Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen
Release date: July 3rd, 2012
Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Running time: 136 minutes
Best part: The kinetic action sequences.
Worst part: The repetitive story.
Reboot or remake? Many will be asking this question when watching the latest Spider-man film. This beloved comic book character has now been rebooted after three commercially successful adaptations. The Amazing Spider-man may be similar to what we have already witnessed, but it matches the first two Spider-man films in quality through likeability and thrills.
Despite the origin story of our friendly neighbourhood Spider-man being a commonly referenced part of popular culture (see Kick-Ass for a detailed example), this interpretation is a darker look at these important events. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an intelligent but quiet teenager living the typical high school lifestyle. His curiosity for science leads him to search for the answers to his father’s research and parent’s disappearance. The signs point to renowned Oscorp. scientist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). His research, and alluring protégé and classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), draw Parker into a potentially dangerous web. From then on it’s the well-known elements of Spidey’s origin – bit by a genetically modified spider, uncle Ben(Martin Sheen)’s death, and the evolution of this nerdy nobody into the masked superhero known as Spider-man. Apart from spinning webs anytime and catching thieves just like flies, Spider-man must also stop Connor’s radical genetic change into a reptilian beast from threatening the safety of New York City.
If there’s one broken strand in this well-developed web, it’s that The Amazing Spider-Man feels essentially like a remake of the revered 2002 Sam Raimi directed original. Despite its darker tone and unique nuances, the film’s story and characters hit the same notes as the original, without enough to clearly differentiate between the two. The one definitive difference however is the search for Parker’s parents. Despite their mysterious disappearance an intriguing aim for his search for answers, the film forgets about his parent’s involvement within the first act. The Amazing Spider-Man instead focuses on elements we are accustomed to such as the love story and hero/villain conflict. Despite being hard not to compare it to the 2002 interpretation of Spider-man’s origin story, the film benefits from its clever direction and witty screenplay. With a fitting last name for this popular series, Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) has successfully transitioned from directing films of largely different genres. Elements of his unique directorial style are comfortably added to this interpretation. After creating a likeable yet realistically flawed screen couple out of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer, Webb knows how to create engaging yet awkward angst out of these beloved comic book characters.
Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker communicate alarmingly like teenagers in the halls of any high school, with Webb clearly aware of the relatable and personal problems inflicting that demographic. These beloved characters are aided by the charismatic and likeable cast. Garfield and Stone (currently a real life couple) create powerful chemistry faster than you can say “bugboy”. Brought together through cute interactions, Garfield and Stone create empathetic lead characters and a lovely partnership. Garfield’s performance as the sympathetic Peter Parker is palpable and proves he can lead a superhero franchise after his supporting role in The Social Network. With the determination of Aaron Johnson’s character in Kick-Ass and the agility of Sebastian Foulcan in Casino Royale, Parker is a witty and effective presence here. Ifans, known primarily for playing the hilarious roommate in Notting Hill, is engaging as the focused yet morally driven antagonist as his sympathetic side is brought to the surface. The Lizard is easily the best cinematic Spider-man villain since Doc Ock. The intricate and disgusting creature design of the Lizard creates a menacing presence for Spider-man to face. Also providing fun performances are comedian Dennis Leary as Gwen’s father Captain George Stacy and Sheen as Uncle Ben.
“You should see the other guy! The other guy, in this instance, being a giant mutant lizard.” (Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), The Amazing Spider-Man).
Webb’s visual style is also a breathtaking insight into the origins of a superhero. With the current popularity of superhero cinema and with similar themes explored in the recent surprise hit Chronicle, Webb still manages to create a noticeable visual flair for every action scene and montage throughout. The cinematography is gorgeous; capturing every frame of Spider-man’s super strength and agility. The camera loops and whirls through every wall and crevasse in New York City as spider-man’s parkour and acrobatic wall crawling and web swinging skills are documented with the vertigo inducing thrills needed in a special effect-driven Spider-man flick. Webb’s editing style, synonymous with the non- linear story telling of his previous film, succeeds in creating an energetic rush within each action set piece. Moments of genetic change in Peter Parker edited together with stylish choreography illustrate an adventurous superhero figure. His subconscious is even brought into light; changing to adapt to spider genetics when placed in a bad situation such as the subway fight sequence.
The Amazing Spider-Man, for all intents and purposes, is a message to other Marvel superhero properties. Despite the derivative narrative, Sony has taken this mega-successful property and run with it! Well, wall-crawling works better in this case.