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Critics: ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ A Little Too Familiar

Positive reviews coming from Marc Webb’s reboot, but one common theme emerges


This story may contain some spoilers for “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Spider-Man is such a hot character when it comes to superheroes at the box office is that you’d almost think including the webslinger in “The Avengers” would make that film the tops of all time.

Sony Pictures’ reboot of the franchise, just a decade after the original and only five years from the most recent film, will score huge numbers at the holiday box office this weekend. But one thing “The Amazing Spider-Man” won’t be able to get himself out of are critics questioning why Sony chose a reboot with the Sam Raimi version still quite fresh in people’s memories.

“It is assembled from terribly familiar pieces,” said Christopher Orr in his review for The Atlantic. “Lonely Peter, the class photog-nerd; decent, homily-prone Uncle Ben and Aunt May; the bite; the powers; the robber-with-a-gun whom Peter could have stopped but didn’t; the subsequent grief and chance for redemption; the avuncular Oscorp scientist whose experiments go badly awry … and on down the line.”

Yet, the familiarity of the story was not enough to push Orr down in liking the film. In fact, against his well-founded anticipation, he actually had a much different take.

“I succeeded in not liking it for at least the first 20 minutes,” he said. “But damned if I didn’t, little by little, succumb to the film’s infectious zeal and hokey grandeur. It turns out that an unnecessary movie — even one as profoundly unnecessary as this one — can still be awfully good.”

Those sentiments were shared my many other critics, including CNN’s Tom Charity.

“‘Amazing’ isn’t a carbon copy, and to some extent, there are improvements,” he said in his review. “The biggest plus point has to be [Andrew] Garfield, the Anglo-American actor who played Mark Zuckerberg’s former friend and ally in ‘The Social Network.'”

In fact Garfield is getting some high marks for his ability to effectively take the reins from Tobey Maguire, who starred in the first trilogy.

“All the excellent supporting players in this movie — Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans and Martin Sheen and Sally Field — are pretty much afterthoughts to Garfield’s angst, glass-chewing central performance,” said Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com. However, “Garfield is simply too tall and good-looking, with his perfect hair and lean, athletic frame, to pull of Peter as a science nerd and social outcast.”

But not everyone was singing the film’s praises. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post really had little, if anything, good to say about it at all.

“It’s altogether possible that Andrew Garfield … could have made a fine Spidey/Peter Parker … if he had been given a better script with something like the wit, charm and energy of the first two Spider-man films,” Lumenick said.

Credit and blame, says Tom Long of the Detroit News, needs to go to the director, Marc Webb. But even then, it wasn’t entirely his fault since his previous work was the romantic comedy “(500) Days of Summer.”

“So, of course, he was chosen to do a special effects-driven comic book blockbuster,” Long said. “Well, it works in terms of the human stuff. Webb handles the relationships here quite nicely, bringing fine performances out of Garfield and Stone. But once ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ veers into the realm of big-budget action, things get more slippery. Many of the CGI scenes look exactly like the cartoons they really are.”

“Spider-Man” earned a 71 percent positive rating from critics according to Rotten Tomatoes. It also has a positive buzz from fans, with 84 percent of the nearly 300,000 who have already checked in saying they like it.

And the film will do some amazing things at the box office — like shatter records. Of course, all that proves is that in Hollywood, you really can go home again. Even if you were just home a few years ago.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” was written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves based on the comic books from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It was directed by Marc Webb. It stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Denis Leary and Sally Field.

It opens in theaters everywhere July 4.

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