'The Amazing Spider-Man' an unnecessary delight

July 9, 2012 

There was really no reason to reboot the Spider-Man franchise before the kids who were born during the first movie were old enough to drive.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Oh wait: money. That stuff you need to survive if you don't know how to kill antelope with your bare hands and turn their once-living skin into your clothing. They're motivated by the same thing people regularly kill for. I mean, if people will murder over a few thousand dollars, it hardly feels like a crime for a studio to pursue hundreds of millions by shamelessly rehashing something that's just a decade old.

In those terms, the studio comes out as a hero. They could be hired assassins instead! You don't even have to go to their totally unnecessary superhero reboot. But maybe you should. If you like fun, anyway. Despite my skepticism, The Amazing Spider-Man won me over within minutes.

Years ago, Andrew Garfield's geneticist father disappeared in the night. As a high schooler, Garfield is ready to learn the truth. His investigation takes him to the lab of Rhys Ifans, his dad's former partner -- but while he's there, Garfield is bitten by a genetically modified spider.

He awakes with incredible strength and reflexes. But his joy is short-lived. After a robber guns down his uncle/foster father Martin Sheen, Garfield takes to the streets to hunt the killer down. Meanwhile, Ifans' work has turned him into a literal monster -- and he plans to take all New York down with him.

It's really tough to separate The Amazing Spider-Man from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, which only came out 10 years ago. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to forget about the original. Booze. Mallets. Finding somebody who never saw it, then running into them so hard you exchange personalities. Or you can try my own personal superpower: just not giving a damn.

Anyway, I tried to ignore Raimi's Spider-Man movies, and I came away feeling like The Amazing Spider-Man was close to great.

Its chief weapons are Garfield, love interest Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy) and Stone's thigh-high boots. And also director Marc Webb. Considering his previous movie (500) Days of Summer was a sweet indie romance, I can only conclude he was tapped for this blockbuster superhero movie by a drunk producer who saw kismet in the name "Webb."

Whatever got him on board, Webb's a great choice. He's good with the romance, and Garfield and Stone are talented enough to act like awkward high schoolers while leaving out all the bits where awkward high schoolers are horribly annoying.

Not that mumbling and not knowing how to kiss are the main focus of The Amazing Spider-Man. As usual, it's about a smart geek acquiring all the powers of a spider! Like the ability to get grown adults to leap onto chairs and call for help. Or to live in the corner of the bathroom with no apparent source of sustenance for months.

Actually, Garfield's growing understanding of his powers is particularly strong. Not only is he initially afraid he'll die, but even after he accepts his powers, he's also cocky, teenagery and dedicated to his own selfish causes.

But the development of Garfield and Stone comes at the expense of villain Ifans. Ifans has a potentially interesting motivation, but winds up as a cliche. You know the one. Giant super-lizard seeks to breed race of giant super-lizards. It's a story as old as the sun.

The Amazing Spider-Man just doesn't have time for him. The movie's a bit overstuffed. In fact, it's kind of a turducken of a movie. And in light of the earlier movies, it can feel like warmed-over turducken you're eating for the fourth night in a row because man, a turducken is a lot of food.

But you know what? Reheated turducken is still pretty good. So is The Amazing Spider-Man. Thrilling, well-acted, and at times very well-written, it may be unnecessary, but that doesn't stop it from being pretty dang good.

Grade: B+

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com. His fiction is available on Kindle, Nook, and through Smashwords.

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