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After Sam Raimi's 2000s' trilogy, most of the world is acquainted with the story of Spider-Man. By day, he is the seemingly average high school student Peter Parker, who is brainy but unpopular, and by night—thanks to a mutation from a fateful spider bite—he's a crime-fighting webslinger watching over New York City. Surfacing only five years after Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3, Marc Webb's reboot The Amazing Spider-Man was sneered at before it ever hit theaters, but how does it stand on its own?
Rejecting Raimi's campy sensibilities, Webb chose to center his film on the idea that Parker is always looking for his father, first literally, and later, metaphorically. In the first scene, a young Parker plays hide-and-seek with his dad before discovering someone has broken into his father's study, an event that will change his life forever. Shortly after his parents drop him off with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) for safekeeping, he is orphaned. But as a gawky teen, Parker (Andrew Garfield) uncovers some long-hidden notes of his father's that lead him to a path of discovery—not only about who his dad was, but also who he is. It's a powerful narrative that includes such familiar Spidey staples as the superpower-granting spider bite, the murder of Uncle Ben, and the emergence of a mad scientist supervillain; yet Webb makes it all feel fresh by grounding the story firmly in Parker's quest to be the kind of man he believes his father was.
Garfield has previously proven his dramatic chops, but in The Amazing Spider-man, he offers a smart and snarky wit to Parker that makes him believable as a teen granted great powers, but struggling with the great responsibility part. Emma Stone makes his perfect match as the blonde and brilliant Gwen Stacy, who is more proactive than Raimi's Mary Jane. Garfield and Stone share a dynamic chemistry—shining as they exchange banter and loaded glances—that suggests not just a sexual attraction but an intellectual one, as well.
However, Stacy is not the only character that Parker's got on his mind. After sneaking his way into Oscorp, he meets his father's former colleague Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a scientist working with gene-splicing who takes Parker under his wing. As Connor grows monstrous from a barely tested formula, Ifans' performance--which is laced with a tender melancholy--makes his transformation from well-meaning man to merciless beast all the more harrowing.
A thoughtful story arc, complex characters and compelling performances aren't all The Amazing Spider-Man has to offer. Webb and his team have also constructed a string of spectacular action sequences that have Parker/Spidey, fighting, flinging and sometimes flailing himself through back alleys, bustling city streets, and New York's iconic skyline with a suitably scrappy physicality. Even on a TV screen, these are exhilarating. Better still, these action setups provide information on Parker and thereby add momentum to his journey, often while delivering laughs and thrills at his foibles and successes. In short, The Amazing Spider-Man is a good argument for the continued emergence of reboots, and a solid addition to the ranks of superhero cinema.
The bonus features on The Amazing Spider-Man DVD are pretty much what you'd expect from a superhero disc. There's a production art gallery, stunt rehearsal footage, deleted scenes, and an audio commentary track featuring the film's director along with producers Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach. The quality of each of these is pretty stupendous.
The art gallery is easy to navigate and full of concept art that charts the development of the film's aesthetic. The stunt rehearsals silently walk us through how the choreography and blocking evolved, and gives some well-deserved props to the stunt men who made Spider-Man's gravity-defying stunts look so real. You'll be amazed by how much of Spidey's antics were done or modeled on the jaw-dropping feats of this stunt team!
The 11 deleted scenes presented have rough graphics and music attached, and include lots of additional Dr. Connors/The Lizard material in various stages of completion as well an alternate (and inferior) approach to Uncle Ben's death that Webb mentions in the commentary track. In the commentary, Webb and his producers offer an even-tempered but thoughtful conversation on the film, discussing its development, themes, and how the actors approached their characters. Webb's love of the Spider-Man character is especially clear in this track, and it's charming to see him still so in awe of Garfield's portrayal throughout, pointing out various details of the physicality of his performance.
There is also the option to access the feature online if you set up an UltraViolet account, which makes me long for less involved download options. But if you like the idea of having your media in a cloud, this option will appeal. The inserts also include a code to get a "Human suit" for The Amazing Spider-Man game app, and recipe for "Spidery Peanut Butter cookies" that look better than their name would suggest (they involve peanut butter cups and pretzels). So, with this DVD you can pretty thoroughly indulge in all things Spider-Man.
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