Like it or not there is no escaping the fact that money talks. Why else would we be getting a rebooted Spider-Man only ten years since Sam Raimi andTobey Maguire brought the web-slinger so successfully to the big screen? The simple answer is Spider-Man is one of those brand names, like Batman,Superman and seemingly Star Wars, who is guaranteed a huge box office return and is therefore like cat-nip to studios. They can’t get enough of it. The executive who green lights these things is a like a pig in the proverbial as he watches not only the box office money roll in but also the merchandising coffers as well. So with Raimi and Maguire gone can Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield bring something new to your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man?
You know the drill; Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is left by his parents, who later die in a plane crash, to live with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). He’s bullied at school, has a crush on the smart girl Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and starts to look into his father’s past. His findings lead him to Oscorp where he meets his father’s old colleague Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Connors is working on a serum involving cross-breading genetics which will hopefully allow him to grow back his missing arm. While snooping around the lab Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider which imbues him with arachnid abilities; you know, climbing walls, spidey-senses and the ability to catch flies.
But when Connors takes the serum too early he begins to morph into The Lizard, an evil monster hell-bent on making the rest of New York just like him. With the law on his tail and the girl in danger only Spider-Man can save the day.
In other words The Amazing Spider-Man has almost the exact same plot to Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man but substitutes The Green Goblin for a big green lizard instead. The Amazing Spider-Man’s greatest weakness is not waterspouts but its inability to try to reinvent itself as a whole new franchise. It is a clone in almost every single way, there’s even a scene on a bridge and a moment in which the good citizens of New York band together to help Spidey do his thing. But there are improvements on the original trilogy and improvements that were needed.
For while Raimi’s films were big budget fare they suffered horribly from some of the worst dialogue ever committed to celluloid, a colour pallet bordering on Technicolor vomit and two central performances from Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst that grated worse than tarmac on skin. By comparison Marc Webb’s (has there ever been a director more aptly named?) film is darker, it has more edge to it. The action is still vertigo-inducingly electric but now the dialogue at least feels plausible. Furthermore Garfield, while considerably more morose as Parker, at least brings a bit of teen angst as opposed to Boy Scout cheese to the affair, while Stone continues to radiate her brilliance even in a damsel in distress role.
The script overall feels more polished than any other Spider-Man story, it moves along at a nice pace, gets all the key ingredients into an origin story and therefore will keep fans more than satisfied. But did we need another origin story? Probably not, we could have just as easily started this franchise with Parker already capable of crawling up walls to allow for a more detailed and original plot to unfold. Still you do feel that more thought has gone into being inventive with Parker’s new skill set. A scene in the sewers in which he builds a web down numerous tunnels to track The Lizard before being flushed down the drain is a nice nod to a spider’s strength and weaknesses.
If you’ve seen Raimi’s Spider-Man and were underwhelmed then this might reignite your interest in Spider-Man. Suffice to say that while The Amazing Spider-Man is nothing new it does what you want of a superhero movie; balances character and plot to good effect and if anyone makes knee high socks looks as good as Emma Stone does here then Christmas will have truly come early. Amazing might be stretching the web too far but this Spider-Man knows how to swing to a better beat.