The Amazing Spider-Man

            From comic book to cartoon to TV series to motion picture franchise, to rebooted motion picture franchise—no, I’m not talking about the evolution of “Batman” or “Superman,”  I’m talking about Spider-Man.  While Superman dealt with an alien impervious to harm here on earth, and Batman was a mega-wealthy (and psychopathic) vigilante, Spider-man dealt with a high school kid from a working class family.  Stan Lee’s creation was the first real attempt to relate audience to super-hero protagonist.  Following the three part Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” series, Marc Webb’s new “The Amazing Spider-Man” deftly reimagines the beginning of the web slinger’s saga.            Peter Parker is a nerdy high school student raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben following the mysterious death of his parents.  An investigation into his late father’s work leads him to Dr. Curt Connors, a brilliant geneticist.  Peter begins work at Connor’s laboratory where he is bitten by a genetically engineered spider and imbued with the proportional strength, agility, and speed of an arachnid.  When his Uncle Ben is killed by a thug, Peter seeks vengeance; he becomes Spider-Man and uses his new-found superpowers to find and subdue the petty crook that killed his uncle, brutalizing criminals along the way.  Meanwhile, Peter’s attraction to beautiful Gwen Stacy is complicated by the fact that Gwen’s father is a policeman intent on arresting the masked Spider-Man, a potentially dangerous vigilante.  Back at the lab, Dr. Connors uses a formula provided by Peter to attempt to regenerate his missing arm, and becomes a giant half-man, half-lizard bent on establishing reptilian rule over humans.  At this point, Peter realizes his pursuit of vengeance is self-centered, and determines that serving the greater good is what he is called to do.  Spider-Man battles The Lizard in a series of special effects-driven action sequences.            Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man.  Although a little old for the role of a 17-year old, his youthful face and lithe physique (and especially long neck) are reminiscent of Steve Ditko’s original comic book artwork.  Emma Stone (“The Help”) uses the most expressive eyes in Hollywood to great effect and is more suggestive of John Romita’s subsequent drawing from the comic book.  Rhys Ifans (“Anonymous”) is a self-deprecating Dr. Curt Connors and an egomaniacal Lizard—an intricately balanced performance.  Denis Leary (TV’s “Rescue Me”) portrays Captain Stacy initially as a bit of a sanctimonious blowhard, but who has the common sense and good grace to adapt.  Martin Sheen (“The Double”) is dichotomous as Uncle Ben; although apparently a blue collar worker, he displays an amazingly Aristotelian philosophy.  Sally Field (“Two Weeks”) is wonderful as the long-suffering and ever-loving Aunt May.            The direction and screenplay make for a pleasant diversion from typical super-hero fare.  Extraordinary first-person perspectives of Spider-Man’s web slinging and imaginative action sequences are cleverly interposed with personal scenes that actually develop the characters.  Wry wise-cracks dot the dialogue, which helps humanize Peter, Gwen, Captain Stacy, and Connors.  Most importantly, the visual “feel” of the movie is an artful mixture of modern movie-making techniques designed to mimic the original comic book.  Kudos go to director Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”), the best named director of a Spider-Man movie, for expert pacing of a two and a half hour film, and writers James Vanderbilt (“The Losers”), Alvin Sargent (“Spider-Man 2 & 3”), and Steve Kloves (7 of the “Harry Potter” films) for developing characters in a super-hero film through dialogue.            “The Amazing Spider-Man” is an entertaining movie, even though it falls into the two categories of films that have become stereotypes these days: comic book super-hero conversion to the big screen and remakes/reboots of previously made motion pictures.  It has competent acting, terrific visual appeal, and a cleverly adapted script.

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