As some of us remember, we had a major British invasion in the 1960's, a musical invasion, that is. The world of music completely changed with the new sounds of the Beatles, the Stones, and many others. Well, the Brits are back for a second round. More on that later, but first a review of The Amazing Spider-Man, the opening of a second round of Spiderman movies. What? You saw the last one 5 years ago? And nobody can do it better than director Sam Raimi and the puckish Tobey McGuire, right? Maybe not. Director Marc Webb, whose previous indy (500) Days of Summer was a delightful film about love and love lost, helms the new Spidey epic. Cast as our hero (aka, Peter Parker) is the trained English actor Andrew Garfield, who won plaudits as the disappointed co-founder of Facebook in The Social Network and Biff, the bitter son in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
Garfield takes the role and makes it his own from the first scene. Abandoned by his parents as a kid, he lives with his warm and cuddly aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen, who else?). When he begins to discover that he's not just a sulky nerd with a skateboard but a nerd with super powers, his performance takes off (literally as well as figuratively). Gone is the surliness. In its place a growing sense of wonder, humor, and daring. A great deal of his change comes from classmate Gwen Stacey, whom Peter has adored secretly for some time. Played by the radiant Emma Stone, Gwen is smart, driven, and quickly awed by Peter, not just Spidey. There are the typical big screen action scenes, but they are humanized by keeping both Peter and Gwen's story in the forefront. This is a delightful film for fans of all ages.
Back to the current Brit Invasion. Yes, we've had some great actors hail from Britain, but most have maintained their Britishness, even while playing Americans and other nationals. Think of Peter O'Toole as Lawrence, Alec Guiness as Obi Wan Kenobi, Richard Harris as the Man Called Horse (no, don't), Richard Burton in too many bad movies with Liz (excepting Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in which he gives his finest performance), Jeremy Irons, Michael Caine, Daniel-Day Lewis, Liam Neeson, the many James Bond actors, James Mason, Deborah Kerr, and many others.
But now we have Andrew Garfield (see above), the great Ian McKellan as Gandalf in LOTR, Ewan McGregor in Big Fish, Moulin Rouge!), James McAvoy in Atonement, Kiera Knightly in Atonement, Pride and Prejudice), Daniel Radcliffe, Christian Bale, all those folks from Canada and Australia, Ralph Fiennes (The Ordinary Gardener, Schindler's List), Kate Winslett, and the list goes on and on. Without these talents our films would be much worse than many think they are. If I have left out one of your favorites, let me know! AND, do me a favor: Forward my blog to friends. My blogging ego is getting lower than Peter Parker before he got bitten!