Soon Peter is exhibiting super-human strength, using it to have a little fun at the expense of others while forgetting about his more mundane family responsibilities. That doesn’t sit well with his uncle, who’s more concerned about what it takes to be a man than what it takes to be a superhero.

The strength of The Amazing Spider-Man is its first hour, as Peter comes to terms with the consequences of personal failure and new responsibilities. When one failure leads to the death of a loved one, Peter has to learn how to harness his powers for purposes greater than vengeance.

That’s a potent moral theme, but unfortunately, the second half of The Amazing Spider-Man chases after humor and special-effects, neither of which works very well. A wise-cracking Spidey subduing criminals might be amusing in and true to Spider-Man comics, but in the film, Garfield’s one-liners can be hard to discern. Even when they come through loud and clear, they usually fall flat.

Better is Parker’s budding romance with Gwen, whose father is—wait for it—a skeptical chief of police (played, enjoyably, by Denis Leary) who has little respect for Spider-Man. A dinner scene in which Parker tries to defend Spider-Man to his girlfriend’s father hits some familiar beats, but the verbal jousting is more lively than the inevitable fights between Spider-Man and the movie’s chief villain, The Lizard.

The outcome of a panicked decision by Dr. Connors to use himself as a guinea pig before his boss (Irrfan Khan) pulls the plug on Connors’ operation, The Lizard is pitted against our hero in battles royale that have become so routine in superhero films that no amount of CGI-driven destruction can rouse interest in the big-screen mayhem.

Even though The Amazing Spider-Man gets less interesting as it goes, it’s rarely boring. While there’s nothing here you haven’t seen done before, and sometimes done better, there’s also nothing much that stands out as sorely lacking. As summer popcorn movies go, this is the kind that satisfies a craving but which, even as you consume it, makes you think of the better, fresher batch of popcorn you had at another theater. You end up basically satisfied and not in much of a mood to complain, even if you don’t plan to tell your friends they need to partake.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: “hell”; “oh God”; “da-n”; “sucked”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: None
  • Sex/Nudity: Kissing; Peter inadvertently rips the shirt off a woman, and we see her in a bra
  • Violence/Crime: The aftermath of a break-in at the Parker house; Peter is bullied at school; Peter uses his newfound powers to fight off attackers; a robbery; a man is shot; Peter tests his new powers by engaging in otherwise risky behavior, such as doing a handstand on a ledge and diving off a building; Peter goes after criminals in the act, and mocks them as he subdues them; Peter back-talks to police; Lizard slashes Peter’s chest with his claws, and the wounds are shown later; characters are shot, sometimes multiple times
  • Religion/Morals: Uncle Ben chides Peter for “getting even” with a school bully; Uncle Ben tells Peter to “be a man” by apologizing to his aunt; Dr. Connors seeks to “create a world without weakness”

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

Publication date: July 2, 2012