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"THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN"
(2012) (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action: After being bitten by a genetically modified spider, a teenager attains super powers and uses them to fight crime as well as a dangerous monster that's been unleashed upon the city.
PLOT:
Peter Parker (ANDREW GARFIELD) is a teenage outsider, raised by his Uncle Ben (MARTIN SHEEN) and Aunt May (SALLY FIELD) and routinely picked on by bullies at his high school, such as Flash Thompson (CHRIS ZYLKA). He's interested in classmate Gwen Stacy (EMMA STONE) but thinks she's out of his league, although he's intrigued to discover that she's the head intern working for Dr. Curt Connors (RHYS IFANS) at biotech firm OsCorp. Peter is interested in Connors because he once worked with Peter's late father, and may know the reason why Peter's parents hurriedly dropped him off with his relatives so long ago, only to never be seen again.

Dr. Connors, who's missing an arm, is looking into cross species genetic splicing in hopes of applying certain lizards' abilities to regrow their tails to humans such as himself. However, his boss, Rajit Ratha (IRRFAN KHAN), wants him to hurry and complete work on another project that might save the life of the company's founder. When both are in another part of the building, Peter sneaks into a lab and ends up bitten on the neck by a genetically mutated spider.

All of which leads to Peter suddenly having unique, superhuman powers. After a robber murders Ben, Peter sets out to use those powers -- along with a special device he's developed to shoot super-strong webbing from his wrists -- to find the killer, and ends up cleaning up other parts of the criminal streets in the process. None of which sets well with Capt. Stacy (DENIS LEARY) of the NYPD, who's determined to crack down on the masked vigilante now known as Spider-Man.

But both of them end up with bigger worries when Dr. Connors tests a serum on himself, an experiment that transforms him into a huge and destructive lizard man. Realizing he's now a superior cross-species, Connors wants to imbue everyone with that, meaning Peter and his alter-ego must use every tool at their disposal to take on this new threat and save the citizens, including Gwen.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
As a movie reviewer and (still) hopeful one-day filmmaker myself, I try to avoid the gossip mill that envelopes and seemingly sometimes runs Hollywood. After all, little if any good comes of it, and many of the reported stories end up either being exaggerations or outright mistruths. Thus, when the star of a successful movie franchise doesn't return for the next installment, I don't wallow in the usually dirty water allegations of why that is.

Thus, I have no idea why star Tobey Maguire isn't in the latest "Spider-Man" flick, as it could be contract issues, disagreements with the placement of others behind or in front of the camera, or maybe he was just tired of playing the role. Considering the three films starring him have grossed around $2.5 billion worldwide (unadjusted for inflation), however, it's no surprise that the studio behind the hits is moving forward without him in "The Amazing Spider-Man."

That said, it's somewhat unsettling that they're rebooting the entire series, especially considering that Maguire's first starring role as the web slinger was a mere 10 years ago in director Sam Raimi's entertaining take on the superhero and his tale (while the second and third outings were respectively released eight and five years ago).

So, the movie-going conundrum critics and viewers alike will be left with is how to respond to the offering. Should it lose a few points, stars, thumbs or whatever one's measuring device might be simply for being such a quick turnaround piece? Or should everyone judge it solely on its singular merits, as if viewed (and reviewed) in a cinematic vacuum? In a perfect world, the latter would be the obvious and correct choice, but in reality one can't over look the hard facts.

Simply put, anyone familiar with the 2002 release or the comic book tale in general will likely suffer from a fairly serious and self-aware form of déjà vu while watching this remake. After all, it is -- beyond some tweaking here and there -- essentially the same tale as before, but with different faces, better special effects and a deployment (in various theaters) in 3D that actually enhances the offering (rather than coming off only as a money grab). Thus, there are few surprises mixed in with spotting the various all-too familiar signposts along the path.

Those include Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) being the outcast at school who lives with his aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen) while longing for his pretty classmate (Emma Stone) who he thinks is likely out of his league. He ends up bitten by a mutated spider, attains superhero strength and abilities and has fun playing with them, and then takes to fighting crime, first on a small scale that then escalates upward.

This time, however, his nemesis isn't the leader of OsCorp (Willem Dafoe) who turns into the Green Goblin, but rather a scientist working there (Rhys Ifans) who's hoping that some cross genetic research work he's conducting might allow him to regrow his arm in a manner akin to what some lizards do with their tails. Before anyone can shout out "Don't inject yourself!" he does, resulting in him turning into a huge Lizard Man monster who wrecks havoc on Manhattan.

All of which means Peter, now known as Spider-Man, must swing into action when not trying to keep his identity secret from everyone, including the police chief (Denis Leary) who just so happens to be his would-be girlfriend's dear old dad. Despite the familiarity of it all (along with the additional alterations), director Mark Webb (who helmed the best romantic comedy in years with "(500) Days of Summer") and scribes James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves manage to keep things moving at a brisk and sometimes fairly engaging pace.

Perhaps most surprisingly of all, they emotionally hooked me at various times throughout, thus giving the film -- at least to yours truly -- some deeper resonance than I was expecting and certainly far more depth than was present in the fun but fairly shallow Marvel stable mate from earlier this year, "The Avengers."

And that's despite both 29-year-old Garfield and 24-year-old Stone both looking too old to be playing high school students (although Maguire was 27 when he appeared in the first film but somehow looked younger), although they have a decent chemistry together. Ifans and his CGI counterpart don't make for particularly interesting villains, but the various action scenes involving them battling Peter/Spider-Man are handled decently and should appease superhero movie fans.

In the end, I enjoyed "The Amazing Spider-Man" despite my misgivings about its existence in the first place. With that reboot issue now out of the way, it will be interesting to see what the cast, crew and studio do with the new installment number two, especially since they have big shoes to match in terms of what Raimi did with his "Spider-Man 2," the best in the original series. Until then, this new version is fun, entertaining and has enough heart to rate as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed June 27, 2012 / Posted July 3, 2012


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