The Amazing Spider-man (2012) ☆☆☆(3/4) : A darker retelling of the same story

After watching “The Amazing Spider-man” during the last evening, I remembered a little comment from the twitter account of one South Korean movie critic. While not so specific about whether it was good or not, the critic said the movie was pretty much like meeting a darker cousin of a boy we met before and then going with him around the familiar places we have been to.

I guess that comment aptly summarizes how both good and redundant this early reboot of one of the popular Marvel superhero movie series is. The movie tries to be different from Sam Raimi’s Spider-man trilogy and it certainly looks like a darker retelling of the origin of its superhero. Though I had a feeling that I was being served with a variation of the same story I’ve heard before, I enjoyed it at certain levels, and I think it works better than “Spider-Man”(2002) as the first movie of the rebooted series.

The movie tells the story which is already very familiar to most of us; how an introverted high school boy named Peter Parker(Andrew Garfield) gets his superpower by accident and how he gradually accepts his new identity as a superhero. He happens to be bitten by a genetically engineered spider when he looks around the high-tech biological laboratory managed by Dr. Curt Connors(Rhys Ifans), and he soon realizes that he attains the amazing abilities through this incident. He becomes stronger and faster, and he can also climbs up wall like a spider, and his hands become stickier than before(that change causes several funny troubles in his daily life, of course). He cannot make or shoot spiderweb, but this clever kid makes the special device for that.

Meanwhile, he also starts to wonder about what happened to his parents, who suddenly disappeared when he was very young. Since his parents’ disappearance, he has been living with Uncle Ben(Martin Sheen) and Aunt May(Sally Field), they are naturally concerned about their young nephew when it looks like he is hiding something from them. Uncle Ben gives Parker a sound advice his nephew will remember forever – but it is not “With great power comes great responsibility“, by the way.

The screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sergeant, and Steve Kloves puts a dark, serious tone on the story through a tragic incident following that advice, which makes Parker turned into a vigilante on the streets. He just wears a mask and a hood at first, but he later made that familiar costume, and he is quickly known as Spider-man to New York citizens.

NYPD does not welcome Spider-man because he is disrupting the police work in their view, and Captain Stacy(Dennis Leary) is determined to arrest him, while not knowing that her daughter Gwen(Emma Stone) is close to the guy he is chasing after. She comes to know that her classmate/boyfriend is Spider-man, and that makes their relationship a little more exciting than before. Parker is a quiet, likable kid before, and now he is a quiet, likable kid with the top secret he cannot tell to anyone except her. With her cop dad, her circumstance will instantly remind you of the Twilight series – but I have to say Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are a lot more interesting to look than Edward Cullen and Bella Swan.

Meanwhile, what Parker discovers from an old briefcase left by his scientist dad causes a serious danger. The origin story of superhero always needs a villain antagonizing against its hero, and, this time, we have Dr. Connors, who was once a colleague of Parker’s dad and is now a leading expert in the field which will make many of my colleagues at the biological science department have lots of giggles. After using the valuable information for his project given to him by Parker, Dr. Connors makes a crucial advance in his research, but, when he tests the serum on himself, he gets transformed into a giant lizard monster who wrecks havoc in New York. His idealistic dream is now turned into the biologically hazardous plan threatening the genomic identity of New Yorkers, and Parker has to stop him before it is too late.

The action scenes have good CGIs accompanied with excitement and thrill, but I have to admit that the story becomes relatively less interesting than before in that process. Rhys Ifans is nice as a good scientist turned into a brutal supervillain, but the dark side of his character is mostly represented by a CGI creature, and that reminds me of why Alfred Molina’s performance as Doctor Octopus is important in the success of “Spider-man 2”(2004). His robot limbs are surely CGIs, but they serve for Molina’s performance as the parts of his character, not overshadowing his acting.

The director Marc Webb, who previously made a witty romantic comedy “(500) Days of Summer”(2009), does a good job of making an entertaining blockbuster film. The mood and atmosphere are notably darker compared to Raimi’s films, and Garfield’s performance is strong enough to support them; his performance is effective even during the action scenes because we are aware of his character’s vulnerability. Stone is lovely and lively as a smart girl who is not afraid of an imminent danger approaching to her when she has to help her boyfriend at the urgent moment, and Sheen and Field give warm performances as Parker’s loving uncle and aunt.

While I am bothered a little by its inherent redundancy, I do not think I wasted my money and time while watching “The Amazing Spider-man” because it is a little better than its cousin made in ten years ago in several aspects. Though it may be a little too early to reboot the series, this is a competent reboot which can be followed by a good sequel. I wonder whether it will be as good as “Spider-man 2”, but I think we’ll see about that soon.

Sidenote: I watched it in 2D. Unlike Ridley Scott’s recent film “Prometheus”(2012), I did not feel any need about its 3D effect while watching this movie. So please save your money.

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