Thursday, August 16, 2012


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  Orphaned teen Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) lives with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field).  Shy, awkward Peter, both science whiz and amateur photographer, pines for classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).  During a field trip to Oscorp he meets his late father’s former partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), an amputee working on a technology to regenerate severed limbs.  While off on an unauthorized detour, Peter stumbles across a lab swarming with test spiders.  He’s bitten by one and soon discovers that he now has superhuman, spider-like skills, which he enlists to humiliate the class bully and impress Gwen.  After an armed robber kills Uncle Ben, Peter designs a special suit with web-shooting apparatus and uses these skills to track the killer while cleaning up the streets in the process.  His vigilante justice brings unwanted police attention from Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), Gwen’s father.  Meanwhile Dr. Connors caves to pressure from a shadowy benefactor and uses himself as a test subject for the regeneration serum.  His severed arm grows back, but he suffers the unexpected side effect of turning into a giant, rampaging lizard man.  Peter will need all his skills and courage (and the help of Gwen and her father) to stop Connor a/k/a The Lizard.  To remake the Spider-Man origin story a mere ten years after Sam Raimi’s blockbuster (and five years after the last SPIDER-MAN film) is a risky gambit, and one that periodically pays off.  The screenplay by James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves feels less episodic than its predecessor and has stronger character arcs.  Director Marc Webb takes a decade’s worth of special effect technology and creates a seamless, sophisticated visual style.  Ifans makes for a sympathetic villain, while Stone gives Gwen ample resourcefulness and courage.  Garfield, though, lacks the screen charisma of a Tobey Maguire, and his overreliance on teen angst becomes tedious.  The film’s biggest obstacle, however, is familiarity, which, despite many improvements over the Raimi original, this film never fully overcomes.

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