The Amazing Spiderman

Posted: July 23, 2012 in Film reviews

Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

A reboot of the Spiderman universe seems like an odd thing to do, given Spiderman 3 was only five or six years ago, and in fact the first Spiderman film was around 10 years ago, but the producers decided to do it. As several people have said, for a teenager it probably feels like a lot longer since the Sam Raimi trilogy came out. I had quite a curious relationship with those three films. I thought the first one was ok, but because I know Spiderman so well the origin story was a little boring, and the Green Goblin not quite realised well enough. Spiderman 2 is excellent, a truly great super hero film, and the third one…well it had Venom in it but that couldn’t save it, it was a bit of a bloated failure. So, much as I love Spidey, this film kind of stayed off my radar until a month or two ago when I finally saw a trailer, and my interest was piqued. It looked like it might actually be quite good…

Anyway, you most likely know the story. Peter Parker is an orphan living with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben (played here by Sally Field and Martin Sheen) he’s a nerd who gets bullied by everyone at school, then gets bitten by a radioactive spider and, rather than being violently ill, he gains super powers!

None of that is really that important. What you want to know is, is it any good? Well yes, yes it is rather good, very good even. Is it amazing? No, not quite, though the potential was there, and I’m now very eager for a sequel which might have more room to breathe. There really is a lot jammed into this film, and unfortunately as a result some aspects fare better than others.

First things first though. Andrew Garfield is blooming brilliant as Pater Parker/Spiderman. I was never total sold on Tobey Maguire, he was good but he never felt quite like Peter Parker. Not so Garfield, who nails it right away, managing to imbue his Parker with just the right mix of selfishness and nobility, arrogance and humility, making him a very flawed hero, and, let’s face it, a fairly ordinary teen who’s not only got the usual trials and tribulations of growing up to deal with, but also has the added burden of having great power (which, as we all know, comes with great responsibility).  His Peter Parker is gawky and awkward, downright surly at times, though you never stop liking him, and once he pulls on the suit his Spiderman is at once heroic and almost childish, throwing witty puns around just as he should.

Emma Stone makes for a fine Gwen Stacy, and it’s nice to see the filmmakers utilising her rather than jumping straight to Mary Jane Watson. Denis Leary as his father, the police Captain hunting Spiderman, is good, though it is amusing to see Leary playing authority figures. Sally Field is wonderful as Aunt May, though not nearly as old/frail as the comic book version, but even so Martin Sheen outdoes her as Uncle Ben, playing the kind of father figure all teenaged superheroes need. Rhys Iffans rounds off the cast as Dr Curt Connors/the Lizard, doing a fair job with what he’s given, which probably isn’t enough. But I’ll get to that.

What’s interesting as someone slightly bored by the first Maguire film, is that here the origin story actually feels more engaging, less by the numbers, though no major liberties are taken (and in fact one liberty is redressed, no biological web shooters for this Spiderman, he’s far more old school). In fact this section is when the film is at its best. Perhaps because time is taken to let the story unfold at its own pace, and by the midway point I was imagining this might be the best Spiderman film ever.

Unfortunately the second half suffers from having too much to cram into a limited space. Iffans’ Connors is a decent enough character, and the Lizard hasn’t been seen on screen before, but the notion of a noble scientist turned into a crazed villain by his own hubris was done better with Doctor Octopus in Spiderman 2, the Lizard himself is a bit too much cgi for my tastes, and his grand scheme doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

Which isn’t to say the latter stages of the film aren’t good. A set piece on a bridge is very tense (interestingly after the battle’s finished) and the finale is good as well. Although there are a lot of contrivances and cringe worthy dialogue involved in Spidey’s flight (swing?) towards Oscorp tower, it’s also very thrilling, and you actually wonder at times if he’ll make it.

Was a reboot strictly speaking needed? Possibly not so soon, but if we were going to get one I’d have wanted one that was respectful of the character, and that’s entirely what we’ve got. The casting is spot on, the action is good, and unlike in the Raimi films, where you sometimes felt that Peter Parker and Spiderman were two separate characters, here the line between the two is blurred perfectly, Garfield springs around at times without his costume, and his mask is removed at several points to remind us that this is Peter Parker, not just a computer generated bunch of pixels.

It’ll be cool if they call the next one The Spectacular Spiderman, but whatever they call it I’m now very eager to see it…

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