The Amazing Spider-Man (PG-13)
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This came out in 2012, but I didn't see it until 2015, by which time there was already a sequel, with plans for more films to come. This is the first in a rebooted continuity, which is not related to the previous series of Spider-Man films directed by Sam Raimi. The new franchise is directed by Marc Webb (which I think is a cool name for someone involved with Spider-Man movies). Anyway... I didn't like this movie as much as I did the original franchise, though in some ways I might say it was a better film than the first of Raimi's movies. Probably a bit truer to the comics, though again, I can't really say, since I haven't actually read the comics. I mentioned in my review of Spider-Man 3 that Gwen Stacy was a minor character in that movie, but a major character in the animated series The Spectacular Spider-Man. And in Raimi's movies I was a Peter/Mary Jane shipper, whereas in that cartoon I was a Peter/Gwen shipper. Well, MJ isn't even in this movie, and for now, I am officially Team Gwen, as far as the Webb franchise is concerned. She really does seem a better match for Peter, because she's not just some damsel in distress, but his equal in terms of both brains and bravery.
But I get ahead of myself. Um... the movie actually starts when Peter Parker is a little boy, and we get to see a bit of his parents, Richard and Mary, who drop him off with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), ostensibly to stay with them for a little while. (I don't recall having ever seen or heard anything about his parents in any other incarnation with which I'm familiar.) However, it was pretty clear that his parents were in some kind of danger, and were about to go on the run. The movie immediately flashes forward to Peter as a teenager in high school (now played by Andrew Garfield), and he hasn't seen his parents in years. (I'm not entirely sure if they're dead, or still in hiding, or what.) Anyway, Peter is a photographer, and he's very interested in science. And he sticks up for a kid who's getting bullied by Flash Thompson, though Flash also beats up Peter. However, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) takes an interest in Peter. Later, Peter learns that his father had worked with a scientist named Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), at a company called Oscorp. One day, Peter sneaks into Oscorp, joining a group of interns on a tour being conducted by Gwen, who has an after school job there. When Peter ditches the group to do some exploring of restricted areas, he ends up getting bitten by a spider that was part of some kind of experiment.
Later, Peter discovers all kinds of strange new powers... enhanced senses and reflexes, speed and strength, and um... sticky fingers. It takes him awhile to get the hang of all this, but before he does, his powers get him into (and out of) some trouble. After that, he goes to visit Dr. Connors, who is working on a way to use animal DNA to potentially cure certain problems people may have, such as his own missing arm. (Using lizard DNA, he might be able to regenerate a new arm.) Unbeknownst to Peter, Connors himself is under pressure from a guy named Dr. Ratha, who works for Norman Osborn, the head of Oscorp, who is dying. Osborn needs Connors's research to be completed in a hurry, in order to save his life. (We never actually see Osborn, in this movie.) But Connors, in spite of some success with help from Peter, isn't ready to start human trials of the serum he developed.
Anyway, Peter has some fun at school, using his new powers to get back at Flash for all the bullying he'd endured. But things get out of hand, and that leads to trouble between Peter and his Uncle Ben. Of course, as we all know, any origin story for Spider-Man has to include Ben being killed, and Peter feeling guilty about that. This time it happens a bit differently from how I'm used to, but it's still a major turning point in the story. After Ben dies, Peter starts going out looking for the guy who killed him. (He never finds him, in this movie.) But in the course of his nightly searches, he stops other criminals. And he makes a mask for himself, and later an entire costume. And he makes some web-shooters, which actually use technology that had been developed by Oscorp. He starts getting a reputation around the city as a crimefighter, but the police are not fans, to say the least. And the one who is most opposed to Spider-Man's actions is Gwen's father, Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary). Which makes things... interesting... when Gwen invites Peter to her family's apartment for dinner. (But it probably would have been awkward for a first date to be at a family dinner, under any circumstances.)
Meanwhile, Dr. Ratha is impatient with Dr. Connors's progress, and plans to shut his project down, and start human trials of the serum himself, while lying to his test subjects about what he's doing. Connors wants to stop him, so he tests the serum on himself... and ends up not only regenerating his missing arm, but turning into a giant lizard-man, who wreaks havoc. Spider-Man then has to try to stop the Lizard, and in the process he becomes more concerned with really helping people, instead of just having fun and seeking vengeance. But he still has to avoid the police, who see both Spider-Man and the Lizard as serious threats.
Beyond that, I don't want to reveal any more of the plot. But it really was nice to see both Gwen and George playing important roles in the story. (Spidey couldn't have beaten the Lizard without help from both of them.) And it was nice to see some of the people of New York lending Spidey a hand, too. And um... it was neat that Peter's initial inspiration for a mask was a poster of a luchador mask (though unlike some incarnations of the story, this time he never actually does any wrestling). And it's nice to see a take on Spider-Man that is darker than the Raimi films, but also makes an effort to have Spidey make some humorous quips during some of his fights, which has always been a hallmark of the character. And of course the special effects are cool. And there's some very serious drama and pathos, and it seems near the end that Peter is forced to make a difficult decision about his future with Gwen, just as the character did about MJ in the other franchise's first film... however, there's a line at the very end that's actually more hopeful on that front. So that was a nice change. But in spite of all the things I liked about the movie, I still thought it could have been better, especially in the early part of the film. It took quite awhile for things to really start getting interesting, but once they did... well, it was good. (For probably about the first half of the movie, I was thinking of rating it something like three smileys, and by the end I was thinking more like four... but I ultimately decided to give it a heart instead. Not so much because I really loved it, but more because I just wanted to rate it higher than I did Spider-Man 3.)
Oh, and there's a bonus scene a little way into the closing credits, which presumably sets up the next film....