Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field.
Written by: (also story) James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, (comic book) Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Running Time: 136 mins
Release date: 3rd July 2012
Reboot is a fairly new word introduced into the world to denote a restarting something to add a change, mainly in computers. In the cinema terms, it means taking a franchise and giving it a face-lift. Christopher Nolan has done an incredible job rebooting the Batman franchise to a much darker place and James Bond has had an almost successful reboot with 007 being a much tougher, harder creation. So when Sony Pictures announced a reboot of the hugely successful Spider-Man series, I wondered where we would go? Would it head down the road of The Dark Knight? Or maybe a lighter, more comic tone will be presented. What I didn’t expect was, in fact, the same as before.
Ten years have passed since Sam Raimi took Marvel’s most famous sons and amazed us with his abilities to climb buildings and swing through the streets of New York saving us from the devilish Green Goblin. So now, (500) Days Of Summer director Marc Webb has gone back to the original story and, well, repeated it, only with a new love interest and a new villain.
Peter Parker, quiet, mild-mannered high school kid, never knew what happened to his parents. Left with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, his scientist father and mother died in a plane crash, leaving many unanswered questions, until Peter discovers a briefcase with notes linking his father to experiments at the company her worked for, Oscorp. Peter heads there where he meets one-armed Dr Curt Connors, a man who has spent his life trying to find a way to regenerate his missing limb by using the same DNA structure as lizards. While there, stumbles into a room full of webs and spiders. He is bitten and so he finds he has arachnid-like abilities.
Taken these new found skills on board, he is faster and stronger than before and he has the ability to climb walls. However, an argument between himself and his uncle leads to tragedy, and Peter wants revenge, taking on the streets meanest crooks. Creating a mask and outfit, he is soon accused of being a vigilante by the police and a threat to people’s safety. Little do they know that Dr Connor is now ready to try a serum on himself that could change him for the worse.
Let me make myself clear. The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t a bad movie. Director Webb clearly is skilled at handling human drama. The scenes between Peter and his Uncle and Peter with Gwen Stacey, his love interest, are expertly done. It helps that Webb has a very strong cast to deliver the goods. Raimi was never strong in the drama department but what he lack there he made up for inventiveness in the action sequence, something that Webb is quite weak at and so we have big set pieces that we’ve seen before.
The cast, as I said, is very strong. Andrew Garfield brings a depth to Peter that Tobey Maguire didn’t, that of complete vulnerability. Making him more of a loner than a geek, Garfield is totally believable without the mask. You genuinely feel his pain when tragedy hits his family. Emma Stone, who I have always liked as an actress, is fine as Gwen and the awkward romance between her and Peter works well. You just wish she was given something more to do than be the pretty blonde girl. She deserves better.
Rhys Ifans plays the doctor with nice restraint until he starts to transform and then he tends to turn into the mad professor, lacking only the maniacal laughter. Denis Leary,as the Police chief and Gwen’s father, gets a few decent lines but again, his role is lacking any real depth. So it’s up to veterans of the screen Sally Field and, in particular, Martin Sheen, as Aunt May and Uncle Ben, to show how to take a small role and really do something with it. Theirs are, by far, the best.
So for the first hour we get a retread of the original Spider-Man film, including Peter falling through the roof of a wrestling venue (didn’t Maguire’s Spidey wrestle?) and then Parker becomes the superhero and it’s swing here, fight there, all done fine but nothing we haven’t seen before.
There’s another problem with the film. The special effects are below par. There are moments when you don’t believe a man can swing and like the pathetic efforts in Die Another Day, there are some moments when you think you are looking at a computer game. And as for the 3D, well I know I keep going on and on about how ineffectual it is in movies, here there were moments when I removed my glasses and the screen was 2D. It didn’t need it and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
If Sony had announced that this would be Spider-Man 4, I don’t think we would have minded, coming out saying it was entertaining if nothing new but the fact that we are all suppose to believe this is the new Spider-Man and the satrt of a new series of films doesn’t cut it. The problem is two folds: The Dark Knight and The Avengers. The Dark Knight has proven that you can take a franchise that was on its knees, thanks to Batman and Robin, and bring new life to it. The Avengers has also proven you can take popular superhero characters and make going to the cinema fun again. The Amazing Spider-Man falls short on both counts and so what we get isn’t so much Amazing, more Mediocre Spider-Man.