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(500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb brings one of Marvel’s oldest and well-known superheroes, Spider-Man, back to the big screen this summer. His film, called The Amazing Spider-Man, stars Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, a high school student raised by his uncle (Martin Sheen) and aunt (Sally Field). Peter discovers an old briefcase that once belonged to his father, which leads him to biomedical company Oscorp and Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). After being bitten by radioactive spiders, Peter gains superhuman abilities, leading him to a face-off with The Lizard — Connors’ villainous alter ego. The movie also features Peter’s first love interest, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer says, “Directed with emotional depth and plenty of comedic touches by Marc Webb (no pun intended), this somewhat darker depiction of your friendly neighborhood superhero inserts a touching portrait of adolescent angst into an otherwise predictable dose of CGI-fueled action, with stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone breathing new life into Stan Lee’s 50-year-old creation.”
While audiences may wonder why the comic book hero needed a movie remake, Minzter says Webb and the screenwriters, “build up a convincing Peter Parker origin story here, combining tongue-in-cheek high jinks with a more downbeat tale of childhood trauma and attempting to answer those viewers wondering why they ever did a remake in the first place.”
Minzter also approves of the chemistry between Peter and his love interest Gwen. “Peter is depicted as a smart but downtrodden outsider who truly comes to life when he’s alongside his object of desire,” he says. “The scenes between Garfield and Stone have a witty and realistic edge to them that’s rare for a comic book romance.”
Los Angeles Times’ critic Kenneth Turan took issue with parts of the project, writing, “Spider-Man goes in and out of focus. This is a film that is memorable in pieces but not as a whole, doing enough right things in key areas to ensure box-office success but permitted to drift into earnest pokiness when the spotlight is not on.”
He agrees with Minzter on the relationship front, noting, “the best piece, obviously, is the relationship between Garfield’s Peter Parker and Stone’s Gwen Stacy.”
Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal finds the remake repetitive. “The truly amazing thing is that most of what happens to Peter Parker in the first half of the film has already happened in the previous chapters of the Spidey saga.”
“In the movie, what’s old is old again,” he says.
Morgenstern notes the advanced technology in the movie, but adds that the action scenes are “oddly joyless demonstations of hypergymnastics, extravagant motion with meager emotion.”
He says Marc Webb “presides over many elisions and lapses.”
Morgenstern adds, “there’s a sense of filling time with lame contrivance” in the movie.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times was a bigger fan, giving the movie 3 ½ out of 4 stars. “This is a more thoughtful film, and its action scenes are easier to follow in space and time,” he says.
“If we didn’t really need to be told Spidey’s origin story again, at least it’s done with more detail and provides better reasons for why Peter Parker throws himself into his superhero role.”
Although Ebert comments that Garfield looks too old to be in high school, he has a likability about him. “Garfield’s take on Spidey is sometimes a few strands short of a web,” he says. “He’s not above showoff stunts in high school and takes chances with his newfound superpowers. This is the first Spider-Man who can leap off a skyscraper and make us wonder if he has a plan in mind.”
Unlike other critics, Ebert enjoyed that this origin story takes its time. “It seems to me that CGI superhero films often go on autopilot during their big action climaxes,” he says.
“The best of all the Spider-Man movies remains [Sam] Raimi‘s Spider-Man 2 (2004), with the best of the series’ villains, Doc Ock,” Ebert confesses. “This film is probably the second best.”
New York Post’s Lou Lumenick says the “reboot doesn’t have a leg to stand on,” giving it 2 our of 4 stars.
The movie, he says, it “hardly awful but not coming close to living up to that adjective in the title either.”
“Sometimes dull and mostly uninspired, it’s much less a satisfying reboot like Batman Begins than a pointless rehash in the mode of Superman Returns.”
Disagreeing with Ebert, he says the film has a “slow-as-molasses first half, choppy editing, so-so effects and a chemistry-free love story.”
The thing Spider-Man does have? “Extreme predictability—something that fans of superhero movies seem to crave, if the massive grosses for the bloated and mediocre The Avengers are any indication.”
Christy Lemire of Associated Press says the movie is “pretty much different in every way from the staggeringly successful Marvel Comics-inspired trilogy that preceded it.”
“The Amazing Spider-Man feels like its own separate entity,” she says. “It may not be as transporting or genre altering an experience as those earlier films, especially the first two, but it finds a distinct voice.”
As for the 3D aspect of the movie? “The 3D feels like an attempt by the studio to sling more summer moviegoing dollars into its web; you should resist, especially since, based on a quick tease during the closing credits, a sequel is clearly being hatched.”
The Amazing Spider-Man opened nationwide on Tuesday, July 3.
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