Complete with gratuitous 3-D, CGI villains and magic science, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is just the movie that America needs around the Fourth of July. Shedding the thematic darkness of the comic books’ previous incarnations, Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man takes a younger, fresher and cleaner take on the tale.
Since the conclusion of the last “Spider-Man” trilogy, the graphics have gotten better and the spandex has gotten tighter. The feisty Mary Jane has been replaced with a sweeter Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Things explode, buildings crumble and (spoiler alert!) justice prevails. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is all fun and games and no subtlety, and for the most part, that’s okay.
The acting saves this movie from mediocrity. “Spider-Man’s” lackluster script is carried by the strength of its cast, bringing solid performances from leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as well as Sally Field and Martin Sheen, who play Parker’s relatives, without falling into caricature.
Garfield has surprising charisma for probably the least eloquent superhero of all time. His take on the character is unique; Garfield’s Parker is friendless but not lonely, smart but not nerdy. His Spider-Man remains endearing, and his comical attempts at trash talk as he adjusts to his vigilante lifestyle make it easy to root for him.
However, when Peter Parker’s distinguishing trait is his youthful gracelessness, you lose some of the ethical complications the series prided itself on; Parker the goofy skateboarder doesn’t the same carry moral weight as Parker the cage fighter does. Garfield takes a shorter route to self-discovery, portraying a more black-and-white relationship with the criminal underworld.
The prize for effort goes to Emma Stone. “She’s pretty,” Uncle Ben and Aunt May say about Gwen on two separate occasions, and Peter nods. Given the way Gwen was written, what else was there to say? All of Gwen’s character comes from Emma Stone’s quirks. Miss Stone adds a pinch of spunk to the complacent, doe-eyed schoolgirl, bringing some easy laughs and leaving hope for some character development in the inevitable next movie.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” was nice, simple and left me with no compelling reason to ever see or think about it again. I’ll even consider seeing the sequel on the condition that the writers upgrade that half-hearted smooch on the balcony. Next time around, I demand an upside-down kiss!