3 Stars — Thought-provoking
The thought of a human having spider strength, agility and senses captures our imagination. Created by Stan Lee in 1963, this latest presentation of The Amazing Spider-Man demonstrates both the growth of the legend and the maturation of the cinematic arts.
Directed by Marc Webb and written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves, the character development in this film is as complex and compelling as the action. This may be in part due to the writing of Sargent, who wrote Ordinary People, and Kloves, who wrote Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 & 2.
In this latest reboot of the tale, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is far more than a comic book character. We not only meet his parents the night they left him as a child, but we also realize they have something to do with his eventual spider enhancement.
This mystery is central to this film, and in a tease during the final credits, it is clear this will be central to the next film as well. Leaving him with his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and aunt May (Sally Field), their disappearance is never explained, but it is hinted that they disappeared out of principle.
Staying true to the affable, good-hearted teen of Marvel comic fame, Parker demonstrates his courage and willingness to help the underdog when he stops Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) from bullying another student at school, only to be beaten up by him. But Parker’s courage catches the attention of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a young woman who has already captured his heart. It is this romance that allows Parker to stay grounded in what happens next.
Discovering that his father was a partner with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), Parker researches him online and finds him at a large research facility working on cross-species genetic engineering. When he visits him at the facility, he not only discovers that Gwen works there but also that they have specially engineered spiders. It is there that he is bitten.
We won’t spoil the story by explaining more, but the underlying battle between good and evil is as complex as everything else. Not only does Parker struggle to find his appropriate response to the power he has and the vengeance he seeks, but the villain is motivated by altruistic intentions as well as self-interest and uncontrollable violence. Wanting to provide humanity with the genetic ability to restore lost arms and legs, he works with lizard DNA. However, the reptilian aggression comes along with the restoration. It is this loss of his true self that creates a fascinating study of evil and how good can defeat it.
The Amazing Spider-Man is both entertaining and thought-provoking with an excellent cast of actors.
» The thought that we could become part animal with enhanced abilities is a fascinating premise. Do you believe this will ever be possible? Do you think this would be a step forward or backward for humanity? Why?
» The struggle that Spider-Man has with putting his beloved Gwen in danger is exacerbated by her protective father, Capt. Stacy (Denis Leary). What do you believe Parker should do: continue his relationship with Gwen or end it? Why do you answer as you do?
» The acceptance Gwen has of Parker being Spider-Man is quick and seemingly easy. If you discovered that your lover had been hiding a huge secret from you, would you continue your relationship with him or her? Where would you draw the line of accepting his or her secret life?
— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.