“It’s too soon!” “The origin story…AGAIN?!” This and more was the less than enthusiastic response which greeted the announcement of the cleverly titled The Amazing Spider-Man back in 2010, a reboot of the superhero franchise which Sam Raimi began in 2002. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t among the sceptics; it had after all been only 5 years since Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, and although that movie was disappointing, it would have been intriguing to see how they might have made amends. Still, the steadily improving – if overly revealing – marketing of The Amazing Spider-Man did well to silence many of the naysayers, and director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) should take pride in having delivered an engaging finished product, laying a solid foundation for future sequels in the process.
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The Amazing Spider-Man focuses on Peter Parker’s high-school years, with a good deal of time devoted to telling the Peter Parker story. We learn how he was abandoned by his parents at a young age to be raised by Uncle Ben (Michael Sheen) and Aunt May, eventually growing up to become an outcast kid at school. When he happens upon his Father’s old briefcase, he begins investigating his parents’ disappearance, eventually leading him to his father’s former colleague and one-armed scientist Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Soon after, he is bitten by a radioactive spider…
In the tricky task of navigating his way through mountains of comic book lore and Raimi’s recent trilogy, Webb just about succeeds in making this Spider-Man his own, creating enough fresh material whilst remaining inevitably similar. It’s not always executed with aplomb – there is some obvious tiptoeing around certain phrases – but there is a lot which is actually preferable to the previous incarnation. For instance, Peter’s discovery of his new found power and the ways in which he initially exercises it are frequently humorous, at the same time giving the film a more natural feel as opposed to the tried and true ‘Get powers, become a superhero’ routine. However, it is frustrating when some well established sub-plots – one example being Peter’s hunt for Uncle Ben’s killer – are not fully realised, when there’s no good reason for them not to be.
More problems arise with the film’s villainous Dr. Connors, aka The Lizard. Ifans does a commendable job with what he’s given, and after the first 30 minutes or so it looks as if the Lizard might be an inspired choice for baddie duty. We know that his intentions are pure (he is attempting to create a ‘world without weakness’ by using the regenerative powers of Lizard DNA), but as the film goes on its easy for us to feel far less sympathetic than we perhaps should be. In a reboot which is trying to distance itself as much as possible from the earlier films, it’s also puzzling when the Lizard starts talking to himself, at once evoking memories of Green Goblin in Spider-Man where it was implemented far more effectively.
When Spidey is on screen the action sequences are impressive, even momentarily amazing at times. The best of the bunch is a high-school brawl – featuring Stan Lee in his best cameo yet – showcasing an imaginative use of webbing (now homemade rather than organic, more in-tune with the comics). It’s a shame that these scenes aren’t helped by James Horner’s score, which never quite matches the spectacle. The same goes for the negligible use of the 3D; watching this one without the glasses is highly recommended.
Surprisingly, Spider-Man spends a considerable amount of time with his mask off during the fight scenes. Thankfully, Andrew Garfield is the man not wearing it; he turns in a brilliant performance as the science-y geek turned superhero. His relationship with Gwen Stacy (the ever lovable Emma Stone) is perhaps the best aspect of the film, the two talents sharing remarkable chemistry as they go from awkward to smitten over the two hours plus run time.
Whatever its flaws, you can’t take away from the fact that there is a lot to enjoy in The Amazing Spider-Man. Long after the film (and its likely sequels) have come out, debates about which incarnation of the famed hero is better will continue. But watching Spider-Man web-sling through New York won’t be getting old – or less entertaining – any time soon.
“Any Last Words?” Strong acting and impressive action sequences are present enough to tolerate The Amazing Spider-Man’s shortcomings. It’s still a needless reboot. But it’s a damn enjoyable one.
The Amazing Spider-Man swings into UK Cinemas on July 3. Check out the trailer below.