Thursday, July 5, 2012
The Amazing Spider-Man
For summer moviegoers choosing among blockbusters, the entertaining and action-packed "The Amazing Spider-Man" offers good value for money. Its most valuable asset is the up-and-coming star Andrew Garfield, who first made a big impression in the science-fiction romance "Never Let Me Go." There's a twinkle in Garfield's soulful, imperceptibly sad eyes that suggests an intelligence to which Tobey Maguire could scarcely aspire, and a fresh-faced openness that juxtaposes intriguingly with his introspective, vaguely brooding gait.
Garfield plays the young Peter Parker, abandoned by his mother and scientist father Richard as a young boy and left in the care of his aunt May (Sally Field) and uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) (not one rice joke?). Peter is bullied at school, but pretty Gwen Stacy (Emma Watson) cottons to him. Coincidentally, she leads the internship program at Oscorp, where the eminent geneticist Dr. Curt Connors, Richard Parker's former colleague, aims to develop cures for human diseases through cross-breeding among animal species. Searching for clues about his father's disappearance, Peter tries to get close to Connors (Rhys Ifans), and Gwen doesn't blow his cover (Watson's part is more reactive than proactive). Ifans, who threw himself brilliantly into his lead in last year's "Mr. Nice," can't draw blood from the underwritten stone of his character here.
While juggling his personal odyssey with schoolwork and a nascent love life, Peter, who was bitten by a spider in an Oscorp species-combining lab and has developed superhuman strength and gluey hands (watch him taunt his chief antagonist to try to take his basketball back), finds time to patrol the nighttime backstreets of New York as Spider-Man, exacting vigilante justice and searching for the star-tattooed left arm of the thief who killed his uncle in a botched robbery. Gwen's dad happens to be the Chief of Police (Denis Leary), who views the anonymous masked man not as a hero but as a criminal himself.
The movie, which cost upwards of $200 million to make, really takes off during these kinetic flights up and down and through the skyscrapers of Gotham. (We see Spidey plan his course across town from building to building the way most of us would use Google Maps.) Even some of the simplest green-screen sequences evince an intoxicating, vertiginous bravura that thrills and delights. And while Garfield may not be an intuitive choice for the role, his sweetness forges an instant bond with the audience that lets us see past the movie's flaws and anticipate the next installment.