In the last scene of The Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey turns to the camera and blasts a shot of web at you.
Director Marc Webb's name flashes onto the screen and leads off the credits. How ironic. A guy named Webb does what the exceptional Sam Raimi and his star Tobey Maguire couldn’t do in three movies. He gives three-dimensions and an heretofore missing sense of humor to the world’s most popular two-dimensional super hero.
Movies about comic book characters come down to dimensions.
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Here’s why. In 1963, I bought and owned the first Spider-Man comic. He was introduced in Amazing Fantasy. I paid 12 cents for the comic. Spider-Man was instantly the best of the Marvel Comics Group stable and like most of Marvel’s characters, topped Superman, Batman and the D.C. Comics bunch by light years.
Comics are two-dimensional. The panels propel the story forward a chunk at a time. It’s clunky but entertaining. Somehow Spider-Man creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave their character something extra; real life humanity and problems that other super heroes didn’t have. While done in two-dimensions, Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man had three.
While other super heroes made it to the movies, Spider-Man did not. Superman got there several times. So did Batman. Even Supergirl got a movie. The first Marvel comics flick was Blade in 1998. X-Men followed in 2000. It was two more years before we saw Spidey.
No one was more excited — and ultimately disappointed — than me by Sam Raimi’s three films with Tobey Maguire in the lead role. Raimi and Maguire failed to capture the essence of the character and the little things that made Spider-Man so popular. He — like most comic book movie characters — was two-dimensional in a three-dimensional medium.
While not a fan of do-overs, if a fourth Spider-Man needed to be done, someone new had to helm the flick. Enter Webb, a superb storyteller who did the excellent (500) Days of Summer.
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) gets the call as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. While not much better in the part than Maguire, Garfield does look more like the comic book version than his predecessor. That’s a plus. Another is a script and story from James Vanderbilt (The Rundown and writing from Alvin Sargent — who penned the second and third films — and Steve Kloves, who did all but one of the Harry Potter films.
They, too, understand the need to give three-dimensions to Spider-Man and the characters surrounding him.
The story has young Peter Parker’s parents disappearing. Dad is a brilliant genetic scientist working on ways to restore lost body parts. A home break-in has dad and mom fleeing, and poor Peter is left with his very nice Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
Years later, Peter learns that dad’s partner is one-armed Dr. Curt Connors, a rich scientist working on genetic breakthroughs of his own.
Curious about what happened to his parents and about Connors, Parker cons Connors' security team and ends up doing a tour of the place. Sneaking away from a group of interns, Peter breaks into a room containing an experiment on spiders and gets bitten by the radioactive spider that gives him super powers. Later, he befriends Connors and gives him his father’s regenerative formula.
It restores Connors’ missing limb but also turns him into a mix of human and lizard. Totally warped and now with super-human strength, Connors decides all humans must be transformed into what he has become. Spider-Man must stop him.
Neatly slipped into the corners of this creative script are side stories that help give the film three-dimensions. There’s the love story with Gwen Stacy, a mental tussle with her police chief father, the love Peter has for his dotty old aunt and his loving uncle, the uncle's murder and how Parker learns to deal with spider powers.
The casting is terrific. Garfield is perfectly low-key as Peter Parker and wonderfully funny as Spider-Man. Giving him Emma Stone as a co-star and love interest is inspired. Stone (The Help) is charisma personified. She lights up the screen and provides energy and spontaneity to a sometimes plodding plot.
Rhys Ifans gets the call as The Lizard, and Denis Leary does Gwen’s police chief daddy. Neither sets the world on fire, but they get the job done. Rounding out the cast is Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and Sally Field as Aunt May. Give Field gray hair — and I’m surprised they didn’t — and she’s a dead-ringer for the comic book’s character.
To do the word play, The Amazing Spider-Man is amazing from the incredible animation and special effects, to the acting and well-written, though overly long, script.
As is the habit of the creators of these things, Webb — because of a script that is a tad long and with a side-story or two, too many — has to cram too much into his film. It’s slow early. It’s slow late. The middle, however, is packed with action, humor and fun.
Also noteworthy — and maybe even ironic — The Amazing Spider-Man comes in three-dimensions or two. If you can, catch this one in three. It’s worth the extra couple of bucks.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars
Director: Marc WebbStars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Stan Lee
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Tuesday, July 3 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, at the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.