'The Amazing Spider-Man' — been there, done that
"The Amazing Spider-Man," directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, needs a better reason to exist than Spidey swinging in 3D like a happy pendulum through Manhattan. We've heard seen this story before, and with a more convincing lead, too, writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald in this review. The film is playing at several Seattle-area theaters.
Seattle Times movie critic
'The Amazing Spider-Man,' with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field. Directed by Marc Webb, from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves, based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. 138 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence. Several theaters.
'The Amazing Spider-Man' trailer
"The Amazing Spider-Man," directed by Marc Webb (whose credits include "(500) Days of Summer") and starring Andrew Garfield, comes to the screen with a tricky burden on its skinny Spidey shoulders: Not only does it need to be good popcorn entertainment, as every would-be summer blockbuster aspires to be, but it also needs to justify its own existence. We've already been given an origin story of Spider-Man/Peter Parker: Sam Raimi's blockbuster "Spider-Man," which was marvelous fun — and came out just 10 years ago, starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Do we really need another, covering virtually the same ground? The answer is, alas, no.
That's not to say that "The Amazing Spider-Man" isn't a perfectly good and enjoyable movie on its own merits; it's well cast (with one exception), smartly directed and often technically dazzling. Garfield (who, with "Never Let Me Go" and "The Social Network," is getting younger with every role) makes a jittery, troubled Peter Parker, the smart kid who gets bitten by a spider and develops superpowers that he must learn to use responsibly. Though it's hard to accept the handsome, tousled-haired Garfield as a nerdy outsider ignored by girls (something Maguire easily sold), he gives Peter a nervous, halting voice and a wistful slouch; this is a kid who isn't quite sure who he is. He's paired with Emma Stone, who's never less than utterly charming on screen, and here plays teen queen Gwen Stacy with a wry knowingness. On her first kiss from Peter/Spidey — he cleverly uses his web spinners to twirl her into an embrace — she breathes a funny, resigned, "Oh, I'm in trouble."
No, the kids are fine, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field are touching as Peter's kind guardians Uncle Ben and Aunt May. The problem here is Rhys Ifans, cast as the villain Dr. Curt Connors; a white-lab-coated fellow with a disconcerting ability — aided by various mysterious chemicals — to turn himself into his hideous alter ego, The Lizard. (That's the primary plot change from the 2002 movie: a different villain. And, alas, no Daily Bugle.) Ifans generally projects a quietly comic shyness on-screen (he always seems on the verge of polite embarrassment), and his Dr. Connors seems too small a creation for this big-screen beast of a movie. His actions don't make much sense — even comic-book sense — and he's just not enjoying his evilness in the way popcorn-movie villains should. Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin, from Raimi's 2002 movie, could eat this character for lunch and have room for seconds.
Perhaps the argument for this movie is the opportunity to see Spider-Man swinging like a happy pendulum through Manhattan in 3D — and yes, it looks great, but so did Maguire in 2D. If Raimi's "Spider-Man" didn't exist, I'd be a lot more enthusiastic about "The Amazing Spider-Man," but Webb and his crew can't keep a certain whiff of been-there-done-that from the proceedings. It's a nice try, but you wish all this talent could bring us something we haven't seen before. Sorry, Spidey.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org