It’s the reboot none of us really needed, but probably the one we deserved right now. That was my thought process when sitting down ready to watch Marc Webb‘s The Amazing Spider-Man. While the latest Spidey-flick does tread over a lot of previously covered ground, it manages to tell much more of an emotional tale than what any other superhero blockbuster has managed to do, making it one of the better comic book movies out there.
Perhaps one of the main reasons audiences have been so against Sony’s decision to reboot the Spider-Man franchise is given the context of the current state of comic book movies. When Sam Raimi hit the ground running in 2002 with his Spider-Man début, there had only really been one great comic book movie with Bryan Singer’s X-Men to challenge against (two if you count Blade). Wind forward ten-years later, Spidey finds himself up against the might of The Avengers, and the punch of The Dark Knight Rises.
It’s because of this factor the film often struggles to find its own identity. Too often it feels as if Webb’s film has been influenced by what Christopher Nolan has achieved with the Batman franchise. Taking a Batman Begins approach to Spidey’s origin may have seemed like a good idea, if only Webb could keep with it. The shift in tone is remarkably jarring at times, but recovers by the end when the film falls into more familiar superhero territory.
The story is simple. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is sent to live with his aunt and uncle at a young age after his parents (are they spies?) are presumably sent away on a mission. Cut to present-day and an angst-filled Parker has developed into a social outcast at school, while resenting not knowing the truth about the fate of his parents.
Colliding with this tale however is the journey of Dr. Curtis Conners (Rhys Ifans), a scientist desperate to regrow his missing limb through cross-species genetics. This is where problems with the script are notably on display, as the plot-threads don’t intertwine well at all, and we are left with little closure on any of them.
Performance wise, Andrew Garfield is a revelation as Peter Parker. Not only sporting a physique much more akin to the Peter from the comic books, but also bringing with him an attitude that was missing from the Raimi films. Sure, some of the one-liners fall flat on occasions, but this is much more of a relevant Parker than what Tobey Maguire achieved. If a teenager suddenly got spider-powers, would the first thing they do really go and sign up for a wrestling match. No, and Webb’s film brilliantly captures Peter exploring his powers.
Peter’s love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is a welcome change from the typical damsel in distress role Kristen Dunst played with Mary-Jane Watson. For once, a comic book movie has a strong female lead, with Gwen being top of her class at school, while holding down an internship at Oscorp. Furthermore, Stone proves to have fantastic chemistry with co-star Garfield, and the Gwen/Peter scenes pack far more of an emotional core than the Magure/Dunst relationship ever did. Many reviews have unfairly labelled the film as ‘Twilight in spandex’, however the relationship between Peter and Gwen elevates the film at least two stars, even succeeding where Nolan’s films have failed in giving us an interesting female lead.
Rhys Ifans gives a solid performance as Curt Conners, despite his character feeling very reminiscent of the brilliant Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2. Denis Leary does an impressive job playing Gwen’s father Captain George Stacy, bringing a likeable quality to him despite acting as one of Spider-Man’s nemesis for much of the film, while Martin Sheen is a brilliantly funny Uncle Ben, further adding to the inevitable tragedy that entails.
Special effects wise, the film does an impressive job with the practical effects used in scenes when Peter Parker is web-slinging, however that’s probably the best compliment I can give as it’s clear this is a much smaller-budget production than the Raimi films. From a choreography stand-point, some of the action scenes were brilliantly done, but the effects used on the Lizard were laughable at times, and it’s questionable as to why they didn’t give the Lizard a snout as originally thought as it would have looked far more menacing.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man was a welcome surprise. Despite having some dreadful CGI in places, the fantastic leads and emphasis on drama makes this a truly spectacular reboot. Now if they can get Webb back for the sequel we might get a movie that can top Spider-Man 2…
Ohh, and there are many hints towards the sequel…