonrise Kingdom'

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Jul. 5, 2012

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Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield.

Here is my first impression of The Amazing Spider-Man. It has a terrific cast, headed by Andrew Garfield as Spidy and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, that really captures the angst of being a shy high school loner and the joy of embracing newfound abilities. It therefore gets a big thumbs up for the emotional side and the spunky chemistry between Garfield and Stone.

However, on the other side, the superhero movie, it feels a bit light in the unitard. While there are a few solid action sequences — especially when Peter Parker flashes his new and uncontrolled abilities on a subway car — the latest villain, The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) is too ambiguous to fully embrace his dark side when he transforms himself into The Lizard. He is not nearly scary enough to make us feel that he is a terrible menace that will be difficult to stop. Without that crucial good vs. evil contrast, The Amazing Spider-Man is an enjoyable summer popcorn movie, but no more than that.

Director Marc Webb, best known for the delightful, offbeat romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer, shows a deft hand with Peter Parker’s dilemma at being an outsider who is willing for stand up for others even though he knows the jock bully is going to clock him once again. The feisty Stacy, a fellow student, appreciates Parker and their budding romance comes at the same moment that he gets the spider bite that begins his transformation.

In this version of the Spider-Man origin story, we get some information on Peter’s father (Campbell Scott), a renowned scientist who was working on some ultra secret genetic mutation experiments at the time of his mysterious disappearance.

When he finds his father’s briefcase, Peter begins to tie together the work being done at Oscorp by Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans) and his father. It is while snooping around at Oscorp that Peter ends up with that nasty spider bite.

Garfield, despite being 28, is surprisingly credible as the teenager who has to process so much. The mystery of his father, the incredible abilities that keep expanding without his full control, the raging hormones of falling in love, and the pressure of keeping secrets from the loving couple that raised him, his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Sally Field, Martin Sheen).

The Amazing Spider-Man, with a screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent (who also wrote Spider-Man 2 and 3), and Steve Kloves (the Harry Potter movies), has plenty of heart and humor and just enough wit around the edges. As a coming-of-age movie it is absolutely terrific. As a superhero movie that takes the time to develop the characters, it is first rate. However, as an action movie, it just doesn’t deliver enough wow moments.

Overall that makes it a beautifully acted and entertaining movie that doesn’t deliver as many thrills as one would hope from the genre, so it falls a bit short of amazing.

Wes Anderson’s ‘Kingdom’
The offbeat, pixilated universes created by writer/director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox) are an acquired taste and while I’ll admit I haven’t fully embraced his hyperrealistic sensibility, I enjoy his whimscal point of view. Moonrise Kingdom is a coming-of-age love story set in 1965 about two runaway pre-teens, Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward), who are exceedingly bright and quite aware of the foibles of the adults who are in charge of their lives. Set on an island in New England featuring a summer camp for the Boy Scout-like Khaki Scouts, Sam and Suzy know they are too different to be thought of as normal, so running away from adults who crave “normalcy” makes perfect sense. Of course the adults running around trying to find them don’t exactly seem “normal” themselves, which is Anderson’s point. The kids give terrific performances and so do the adults, who include Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis, the latter as the most sensible and likable adult in the bunch. 

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1. Bill McG said... on Aug 4, 2012 at 12:59PM

“I thought the lead kids were good, but the film as a whole was ridiculous and annoying and the adult actors, with the roles and lines they had, were embarrassing.”

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