The Amazing Spider-Man is directed by Marc Webb and collectively written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves. It stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Sally Field. Music is by James Horner and cinematography by John Schwartzman.
Peter Parker (Garfield) was orphaned as a boy when his parents were killed in a plane crash, raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field), he is a clever lad but something of an outcast at high school. While investigating the disappearance of his parents and sporting a crush on class mate Gwen Stacy (Stone), Peter’s life is tipped upside down when he is bitten by a radioactive spider that gives him abnormal powers.
While the Spider-Man franchise doesn’t (thankfully) come packaged with the kind of bizarre mania that comes with Batman, the acolytes are a tough bunch to figure out. Sam Raimi’s trilogy garnered close towards $2.5 billion worldwide, yet now, with this reboot (actually it’s a reimaging) trundled off of the Sony production line, there are plenty of “fans” coming forward to say they never rated Raimi’s films! Magurie was this, Dunst was that, Raimi missed the beat of the comic version of Spidey and etc and etc. Well I’m sorry, but I just don’t remember any fall out apart from the near unanimously agreed upon over stuffing of Raimi’s part 3. Perhaps I just didn’t go on the right Spider-Man forums? But even then it’s hard to argue with a box office take of $2.5 billion, those figures have to be made up of a good proportion of Spidey fans, surely? You would reasonably think
I mention it because The Amazing Spider-Man has met with reviews from each end of the scale. Those at the high end who support the “reimaging” seem to focus on it being close to the real Spidey universe they wanted, with great casting, better effects work and a origin story of worth. At the other end is the arguments that “reimaging” a film that is only ten years old is daft, especially since it actually doesn’t bring the promised new direction or origin story of worth. In fact it just juggles bits of the Raimi trilogy and plays it out with other Spider-Man characters instead. While Garfield is hardly an improvement since he’s way too old for high school as well! The truth is that Webb’s movie falls somewhere in between both sides of the argument, and that’s not just me being Switzerland and staying neutral!
Negatively it plays out as a compromised production and not the film that the makers initially set out to make, there are too many dangling threads and haphazard edits that leave narrative gaps. An Important character disappears off the radar, other characters are given limited time to breathe, and crucial plot points are arrived at with stupendous leaps of logic. A coda spliced into the end credits tries to entice us for the sequel, suggesting that the quick wipe over the origin “origin” story was deliberate, it’s unlikely, and feels like an afterthought. For a film that purports to be putting its own stamp on the Spidey universe, it quite often makes you think of Raimi’s films anyway. It may be The Lizard instead of Green Goblin and Gwen instead of MJ, but the emotional and psychological beats are still the same. Reboot? My arse. Oh and Horner, who I’m normally a fan of, has turned in a score that lacks vim and vigour, it aspires to be full of swirling superhero fervour to raise the goose flesh on your arms, but instead it’s just goose, and not a decently cooked one at that.
However, on the positive side of things, low expectation really helped me to enjoy the film, and I even watched it a second time to check over some initial reactions I had. There is still a lot to enjoy here. Acting is of a high standard (Ifans’ performance as Curt Connors gets better on repeat viewings), with good chemistry generated between Stone and Garfield, the effects work is (obviously) better ten years on; something which gives us a better-more acrobatic-moving Spider-Man, while the whole make-up of Parker as a geek who becomes cocky, even arrogant, really adds a kick to the first half of the movie’s coming-of-age narrative bent. It’s also good that with a running time of over two hours the makers have the time to expand Peter as a character, making the audience wait with expectation of his life changing date with the spider. As for the villain, it’s true enough to say that The Lizard is hardly an inspiring choice, but it does fit in with the whole origin story plan that Webb and his team want to tell. Though it should be noted that those seeking wall to wall fights between Spidey and The Liz are going to go a little hungry.
It’s big on human story and not the lazy cash in movie it could have been, and undeniably it’s fun, but the holes, dangling threads and logic leaps stop it breaking out to achieve its intentions. I was left looking forward to the sequel.
7 out of 10 stars