Blu-ray Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ Lacks Charm of Predecessors

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CHICAGO – Gritty realism proves to be a perfect fit for some superhero franchises, but “Spider-Man” isn’t one of them. The more grounded and practical the world of Peter Parker becomes, the sillier the whole thing gets. Sam Raimi’s trilogy flourished precisely because it resembled a cheerfully vibrant comic book come to life. In contrast, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a bore.

I’ll admit that Raimi’s overstuffed, undercooked “Spider-Man 3” was a good enough reason to, in the words of Todd Akin, “shut the whole thing down,” but since superhero movies have become Hollywood’s bread and butter, Columbia Pictures couldn’t resist prematurely rebooting the franchise. Yet since Raimi’s films are still crystal-clear in most moviegoers’ minds, the studio had quite a challenge in convincing audiences to sit through the same story again. Blu-ray Rating: 2.5/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 2.5/5.0

That’s not to say that director Marc Webb doesn’t try with all of his moviegoing might to make the wholly unnecessary project worthwhile. Webb was an inspired choice for the job since his only previous feature was 2009’s marvelously unconventional rom-com, “(500) Days of Summer.” The director clearly has a knack for exploring the heartache and hormonal ecstasy of relationships, so it’s no surprise the the best scenes in his “Spider-Man” movie are the romantic interludes between Peter (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). The two stars became infatuated with one another onset, and their offscreen chemistry is readily apparent in every frame. They’re so good together that it’s a letdown whenever the plot requires them to separate. For the film’s first hour, Webb offers his own variation on Spider-Man’s origin story, which is severely undermined by multiple flaws. Neither Garfield nor Stone are convincing as high schoolers. They are far too quick-witted and confident to exude the necessary vulnerability, and when Peter finally stands up to the school bully, his triumph is perfunctory rather than thrilling. Other plot points are so hastily assembled that they’re flat-out laughable. The series of bad choices that lead Peter to get bitten by a radioactive spider are no less inane than Charlie and Grandpa Joe’s decision to secretly sample Wonka’s Fizzy Lifting Drinks.

The Amazing Spider-Man was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 9th, 2012.
The Amazing Spider-Man was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 9th, 2012.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Garfield is one of the most gifted actors of his generation and has a body built for spandex, but he’s not the right choice for Peter Parker. He lacks the innocence and fumbling charm that makes Spider-Man’s alter-ego so compelling (my vote would’ve gone to Tyler Ross, star of the acclaimed indies “The Wise Kids” and “Nate & Margaret”). Once the action kicks in during the film’s second half, Webb easily tops Raimi’s swinging sequences, particularly during the spectacularly dizzying climax. Yet despite the solid work of Rhys Ifans, the Jekyll-Hyde villain is tiresomely derivative, especially when he transforms into an animated lizard that growls terse dialogue. This picture is the product of many long hours from many talented people who deserve to put their efforts to better use.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Thai audio tracks, and is available in a combo pack featuring 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and UltraViolet copies of the film. Viewers with an iPad, Sony Tablet S or Xperia Tablet S can download the film’s Second Screen App to view special features while watching the movie. Everyone else can simply peruse the Blu-ray’s extensive array of behind-the-scenes featurettes, including the documentary, “Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn,” which offers nearly two hours of interviews with the cast and crew. Producer Laura Ziskin defends her decision to revamp the series by arguing that the comic book reinvented itself many times. She wanted this series to focus more on Peter’s high school years while bringing a more contemporary tone to the material (Spider-Man chats on his cell-phone!). Webb wanted to emphasize Peter’s status as an orphan and viewed him as less of an awkward nerd than a troubled outcast.

In his audio commentary track, Webb recalls a conversation he had with director Mike Nichols, who told him that an opening scene should always be used a metaphor for the film itself. That’s precisely what Webb attempted in his first sequence, where Peter plays a game of hide and seek with his father, thus illustrating how the entire film is about the boy’s search for his parents. There’s also a sweet moment when Garfield says that working with Stone is like “being bathed in sunlight” (awww). Rounding out the extras are 17 minutes of deleted scenes (which include many of Ifans’ meatier bits), 40 minutes of pre-visualizations, 12 minutes of image progression reels, 12 minutes of stunt rehearsal footage and a production art gallery.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Sally Field. It was written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves and directed by Marc Webb. It was released on November 9th, 2012. It is rated PG-13. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

kelly's picture

Great review Matt! I can’t

Great review Matt! I can’t imagine Spider-man or Andrew Garfield not looking good on Blu-ray, but it sounds like you don’t feel the same way. I have not seen the movie yet, but I’m really looking forward to seeing a more convincing Peter Parker. I always felt Tobey Maguire lacked the passion as Parker and the smart-alecky attitude of Spider-man. Andrew Garfield took my breath away with his performance in Never Let Me Go, so I still have high expectations.

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