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New Release Review - The Amazing Spider-Man

Directed by: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone,Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Denis Leary, Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, C. Thomas Howell

While searching for clues to his father's disappearance, high school student Garfield is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains super-powers.

Much of the press around this reboot has focused on the fact that it's a mere ten years since Sam Raimi gave us his interpretation of the famous story. I myself scoffed originally but then realised two important facts. First of all I hated Raimi's film. Secondly this is nothing new, it was quite common practice back in the thirties and forties. Movies like "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Front Page" were remade far more successfully less than a decade later. With this in mind I went in to this latest incarnation with more of an open mind than I suspect the general public will.
As a child I was obsessed with Spiderman. Before I discovered the joy of movies and music, comics were my obsession and Spidey was my favorite. For better or worse I learned the art of sarcasm from the webbed one. I lived through the great eighties storylines penned by Steve Ditko and it was his byline that made me realise the importance in art of a singular vision. I would look for his name in other Marvel comics, knowing if a title were written by him it would be something special. I was exercising the auteur theory long before I would watch my first Hitchcock movie. Speaking of Hitch, there are several nods to him on display here.
The main writer behind this reincarnation is James Vanderbilt, responsible for the script for my favorite movie of the noughties, David Fincher's "Zodiac". It's a perfect choice given the similarities between the story of Peter Parker and that of Jake Gyllenhaal's character in the Fincher movie. Another important element is that the city of San Francisco was as much a character in "Zodiac" as New York is in the Spider-man comics. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko have added to the mythology of the Big Apple through comics in the same way as Allen, Scorsese and Cohen have in movies and Auster, Price and Lethem have in literature. Unlike the generic surroundings of Raimi's movie, there's no doubt as to what city this is set in, from the glow of yellow taxis lining the skyscraper canyons through which Garfield swings Tarzan-like to the Gershwinesque score by James Horner. Garfield even discovers his new powers while riding the subway.
Unlike Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, Garfield and Stone are quality actors who sell their awkward courtship brilliantly. The highlight of the film is their first kiss, Garfield using his new powers to pull a slick move Rhett Butler would be proud of. Despite being 28, Garfield is totally convincing as a high schooler. The supporting cast is made up of great character actors, Sheen as Uncle Ben is a magnetic presence, written like a blue collar Jed Bartlet. It's a shame he can't play a bigger role but the mythology is adhered to.
Ultimately however this falls into the same third act trap as all recent superhero movies, a protracted and tiresome battle between the hero and a giant super-villain. The more character based first half of the movie is thoroughly enjoyable but the plot oriented second half is a bit of a drag. As is par for the course with the modern blockbuster, the movie is thirty minutes too long.
Those complaints aside it's certainly the most fun superhero movie we've had in a while and even without the comic book plot it's one of the more enjoyable romances you'll see this year.
7/10

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