Director: Marc Webb Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans Synopsis: “Peter Parker finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors, his father’s former partner.” Runtime: 136 minutes Rating: 12A
“Peter Parker, if there’s one thing are, it’s good. Anyone has a problem with that can talk to me.”
The Amazing Spider-Man is a divisive movie if ever there was one. Splitting audiences down the middle between those who enjoyed Sam Raimi’s original vision and those who prefer Marc Webb’s modern, less romantic take on the character. Both have their good and bad qualities, and both do things better than the other. The thing is though, The Amazing Spider-Man was made for very cynical reasons; to replace Sam Raimi at the helm and bring in a new, younger director who would operate on a smaller budget and not ask too many questions. Ultimately, The Amazing Spider-Man comes across as distinctly average, deciding to again tell us the story of Peter Parker’s origin but doing so in a way that feels and looks all too similar to what Raimi brought to the table a mere ten years before.
Everyone is surely familiar with this story by now, right? Peter Parker is a nerd, raised by his Aunt and Uncle, gets picked on by the school bully and likes the cute girl in his class, but who never seems to notice him. That is until he gets bitten by a radioactive/genetically enhanced spider that gives him some extraordinary new abilities and suddenly everything changes. Marc Webb’s version of Peter Parker is different though. First of all, he’s played by Andrew Garfield, which makes him the best looking version of Peter to date. Secondly, Webb’s Parker is charming, witty and seemingly has no problem getting the girl. Thirdly, he’s also able to stand up to Flash Thompson, the school bully, even if he does get his ass kicked. All of this is fine, but it doesn’t feel much like Peter Parker and takes away some of the sympathy we would normally hold for the character. Yes, Tobey Maguire was awkward, nerdy and a little weird as Peter Parker, but surely that was the point?
Although Andrew Garfield may be portraying a version of Peter Parker that I am unfamiliar with, he does seem to completely nail the Spider-Man persona. The quick one liners, and the way he enjoys berating his opponents are spot on here. Garfield also really looks the part, seemingly ripped from the pages of the comic books that inspired the film. Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is also a delight. Her screen time with Garfield is really the most enjoyable part of the movie, they clearly share a chemistry and their back and forth only adds to proceedings.
The other characters on show here fare less well than the two leads and have varying degrees of impact. Rhys Ifans is fine as Dr. Curt Connors. He is sympathetic and displays a sense of humanity that feels right for the character. His transformation into The Lizard however, turns the character into something that resembles one of the Goombas from the Super Mario Bros. movie. The green CGI monster that then parades around New York City seems dull and uninspired, and, despite Dr. Connors seemingly having control of both Jekyll and Hyde, surprisingly dumb. Peter’s Aunt & Uncle, played by Sally Field & Martin Sheen are extremely capable actors, but seem to suffer from a lack of screen time. Uncle Ben (Sheen) is as comforting as ever, but something about his part seems forced here, especially when his famous “with great power comes great responsibility” speech is dropped for something a thousand times more awkward. Aunt May helps anchor some of the more emotional scenes, but the character seems to get abandoned slightly when the action starts to kick into overdrive.
Denis Leary provides an interesting counter weight to Peter Parker and Spider-Man. As Captain of the police force, and father to Gwen, he dislikes Spider-Man and see’s him a vigilante who must be stopped, even if he does help the police on numerous occasions. Peter’s parents are also alluded to in this movie, something Raimi’s version never attempted, and while I like the idea of finding out about them and their sudden disappearance, the lack of storytelling time makes it seem as if it has been tacked on to give the movie an air of mystery in order to get audiences talking about it. This works to a degree, especially when the mid-credits teaser goes up, but I can’t help but feel a little cheated by this turn of events.
Despite Marc Webb’s accomplished direction and handle of the characters, there seems to be no purpose to proceedings. Sure, we have Peter dealing with being a teenager and getting his first girlfriend, the death of his Uncle, and the mystery surrounding his parents and him becoming Spider-Man, but it all feels like a checklist is being ticked off by a director taking orders instead of a director trying to tell a genuinely interesting superhero story.
In summary: The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun if uninspired take on the web crawler. With events seemingly copied from Raimi’s original movie scene for scene it comes across as flat and uninspired, but is saved by two delightful performances from its young leads. Here’s hoping The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just that, amazing.