Posted July 20, 2011 by Matthew Looker in Films
 
 

Amazing Spider-Man, The


Sandwiched between this year’s Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises, anticipation for this fresh instalment of the web-slinging wall-crawler has been fairly muted.

Sandwiched between this year’s Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises, anticipation for this fresh instalment of the web-slinging wall-crawler has been fairly muted. Rebooting the Spider-Man franchise – and re-telling an origin story that was last seen in cinemas just 11 years ago – has been assumed by many to be a cynical decision by Sony to hang onto the rights of the character. And it’s hard to get excited about a film that has apparently been made for all the wrong reasons.

But this is still Spider-Man, one of the most beloved superheroes in comic books, facing off against a brand new threat in what is still a spectacular CGI extravaganza of danger and adventure. So, forgetting the previous Tobey Maguire trilogy for a moment, this film surely can’t disappoint, right? Unfortunately, yes. Yes, it can.

Recast with sexy new actors, Andrew Garfield takes on the role of Peter Parker, a gifted high school loner who gets bitten by a radioactive spider (it is unknown whether this part was recast) on a school field trip and basically becomes awesome as a result. Soon enough, he is swinging through the streets of New York, fighting crime by night and embarking on a difficult new romance with classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) during the day.

Meanwhile, investigating the mysterious disappearance of his parents leads him to a Dr Curt Connors (Ryhs Ifans), a one-armed scientist working on a way to re-grow his missing limb. Following the comic book laws of science, his experiment goes horribly wrong and he becomes a grotesque lizard man rampaging through the streets; exactly the kind of monster that only a certain red-and-blue costumed webhead can stop.

The film obviously struggles to find a balance between having to follow an origin story that we have already seen and, wherever possible, trying to distance itself from the previous films. As such, we don’t get Tobey Maguire’s nerdy loser Parker who becomes good when he’s wearing a mask, we get Garfield’s edgy, aloof Parker who does kick-flips on his skateboard and never really struggles to get his girl. Unfortunately, this Parker is also a bit arrogant, quite selfish and, as a result, not very likeable. It turns out that this friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man isn’t so friendly.

This is also a film where, even given the loose parameters of believability assigned to comic book movies, several things don’t really ring true. Chief among these is Ifans’ Lizard, a foe that is already let down by shoddy CGI, who seems to have retained his scientist mind and speaks eloquently enough despite being a chaos-creating rage monster.

The good news is that this is still a Spider-Man film, a movie with a hero so effortlessly cool he could live on a diet of bugs and you’d still want to be him. And here he looks better than ever before. Swinging from buildings and catapulting himself through narrow enclosures, Spidey continually zips across each scene like a rubber ball bouncing off every edge of the screen and it’s endlessly entertaining to behold.

The two leads are also a joy to watch – particularly the ever-charismatic Emma Stone – even if the script never really gives them time to breathe as a couple and allow for any chemistry to shine through.

This casting and the added mystery element of Parker’s parents should have been enough to make this reboot a worthy fresh start for the franchise. Unfortunately, director Marc Webb‘s inexperience at handling action shows and the film falters entirely in the third act when, not only does he resort to the kind of saccharine public support that were always the bane of each previous Spider-Man movie, he also fails to provide a satisfying climactic battle.

Overall, no matter how enjoyable it is to watch in places, The Amazing Spider-Man feels like both a rehash of a familiar story and a wasted opportunity to make best use of its fresh ingredients. At least now, with the origin tale out of the way again, everyone can look forward to a sequel that can tell whatever story it wants, unconstrained by the comic-book canon. And that’s exciting.


Matthew Looker