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The Amazing Spider-Man

Rated PG-13, 137 min. Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Zylka.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 6, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Meh is a better-suited title for Marvel's reboot of Sam Raimi's original, far superior trilogy. Brit Garfield, taking over the role from Tobey Maguire, redefines the arachno-human Peter Parker as part put-upon high school mensch and part unlikable dick. There's precious little of Maguire's subtlety on display here, however. What we get instead is something akin to an emo-based, digital native with an urge to overcompensate for his more human shortcomings. In short, the character is a lot like the way Stan Lee first envisioned him, but the superhero's co-creator Steve Ditko would probably loathe this new, unsatisfying, and hollow-feeling entry into the cinematic Marvel Universe.

This time out, Peter's scientist father has vanished under mysterious circumstances, leaving the young Mr. Parker in the care of his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). Bitten by that pesky spider once again while on his way to a laboratory, Parker finds himself able to suddenly take out a subway car full of thugs and walk on ceilings. His webbing, unlike in Raimi's version, is not a naturally occurring metaphor for puberty – he invents his web-slinging wristbands himself, science genius that he is. Nor does his web-slinging have the giddy-frightening orgasmic power seen to grand effect in Raimi's original. This incarnation of Spider-Man seems to be aimed at the generation that has come of age in the decade between Raimi's initial 2002 film and now. It has a pessimistic, decidedly dark tone, which befits our age of self-perpetuating anxiety, but makes the overlong running time a total bummer. Gone, too, is Kirsten Dunst, who brought more life to the original series than anything in this reboot can. She's been replaced by Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy (Parker's other main squeeze, you may recall). Stone lacks Dunst's porcelain vitality; she comes off as the lesser of the two flames.

Ifans, too, barely registers in his dual role as the one-armed mad scientist Dr. Curt Connors, who, hoping to regenerate his lost limb (and save humanity, natch), pulls a Jekyll and Hyde and transforms himself into the Lizard (highlighted by a particularly uninspired bit of CG-enhanced makeup). Even Denis Leary as Gwen's father, the police chief, seems to be acting perfunctorily here (the crack and sizzle of his brilliant work on Rescue Me is nowhere in evidence).

I suppose by this point it's useless to complain about such things – the rapidly expanding Marvel Universe deflects critical analysis like Captain America's shield deflects Nazi bullets. Nevertheless, the recent – still in theatres, actually – tag-team superhero epic Marvel’s The Avengers is so very much better than this dullish retread that I feel compelled to say that this Spider-Man is anything but amazing.


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