On the Charlie Rose Show the last week of June, Webb said he wanted Spider-Man to be more accessible and naturalistic. With that comment, Webb shows he truly understands Spider-Man’s enduring appeal. Through Andrew Garfield’s masterful, nuanced performance, I found myself much more engaged with the character. Even before the spider bites Peter, thereby conferring extraordinary powers, he’s an appealing, awkward teenager, astonished and thrilled to discover his newfound, accidental abilities.
The plot mines familiar terrain. Early on, Peter gets bullied, providing an opportunity for an important lesson later, thanks to his uncle. And understandably, Peter isn’t comfortable with Gwen, his whip-smart, clever, and resourceful love interest. Peter knows his limitations, which annoy him, making his transformation all the more exciting for him and for us.
As Peter’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Sally Field and Martin Sheen show what great contributions veteran actors make in minor roles, never overdoing the crucial warmth and support. Similarly, Rhys Ifans doesn’t exaggerate Dr. Connors’ villainy. As Gwen, Emma Stone is solid, as ever.
Happily, director Marc Webb trusts his audience to respond positively to a film that keeps emotions in the foreground rather than relying on special effects to thrill, though they are very good. As refreshing, the story is distinguished by a welcome avoidance of cruel or megalomaniacal villains. Instead, it’s hubris that gets in the way as Peter’s father’s partner, Dr. Connor, wants only to regenerate his lost arm and help returning veterans. Yes, he overreaches but begins with decent intentions before the Frankensteinian transformation occurs.
And hang on when the credits roll because there’s a short but important scene sandwiched into them that promises a great sequel. The Amazing Spider-Man is showing at area theaters. Find it in 3D to get the full impact of the spectacular flying sequences.