Directed by: Marc Webb
So a couple of things right off the bat. You’ve already heard that this film sucks. It doesn’t it really is pretty good. Is it Captain America: The Winter Solder good? Unfortunately no, is it Catwoman or Superman IV: The Quest for Peace bad? Not even hardly. What this is, is a well-made, solidly nuanced film that channels the essence of the comicbook Amazing Spider Spider-Man #121 (as filtered through the Ultimate Spider-Man chronology, and placed squarely within the framework of the Amazing Spider-Man films. So yeah, haters are going to hate, but honestly, it really is quite a good film.
As we open this film we once again flash back to Peter Parker’s parents, Mary and Richard Parker (Embeth Davidtz and Campbell Scott). Richard is a scientist working for Oscorp, and has stumbled across a sinister corporate secret that requires him and Mary to attempt to run and hide. Unfortunately, Norman Osborn’s thugs are one step ahead of them, with tragic results. Before they run, however, The parkers drop young Peter off with Richard’s in-Laws Ben and May Parker (Martin Sheen and Sally Field) who raise peter as their own. The set-up/back story set, we jump back into the present where Spidey (Garfield) is in hot pursuit of a group of Russian terrorists who have just hijacked a shipment of radioactive material from — you guessed it — Oscorp.
During the very amazing chase sequence (we totally love the way Spidey gleefully swings thru the city with total abandon — much in the same way we’ve always imagined it while reading his many comics over the past 50+ years) he manages to not only grab up all the radioactive material, and capture the crooks, but prevent numerous accidents and fatalities, — again, just like in the comics themselves. His work as Spider-Man done, he makes it to his high school graduation just in the nickel of time (where he is spotted by everyone’s favorite cameo artist). And now all of the set-up getting taken care of (both back-story and present day setting the scene) we settle into the story proper.
Needless to say (as pointed out at the onset of this review) something we’ve always known about our favorite costumed character, Peter’s most important battles are not so much with a colorful bevy of costumed super-baddies, but within himself. Realistically, his struggle has always been between the real-life, family obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary, super-human responsibilities of being Spider-Man. For him, it has always been a matter of “With Great power must also come great responsibility.” And balancing those two ideals has been something of a struggle for him. Here in this film, director Marc Webb, and writer Alex Kurtzman truly show that, so no, this is not a slam-bang slug fest from beginning to end, and before you ask, no, the comic has never been that either. Under Stan Lee, and all of the better writers who followed him the Spider-Man comic(s) have always been about soap opera punctuated by super-heroics.
So, yeah the film clearly shows how wicked-cool it is to be Spider-Man, (save of course for how it interferes in Peter’s life and all of those super villains who want to dismember him). Needless to say, you can really understand why Peter loves putting on the Spider-suit and swinging through the steel canyons of the Big Apple. Who wouldn’t want to embrace being the hero idolized by an entire city (even if it constantly interferes with his spending time with Gwen). Hence, as pointed out, being the Spider comes at a great price, for in this version of the Marvel film cosmos, only Spider-Man is there to protect his fellow New Yorkers from the fearsome villains that seem to constantly threaten the city.
Continuing the tradition of Marvel films that have come before, there are Easter eggs a-plenty in this film, including Rhino (Giamatti) Harry Osborn’s assistant Felicia (Felicity Jones), fellow Oscorp employee Alistair Smythe (B.J. Novak), Dr. Ashley Kafka (Marton Csokas), the Ravencroft Institute, as well as, well, that would be telling. So when someone tells you that the film sucks, you tell them that they were looking at a different film. For us, so long as these films harken back to the source material — treating it with the respect that it deserves — as well as hold up to their own internal logic while acknowledging the established film continuity, we’re OK with them.
Oh, and yea, sit through the credits to catch an X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.