Cinematic Releases: The Amazing Spider-Man

Sam Raimi brought the comic to life. Marc Webb brings Peter Parker to life.

I loved the Sam Raimi films with the exception of the cacophonous mess that was the third one. Raimi knew how to make a comic book look just as, well, comical on the big screen and that was a lot of fun, no doubt about it. I can't trash Raimi's work and to follow in his shoes is no easy task, but Webb put the heart and soul in Peter Parker and that's why The Amazing Spider-man just barely outshines Raimi's films according to me.

This Spidey film is loaded with emotional ammo for Peter Parker and more strongly reflects the tragic and conflicting tone of the critical and fan acclaimed Ultimate Spider-man series. Though Maguire certainly is no slouch in the acting department as evidenced by his haunting performance in Brothers, Andrew Garfield embraces a deeper connection to the character that we just haven't seen until now. Garfield really knows how to dig that pain out and show it to an audience. Only the coldest hearts wrapped in barbed wire ice picks would have any trouble feeling for him.

Cushioning Garfield's performance was a refreshingly lean and comfortable script. James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Rundown) didn't try to cram in too much. He truly focused on what counted and Webb knew exactly how to sell it. There was more than enough room for Parker's motivations to bloom and how important the family theme really is to Peter as a character and the Spider-man universe.

There were great moments in the high school that pulled me right into the pages of Brian Bendis' Ultimate series. And, thankfully, there's no tacky contrived teenage romance here. It was as awkward and imperfect as it should be. Evidenced by Webb's experience on 500 Days of Summer, his grasp of young romance is no less than genuine and complimented with loads of tasteful laughs.

There was an extraordinary breadth of character development here while still having plenty of space to fill for the action which was fun, plentiful, and kinetic while being easy to follow despite all the swoops and swings. Unique to this reboot is the way Spidey fights and the emphasis on utilization of his web in a ceaselessly creative array of slick moves; some of which are strikingly spider-like in a very cool way.

It's clear I have a lot of good things to say about this film, but I wasn't totally happy with it. The biggest flaw, in my opinion, was the villain. Rhys Ifans did a wonderful job as Dr. Curt Connors, but I didn't feel an urgency to see Parker defeat the Lizard. I didn't feel like he was a big enough threat. The stakes didn't feel very high and the Lizard just wasn't all that memorable or menacing. In fact, the CG design of his face occasionally looked oddly friendly. Perhaps this was playin it safe for the kiddies -- and if that's the case -- give me a freakin break! If parents think it's OK for their children to see teenage vampire lovers get impregnated with the seed of a statutory rapist and not OK for them to see a scary lizard man, then someone's moral priorities are a LITTLE skewed.

There are a few more nit-picky issues I have with it, namely when the cheese factor boils over just a little too far for my taste with some heroic construction workers -- you'll know what I mean -- but beyond the weak villain, there really aren't any significantly notable gripes I can fish out.

Sure, there are dozens of elements from the comics left out. They've taken a lot of liberties, and not everyone will think it's one of the best comic films -- I do -- but what matters most to me as a superhero fan, and especially a Spider-man fan, is did they find the heart and soul? I think they nailed it. This reboot of Spidey's origin actually felt fresh despite my concerns of redundancy considering how soon this film dropped after Raimi's final outing and Garfield rocked as Peter Parker. The suit looked great on him, in fact, I think it's the best Spidey has ever looked and Garfield is the best Peter Parker that's ever been.

There is little not to enjoy in this film. I insist that you go see The Amazing Spider-man and give it the sequels it deserves.

-J.G. Barnes