Jul 9 2012 By Gerry Fitzsimmons
The Amazing Spiderman Image 2
AFTER the recent disaster which was Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3, it came to many fans of the comic book genre as a shock to learn of the impending reboot of the Marvel series with last week’s release of The Amazing Spider-Man.
Within the tight frame of five years Raimi had churned out a Spider-man trilogy. Despite achieving financial success and critical acclaim for the first two episodes in this well-judged if rather bloated franchise, the third installment in 2007 was a flawed and disjointed final offering from the man who brought us such unforgettable cult horrors as The Evil Dead in 1981 and 2009’s Drag Me to Hell.
Whilst questions over the timing of the release are valid, The Amazing Spider-Man is not an attempt to right the wrongs of the most recent movie, but instead a re-working of the plot line of the first from 2002. This will always be the movie's main stumbling block.
The Amazing Spider-Man returns to the creation and evolution of the masked superhero from Peter Parker’s uncertain and turbulent childhood, to crisis hit teens and finally to the establishment of the latex clad vigilante. Brought up as an orphan, Parker (Andrew Garfield) lives with his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and aunt May (Sally Field). Peter struggles to deal with the pit falls of adolescent life and gets caught up in a playground scuffle when his vigilante urges are vocalised. He is awkward in addressing his first high school crush on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Garfield’s hesitant and nervous depiction of the young Parker allow ideal scope for thorough character development despite the first act being rather hurried.
In a quest to find out the truth behind his family’s disappearance, Peter stumbles upon a complicated equation found in his father’s briefcase which leads him to the laboratory of Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans). When Parker is infected by a genetically altered lab spider and consequently becomes Spider-Man, his collision course with Dr. Connors alter ego, The Lizard is inevitable.
Fans of the original comic books will be heartened by director Marc Webb’s attempt to preserve some original narrative strands in the movie. Nevertheless, The Amazing Spider-Man’s success owes more to its excellent choice of casting than to the loyalty of the original storyline.
Andrew Garfield is an unusual selection for such an iconic superhero. Moreover, at 28 it would seem that he is not exactly the ideal candidate to play an angst-ridden teenager either. Nevertheless, his ability to depict a younger character so convincingly, his youthful countenance and his spindly physique combine wonderfully to communicate a realistic idea of the young Spider –Man. Garfield also carries an ability to disperse the whiff of cheese so often present in an action film romance scene. His awkward stammering and nervous flirting is better received with a cringe than a groan and roll of the eyes, with exception to the moment when Spider-Man uses his web shooters to snare Gwen Stacy for a passionate embrace.
Similarly, Stone’s character is difficult to unpack in the first half hour. She seems much older than her school friends with her deep husky voice, voluntary tutorship of other pupils and authoritative intern position at the Oscorp facility. How many years do kids go to school in America? She is also unnecessarily sexualised in the most inappropriate scenes - at her intern job whilst trying to make a good impression, at Sunday dinner with her family and even at school where she is the only pupil in the shot wearing thigh high socks and a miniskirt. It just seems a little too close to Clueless for comfort. Perhaps that is the idea.
Martin Sheen’s short but effective role as Uncle Ben is heart-warming, funny and entertaining, providing a certain element of grounding for the central character and is crucial to lifting the tone at the right moment.
Put in perspective, The Amazing Spider-Man will fail to achieve the kind of critical acclaim that the re-invention of the recent Batman movies has enjoyed. However, as far as the brief goes for this latest franchise offering, it ticks all the boxes as it will be well received at the box office. Job done.
Highlights – Good cast. A vast improvement on CG set pieces on the earlier movies. More realistic physics on Spider-Man swinging and far better animation than the cartoonish, bright red superhero presented in the first films.
Lowlights – A distractingly inappropriate wardrobe for Emma Stone and the most tedious, implausible re-introduction of a peripheral character very late in act 3. Look out for the big cheese-cherry on the cake in the form of a thumbs up/wink combo. Ouch!
Star Rating: 3.5/5