“The Amazing Spider-Man” has divided critics who are torn between praising an enjoyable movie and rebuking Sony, the studio behind it.
It has been just five years since Sony released “Spiderman 3,” a box office success but critical failure. To bring the web crawler back to the screen, director Marc Webb and a trio of screenwriters tell an origin story.
They remind viewers that Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) lost his parents at a young age, was raised by his aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen) and as a teenager gained immense powers thanks to a hungry spider. From there, Parker balances his crime fighting with his pursuit of Gwen (Emma Stone), a different love interest than Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson. Rhys Ilfans steps in as the villain, Dr. Curtis Connors, a former colleague of Parker’s father.
Webb, directing his first film since his widely praised debut, “(500) Days of Summer,” brings new life to the action sequences and adds a human touch often missing from super hero films.
Critics largely agreed that Garfield and Stone assist in that endeavor, lifting up a story that has been told many times before.
“Mr. Garfield and Ms. Stone are by far the movie’s greatest assets, and when they’re together on screen, they add warmth and a believable closeness to the industrial mix,” Manohla Dargis wrote in the New York Times.
Critics offered more tepid praise of Garfield – “his key quality is likability,” wrote Roger Ebert – but were more effusive with Stone.
New York Magazine’s David Edelstein commented that her “blue eyes radiate so much intelligence” that she turns her fellow actor into an instant movie star.
Critics were less unitied in how they feel about the high-flying action scenes. Some considered them fun and realistic, while others were less taken.
The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern called them "oddly joyless demonstrations of hypergymnastics, extravagant motion with meager emotion."
Still, most critics were most discouraged by Sony’s decision to make yet another film about Spidey. Numerous reviews opened by opining the bottom-line driven decisionmaking at the studio.
Edelstein wrote that this reboot “is clearly unnecessary and ought to be shunned for all kinds of reasons” while TheWrap's Alsonso Duralde mused, "Did we need another “Spider-Man” movie just now? Probably not."
Still, most critics, begrudgingly or not, gave it a stamp of approval. After all, what studio isn’t looking to give its corporate parents a solid quarter?
“Whatever your thoughts about rebooting the Spider-Man franchise after a mere five years in mothballs,” Duralde wrote, “'The Amazing Spider-Man' winds up being a thrilling and, occasionally, even exhilarating spin on a familiar saga.”