Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary
Director: Marc Webb
Showing: Neptune Cinema week of Friday, July 20. For more information call 292-7296.
Tickets: Buy tickets online
Runtime: 136 minutes
We've been here before with Peter Parker, the bright but socially awkward teenager who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and develops extraordinary powers. The last time was 10 years ago, when Tobey Maguire played Parker for director Sam Raimi.
But filmmaking technology has made tremendous leaps over the ensuing decade, while the genre of comic-book superhero movies has grown ridiculously cluttered.
Part of the reason The Amazing Spider-Man feels so fresh and invigorating is that its story is so simple and its protagonist so relatable. Instead of a billionaire playboy or a Norse God who can beckon thunder, you get a teenager trying to survive adolescence just like everyone else, except his hormones aren't entirely human, and his puberty will be more torturous than most.
As Parker, Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) looks just young enough to pass for 17, and he sells the illusion with a terrific physical performance: He's all wild arm movements and impatient leg twitches, constantly thrumming with a pent-up energy that will serve him well in short time.
Peter is a brainy, self-aware outcast who has never gotten over being abandoned by his parents. He doesn't let anyone get emotionally close other than the uncle (Martin Sheen) and aunt (Sally Field) who have raised him. So when Peter falls for the beautiful Gwen Stacy (a hugely appealing Emma Stone), and she seems to reciprocate his interest, you share his enthusiasm and excitement, the sugary thrill of that ever-important First Love.
The movie involves you with this sweet, likable couple, and some of the film's best beats belong to them (such as a scene in which Gwen must keep her father, played by Denis Leary, from realizing Peter has snuck into her bedroom). But then there's the matter of that spider, and a well-intentioned scientist (Rhys Ifans) who is experimenting with reptile DNA in hopes of someday growing his missing arm back.
The movie takes its time gradually hooking you on an emotional level. It draws you close: Then, mayhem.
The action is clear and easy to follow but also imaginatively staged, like comic-book panels (the sequence in which Parker discovers his powers while riding a subway car is a marvel of choreography and editing). There are several point-of-view shots of Spider-Man swinging through the canyons of Manhattan where the 3D gives you a giddy, elevating rush.
Despite its enormous size - this is an expensive-looking movie - The Amazing Spider-Man always remains intimate in scope, with Peter and Gwen front and center.
The question that's been hanging over The Amazing Spider-Man since the cameras started rolling was whether it was too soon to reboot the franchise. Did we really need another one? As long as it's this much fun - yes, yes, we do.
Also showing at Neptune: Madea's Witness Protection