Movie Review: "The Amazing Spider-Man"

After a long hiatus in Hollywood, Spider-Man is back on the big screen. Is he worth your movie money?

While 2000’s X-Men movie was relatively successful, the comic book superhero movie craze that is worth over a billion dollars today began with 2002’s Spider-Man directed by Sam Raimi, the first film that proved to Hollywood that expensive blockbusters about role models in spandex could be marketable. Similarly, 2004’s Spider-Man 2 proved to critics that these same movies could provide emotionally fulfilling character arcs while still being visually pleasing and bombastic. 2007’s Spider-Man 3, however, was panned by audiences and critics alike, and represented the end of the goofy comic book movie. Now, five years and a multitude of franchises later, Hollywood has come back to the drawing board, hoping that Spider-Man can be marketable again.

Not only have we seen a cinematic rendition of Spider-Man before, we also expect superhero movies that are more serious and down-to-earth thanks to the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise. As expected, The Amazing Spider-Man takes itself a bit more seriously than Raimi’s films did. The colors are darker, the stakes are bigger, and everything, from the villains to New York City itself, is a bit more menacing. Luckily, there are still many comedic and light-hearted moments, and the premise of a teenage boy bitten by a radioactive spider isn’t grounded in complete realism. While we get the same origin story that everyone knows, this Spider-Man takes multiple storylines from the character’s canon and blends them together to please fans of the comic and deliver a fresh take on the character.

But not only is a more serious tone expected this time around. With Twilight in the public zeitgeist, the studios want a teen romance that can bring a new fanbase in. Cue casting the dreamy Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) and Emma Stone (Easy A, Zombieland, Crazy Stupid Love) as Peter Parker / Spider-Man and his first love interest Gwen Stacy (yes, not Mary Jane; here’s a  change true to the comics that also provides for a new franchise).

That being said, the romance isn’t as shallow or dumb as that of the Twilight films. Director Marc Webb’s (insert obligatory joke about Webb and spiders) previous and only film is the anti-romantic indie sensation (500) Days of Summer. His eye for teenage angst and romance is incredibly useful when it comes to a teenage franchise such as this, for the love story in Spider-Man is refreshingly believable, unlike most action film romances that feel shoehorned in.

Webb’s eye for character also shows in the performances his actors deliver. Garfield is a more fitting Spider-Man and Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire was, an emotional boy both excited and confused by his newly bestowed power and responsibility. While Stone is slightly bland on her own as Gwen Stacy, her and Garfield have a lovely rapport. Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) is delightful as Dr. Curt Conners aka the film’s villian The Lizard, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field (Forrest Gump, Mrs. Doubtfire) are great as Uncle Ben and Aunt May.

Beyond the strong human elements, The Amazing Spider-Man is yet another studio comic book release. The superhero origin story is as predictable as ever, and while many of the action scenes are fun, there is nothing supremely new or exciting on display. However, it is a testament to Webb’s eye for plot that I am looking forward to the sequels for the development of Spider-Man as a character, not for explosions and battles. While The Amazing Spider-Man is nothing remarkable, it is entertaining enough to watch, and hopefully the start of a quality franchise.

Here's a look at what's showing in local movie theaters beginning Friday:

Lark Theater


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: 5:15 p.m.

Prometheus: 8 p.m.


Les Contes D'Hoffmann: 10 a.m.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: 5:15 p.m.

Prometheus: 8 p.m.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: 5:15 p.m.

Prometheus: 8 p.m.

Century Cinema Corte Madera

Amazing Spider-Man: 1 p.m.

Amazing Spider-Man (3D): 4 p.m., 7 p.m., 10 p.m.

Century Larkspur Landing

Ice Age: Continental Drift: 9:40 p.m.

Ice Age: Continental Drift (3D): 7:15 p.m.

Magic Mike: 5:15 p.m., 7:50 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

Ted: 5:25 p.m., 8 p.m., 10:35 p.m.

Brave: 5 p.m., 10:10 p.m.

Brave (3D): 7:30 p.m.

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