This summer re-boot is watchable and well-acted, but far from amazing, argues contributor Joe Walsh.
It has only been 10 years since Toby Maguire donned the red and blue spandex as Spiderman, but both Sony and Marvel have felt it necessary to give our Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman a reboot, retitled The Amazing Spider-Man. This time, appropriately named director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) is at the helm with a cast that brings stronger performances and a greater teen appeal, including The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spiderman and new love interest Gwen Stacey played by Emma Stone (The Help).
Once again we have an origins story of how and why Parker became Spidey, with the added twist of drawing on the Marvel mythology to include a back-story relating to his parents. Many years after the death of his parents, Parker discovers a mysterious briefcase left with Parker’s Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and he is led to his father’s old partner the geneticist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) who works for the Oscorp Corporation. The story follows a plot that we all know well by now (fanboys of the comics or not) in which Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers. In a similar vein the same technology that creates Spidey results in Connors becoming the villain of the piece as The Lizard – a giant green lizard man with increased physical and mental abilities.
The focus on characterisation in the first act has meant that gender boundaries have been, at least in part, dissolved, allowing for an appeal to both the male and female teen market. This is achieved by brooding on darker themes of the difficulties of adolescence with a love story at the film’s heart. The excellent performances of Garfield and Stone allow the characters to be established and enjoyed before audiences have to cope with the disappointing action of the latter second and third act.
While the script is strong enough to develop the characters, it is weak in overall plot. The antagonist story of the Lizard is predictable and tiresome and there are one too many conveniences, linking characters into scenarios without providing exposition. Hilariously at times, this version has made sure not to replicate too much of the 2002 film. Most notable of all is the absence of the famous line “with great power comes great responsibility,” said without being said via a wink and nod in a rather clumsy and clueless manner.
More problematic are the special effects, not only of the Lizard, which is poorly designed and rendered, but also of scenes shot from Spidey’s perspective where he swings through New York. These moments come across as little more than a cheap attempt to warrant the unnecessary use of 3D which adds little to the film.
The Amazing Spider-Man could do with dropping the hyperbole from the title, as it is far from that, but as an uncalled for reboot of a still fresh-in-our-minds franchise it has done a decent job. Unnecessary but very watchable.