The Amazing Spider-Man movie review
After seeing Marvel’s The Avengers a couple of months ago, I took it as a sign that we were taking part in an upswing in quality in comic book films. I mean, everything that could come together so right for that film did so, between Josh Whedon’s direction, a powerhouse cast and almost two and a half hours of sheer entertainment. With that, I was kind of expecting the same thing with Marc Webb and his take on The Amazing Spider-Man, a reboot that comes almost ten years after the release of Sam Raimi’s 2002 original. So did it fare as well? Nah, not really. In fact, it’s more like The Not Half Bad Spider-Man more than anything else.
See, the problem with this reworking of the Spider-Man legacy is that it relies too much on convention. We’ve already been told this origin story before, in Raimi’s original film, so it didn’t exactly need to be covered again. What’s more, the main villain of the film, Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), aka The Lizard, has a syndrome very much similar to Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, with a voice in his head turning him from common do-gooder to all out psychotic. The only flipside to that is, instead of wearing a costume that looks like a Power Ranger reject, he instead resembles the brother of a Goomba from the Super Mario Bros.: The Movie..
But I digress. The story revolves around Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), who’s looking into the disappearance of his parents while being cared for by his aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen, respectively). Meanwhile, he’s begun poking his nose around Oscorp, where his dad worked, and talking with his partner, Connors, while also getting to know co-employee Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) a little better. It isn’t long before Parker gets his fateful bite and begins developing Spider-powered abilities that will help him become the city’s savior – and just in time, as Connors has something in mind for it.
As we mentioned, The Amazing Spider-Man covers a lot of familiar terrain. Villain? Seen it. Story about parents who weren’t there for you? Um, that’s been covered as well. And, as expected, there’s someone out there butting heads with Spider-Man in the public’s eye, but rather than a cocky newspaper editor, it’s Gwen’s dad, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) of the New York police force. Webb and his screenwriters should’ve considered shaking off the conventions of superhero films – and maybe even scooted the origin story along at a whole new pace – and going with their gut.
Not that Webb isn’t a capable filmmaker. He does it all here, between “make cute” scenes between Garfield and Stone (they have great chemistry), cool first-person perspectives that show you the world through Spider-Man’s eyes, though they’re fleeting glances; and cool 3D effects that actually make the $3 ticket upcharge worth it for a change. He does what he can here, and performs better than expected, despite the conventional script and slightly off pacing.
He’s got a good cast backing him up, too. Garfield takes over for Tobey Maguire quite handily with his Spider-Man, cracking jokes with a car thief as he subdues him (“You’ve found my weakness! Small knives!”) and generating better chemistry than Tobey could do with Kirsten Dunst. Stone is a cutie too, even if she’s typecast as a character far younger than she is. (That’s something that affects the 28-year old Garfield, too.) Ifans makes a suitable villain, even in CG, though his change in behavior is hard to shake off. The other performers – mainly Field, Sheen and Leary – do decent work with their roles, but are limited by the typical footsteps of the script. Go figure.
We’re not saying The Amazing Spider-Man is a bad film, but it almost feels like a reboot that isn’t completely necessary. We could easily watch Spider-Man 2 on DVD or Blu-Ray and still consider it the best of the bunch, even held up to a modern hero with high-tech web shooters, compared to organic. That said, it’s still a decent flick to take in on a cool afternoon, provided you can get over the script hitches and just get into the swing of things.