Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’: Keeps on swinging

By
From page A9 | July 06, 2012 | Leave Comment

 ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’

Four stars

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, C. Thomas Howell

Rating: PG-13, for action violence

I dunno about the rest of you, but if a geeky, under-nourished kid in my high school class suddenly made an impossible, ceiling-scratching leap to slam-dunk a basketball with enough force to shatter the backboard — in front of dozens of witnesses, no less — and then, a few days later, media outlets began to report a mysterious, unusually strong and limber “vigilante” prowling the streets of my fair city … I do believe it’d be fairly easy to connect the dots.

I mean, really; Lois Lane might be excused for her repeated failure to see Superman behind Clark Kent’s glasses, but a gymnasium filled with teenagers will get mighty suspicious when rail-thin Peter Parker pulls off a stunt like that.

As it happens, Peter is cavalier about his newly acquired talents in all sorts of ways, but that’s kinda cool; as this re-booted “Amazing Spider-Man” repeatedly demonstrates, the whole concept of a “secret identity” isn’t something that would come naturally. This film’s writers — James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves — take a looser, messier approach to the Spider-Man mythos, which better reflects the way an angst-ridden teen might adapt to such a situation.

Or so it seems, anyway.

Andrew Garfield — well remembered from “Never Let Me Go” and “The Social Network” — is by far this new film’s strongest asset. His Peter Parker is gangly, clumsy, socially inept and wholly overwhelmed by events completely beyond his comprehension. In short, he’s the perfect dweeb, and therefore an ideal underdog: a kid we hope can get the girl and defeat the villain … not necessarily in that order.

Garfield stammers, stutters, blushes and evades his way through most conversations and interactions, both as we first meet his hapless, hopeless “normal” self, and later, after being bitten by the radioactive spider that unleashes all sorts of havoc within the poor lad’s body. The immediate result may be increased strength and agility — not to mention “sticky” fingers and toes, the better to scuttle up vertical surfaces — but such newly acquired talents certainly don’t come with an instruction manual.

Although what I’m inclined to call “Spider-Man 2.0” more or less follows the core elements of the mythos established by Marvel Comics, this film’s scripters take a few liberties. Thus, the early loss of Peter’s parents is tied somehow to a mysterious research institute called OsCorp, where Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), investigating cross-species DNA as a possible means of regenerating his right arm, once worked alongside Peter’s father.

But that was years ago; since then, Peter has been raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Peter’s high school life is a daily exercise in frustration, whether worshiping the gorgeous Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) from afar, or enduring the brutal bullying of Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka).

The chance discovery of his father’s research notes propels Peter to OsCorp and a meeting with Dr. Connors; by coincidence, Gwen also works there as a senior intern. Although it’s clear that Connors is in league with some Very Bad Folks, at heart he seems a decent man who genuinely appreciates Peter’s scientific expertise.

Cue Peter’s encounter with the fateful radioactive spider, and the subsequent tragedy that propels his frenzied transformation into nighttime vigilante; cue, as well, the “mysterious imperative” that prompts Dr. Connors to imprudently test a new serum on himself. The latter results are disastrous; as all longtime Marvel Comics readers know, Dr. Connors successfully regains his arm … while changing into the scaly, ferocious and totally insane Lizard.

Unlike all other Marvel superheroes thus far brought to the big screen, who operate legitimately within view of the law, Peter’s impetuous and often ill-advised activities as Spider-Man immediately brand him an outlaw. This brings him to the attention of police Capt. Stacy (Denis Leary), who — wouldn’t you know it — just happens to be Gwen’s father.

I grew up on Spider-Man comics, and I must admit that Stone is the perfect personification of Gwen Stacy: just the right blend of intelligence, sensitivity and, yes, adorable good looks. As also is true of Garfield, Stone still looks young enough to fit the high school environment with reasonable credibility, and Gwen’s blossoming attraction to Peter feels just right.

Sheen and Field also are excellent, as Uncle Ben and Aunt May; they share a loving, mildly prickly dynamic that bespeaks a strong, decades-old bond. Sheen, in particular, gives just the right reading to the advice Ben dispenses to Peter, as the poor lad becomes progressively overwhelmed by events.

Leary, as well, makes a great Capt. Stacy: appropriately wary of this rather weird young man suddenly courting his daughter, and wholly believable as a law-and-order advocate who loathes the “interference” of somebody like Spider-Man. And the script grants Leary just enough snarky dialogue to satisfy fans of that long-established aspect of the actor’s persona.

Indeed, all the characters — and their various interactions — are skillfully handled by director Marc Webb; I’d expect no less from the guy who helmed “(500) Days of Summer.”

As the narrative progresses, the film gets many things right. Unlike the smooth, math-paper-perfect arcs that characterized the web-slinging in the original three-film series, Peter’s efforts here are sloppy and chaotic, with numerous missed leaps and swings, and lots of slamming into the sides of buildings and other projections. Honestly, that feels more real.

I like the way Flash Thompson’s character is handled, as the story progresses, and this film also boasts the funniest — and most clever — cameo ever granted Marvel Comics stalwart Stan Lee.

On the other hand, a few plot points and story decisions are puzzling, even disappointing. Crusading newspaperman J. Jonah Jameson, the editor of the Daily Bugle who loathes Spider-Man, is nowhere to be found; indeed, we get only brief lip-service to the existence of the Bugle. Peter’s hobby as a photographer also is handled clumsily here: somewhat significant in the first act, wholly forgotten as the film continues.

All in all, though, this is a well-crafted summer popcorn flick that is further strengthened by adept casting and solid performances. I still don’t understand why Sony felt it necessary to re-boot the character after a three-film series that concluded only five years ago (!), but this new effort certainly won’t tarnish the franchise. Far from it: I’m ready to enjoy Garfield’s second go at the Peter Parker story … which I’m sure is in the works.

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at derrickbang.blogspot.com. Comment on this review at www.davisenterprise.com

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

 
Chuck Rairdan joins school board race

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 3 Comments

Going green at church, school, everywhere

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Former caretaker convicted of murder, elder abuse

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Old friend helps Brad and others find kidneys

By Dave Jones | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Ukraine insurgents reject call to quit buildings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 6 Comments

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

UCD to host Global Health Day event

By Cory Golden | From Page: A2

 
‘Hitchhiking’ dog looking for new home

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Online K-12 school holds info night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Schwenger lawn signs available

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

Volunteers needed for Grad Night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Davis grad makes rain collection a business

By Jason McAlister | From Page: A4 | Gallery

A few spots left on history tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Chipotle fundraiser boosts Emerson tech upgrade

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Event to provide nature scholarship

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Students have new options on leasing front

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Groups join for a day of service

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
NAMI backers walk in Sacramento

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Food for the hungry

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

.

Forum

Dad makes mom look bad

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
Early help is a great investment

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

More tax money? Answer the question

By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
UCD IS responsible for students

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

In search of great ideas

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Please keep the nursery open

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

.

Sports

Sharks double up Kings in Game 1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Aggies lose a slugfest in opener at Riverside

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Fox coming to UCD; Riffle heads to Florida

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
DHS’ Golston goes full-bore on the diamond

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils show more life in loss to Mitty

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
DYSA roundup: Intensity has big week; 10U games dominate schedule

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Sports briefs: Aggies set the academic bar high

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Pro baseball roundup: Susac sends Sacramento to a rare loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

‘Transcendence’: A whole new level of tedium

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
‘The Bloom’ paves way for Whole Earth Festival

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

DHS tribute to Tony Fields slated for April 25-26

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
UCD, city team up for Music on the Green

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

Ford turns its Focus to domestic market

By Ali Arsham | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, April 18, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A9

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

Lyon Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

Yolo FCU

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Acacia at Huntington Square

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Jamie Madison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Travis Credit Union

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

Kim Eichorn

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Suzanne Kimmel

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Lynne Wegner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Kim Merrel Lamb

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Patricia Echevarria

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Chris Snow

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Andrew Dowling

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Sheryl Patterson

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Don Guthrie

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Julie Partain & Dick Partain

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Heather Barnes

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Malek Baroody

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER13

Willowbank Park

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Team Traverso

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Julie Leonard

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Tim Harrison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Tracy Harris

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Lori Prizmich

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Raul Zamora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Joe Kaplan

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

Open House Map

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

F1rst Street Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20