Thursday Night Movie Club
The Amazing Spider-Man
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Release Date: 3 July 2012

Director: Marc Webb
Andrew Garfield
Emma Stone
Rhys Ifans
Denis Leary
Martin Sheen
Sally Field
Irrfan Khan
Campbell Scott
Embeth Davidtz
Chris Zylka
Max Charles
C. Thomas Howell
Jake Keiffer
Kari Coleman
Spider-Man / Peter Parker
Gwen Stacy
The Lizard / Dr. Curt Connors
Captain Stacy
Uncle Ben
Aunt May
Rajit Ratha
Richard Parker
Mary Parker
Flash Thompson
Peter Parker (Age 4)
Jack's Father
Helen Stacy
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Andrew Garfield as the Amazing Spider-ManFinally, a Spider-Man movie that gets Peter Parker right, thanks to Andrew Garfield's wonderful performance. The Amazing Spider-Man is a very good movie. The film is another origin tale recounting how Peter Parker (Garfield) gets bitten by a genetically altered spider and attains super-human abilities. However, this origin story is far different from the one told in the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire trilogy. The story line is more complex, adding previously unknown elements about the disappearance of Peter's parents.

A young Peter, age 4, is playing hide-and-seek with his father Richard Parker (Scott) when Peter discovers that the window in Richard's study is open. Richard immediately panics fearing his research has been compromised. He grabs a hidden folder, erases the mathematical equations on a black board and packs up the family. Richard and his wife Mary (Davidtz) leave Peter in the care of his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). They disappear without a trace. Peter never learns why his parents “abandoned” him.

12 or so years later, Peter is now in high school. He has grown into a nerdy, but brilliant science student. Uncle Ben's influence is beginning to show on Peter. Peter intervenes when Flash Thompson(Zylka) is bullying another student. Peter is promptly beaten by Flash. Ah youth! Peter's efforts do not go unnoticed by fellow science whiz Gwen Stacy (Stone).

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-ManOn the day that will forever change Peter Parker, he finds his father's old brief case. The case contains his father's hidden research papers. His father had worked at Oscorp, founded by Norman Osborne. Richard Parker collaborated with Dr. Curt Connors, who is still employed at Oscorp. Peter goes out-on-a-limb and sneaks in to Oscorp hoping to meet Dr. Connors. To their mutual surprise, Peter runs into Gwen, who is interning with Connors.

While going through Gwen's tour of the facilities, Peter discovers the same symbol he found in his father's papers. His father's research is still proceeding and Connors is at the forefront. The ever clever Peter enters a hidden lab where he finds the results of years of research creating a biocable, a very strong yet very thin synthetic spider web. Peter's curiosity causes the release of dozens of genetically altered spiders, one eventually bites Peter. The world will never be the same.

The change to Peter is almost immediate. Startled from sleep on an “L” train, Peter suddenly finds himself sticking to the ceiling of the car. Peter's new found ability to stick to objects results in his inadvertently tearing off a woman's blouse. Suddenly, an apologetic Peter is swinging around the car beating up anyone who tries to take a swing at him. This is a fantastic scene of camera and editing technique.

Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors in The Amazing Spider-ManIn anther wonderfully funny sequence, Peter is unable to handle the most routine tasks at home. Putting tooth paste on a toothbrush ends in disaster. Turning the water faucet results in him tearing the knob off of the sink. The bathroom is wrecked!

Life is not going very well on the home front. First, Peter gives Flash a taste of his own medicine, teasing Flash on the basketball court. Uncle Ben is called away from work to meet with the principal. He is not thrilled with the loss of income. Peter begins working with Dr. Connors on his father's research and forgets about picking up his Aunt. Peter's anger at his parent's abandonment years ago comes boiling to the surface and he storms out of the house. Uncle Ben follows Peter to try and sort things out. At a local food store, poor Peter can't even buy some soda because he is two cents short. When the store clerk leaves the front, the person behind Peter robs the store throwing the soda can to Peter. The fleeing robber runs right into Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben tries to do the right thing by stopping the robber. He is shot and dies before Peter's eyes.

Peter becomes a vengeful vigilante. He creates a costume to hide his identity and builds his own web-shooters to help as he scourers the city searching high and low for the man who murdered Uncle Ben. He quickly pops up on the police radar and especially Police Captain Stacy (Leary), Gwen's father. Stacy puts out an All-Points-Bulletin for the arrest of the vigilante known as Spider-Man! Not quite what Uncle Ben would have wanted for his nephew's future.

Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors in The Amazing Spider-ManLife isn't going to well for Dr. Connors. With Peter's help, he has found a way to combine lizard dna with other animals in order to regenerate lost limbs. Connors had lost his right arm years ago and is anxious to find a solution to his own dilemma. He is under extreme pressure from Rajit Ratha (Khan) at Oscorp. Norman Osborn is terminally ill and Connors' research may save his life. Ratha insists on immediate human testing. Connors uses himself as the guinea pig. At first, the test goes extremely well. Connors' arm regenerates over night. But the regeneration process does not stop there. He mutates into one of Spider-Man fans most beloved villains, The Lizard! Like Jurassic Park, Connors forges ahead with his research without thinking whether he should.

Connors' transformation occurs at the wrong time and in the wrong place. He is in the back of a cab traveling across a crowded New York bridge. The Lizard goes on a rampage wrecking cars with ease. Spider-Man intervenes. Spider-Man/Peter is faced with a dilemma: Chase the Lizard or save a young boy trapped in a car hanging from a web over the river. “It is not our abilities that define us, but the choices we make.” The vigilante becomes a hero by making the right choice.

Denis Leary as Det. Stacy in The Amazing Spider-ManThe complexities of The Amazing Spider-Man make the Sam Raimi trilogy look like a comic book. Peter's debate with Captain Stacy regarding Spider-Man, Peter asking Gwen out for a date in which neither one actually says the word date, and the question of whether Spider-Man will kill the Lizard or save Dr. Connors combine to make this movie special.

Director Marc Webb does an excellent job in rebooting the franchise. He insists on Garfield actually swinging around a sound stage. The result is a more realistic look to The Amazing Spider-Man than the computer-generated effects of the Raimi version. The script and characters have much more depth. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is unmistakeable. Garfield and the script writers do a much better job depicting the personality change from Parker as Peter and Parker as Spider-Man. Spider-Man is more of a wise-ass, because he can. Nobody knows who, or what, is underneath that costume.

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-ManThe supporting cast is excellent. Every actor nails their respective parts. Rhys Ifans as Dr. Connors/The Lizard has the hardest part. He represents the father Peter never knew but becomes the demented monster as his experiment goes horribly wrong. Sheen is great as Uncle Ben. Ben tries to teach Peter about his responsibilities, but one small misspoken phrase is enough to set Peter off. Field plays Aunt May as the kindly woman who shows more knowledge and emotion through her looks and gestures than any spoken word delivered.

The special effects are spectacular. Spider-Man looks like an actual, physical being. You get a real sense of how fast the webs shoot out of Peter's mechanical web shooters. Raimi made the mistake of having Spider-Man's web-slinging ability a part of Peter's mutation. The mechanical devices are more interesting in that Spider-Man can run out of web fluid or the shooters can be broken.

Humor is more prevalent in The Amazing Spider-Man. Physical and verbal jokes come out of no where. Sometimes the jokes enhance the clumsy blossoming of Peter's love life. Others are the cocky Spider-Man. And some just show teenagers at their best. In one example, Spider-Man is trying to track the Lizard's movements. He shoots webs in all directions hoping the Lizard will trip one. While Peter waits for the inevitable, he sits in the middle of his web playing games on his cell phone. Wonderful!

Enjoy! And now the wait begins for the sequel.