4 July 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man


B


The Amazing Spider-Man 
2012, 132mins, 12 
Director: Marc Webb 
Writer (s): James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves 
Cast includes: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary 
UK Release Date: 3rd July 2012 


 It’s only been ten years since Sam Raimi cast Toby Maguire as legendary web-slinger Peter Parker, generating a mighty hit with 2002’s “Spider-Man”. An excellent 2004 sequel arrived in the form of “Spider-Man 2”, but things ground to a halt with 2007’s tepidly received “Spider-Man 3”. That production was reputedly riddled with studio interference, Raimi left creatively unfulfilled, and whilst the box-office receipts rolled in, fans generally seemed disappointed by the final result. However Sony still felt there was some milk left in the Cash Cow, ordering a reboot and replacing the main players both in front of and behind the camera. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a fast-paced and fun blockbuster, harking back to what made Raimi’s initial 2002 effort such a crowd-pleaser. It lacks the velocity of “Spider-Man 2”, but it at least reinstalls some of the breezy thrills and streamlined plotting that “Spider-Man 3” so notably lacked. It’s not a particularly sophisticated summer flick, but fans should be contented with what’s being peddled before them. 


As a child Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) was left to live with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), his parents vanishing into the night under mysterious circumstances. Now a teenager, Peter is a quiet but dignified individual, photographing and skateboarding his way through high-school, all the while keeping one eye on his crush Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). Whilst looking for answers regarding his father, Peter meets scientist Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a man who has been trying to use reptilian DNA to help humans regrow limbs. On his visit to Connors’ lab, Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider, one that grants the boy heightened physical strength, sharper reflexes and qualities only an arachnid can possess. When Uncle Ben is shot trying to quell Peter’s adolescent angst, the newly formed Spider-Man vows revenge on the murderer, taking to the New York streets in a bid to track down his relative’s assailant. This brings Spider-Man to the attention of the media, the police, the latter led by Gwen’s father (Denis Leary) and a desperate Connors. The scientist’s experiments haven’t gone quite to plan, leaving Connor’s as a reptilian mutant known only as The Lizard, a creature dedicated to transforming New York into a population of slithering, scaly monstrosities. 


Director Marc Webb (last seen helming 2009’s magnificent “(500) Days of Summer”) affords the material a lightness of touch, spending much of the first half deriving comedic bliss from Peter’s newfound predicament. “The Amazing Spider-Man” offers audiences some genuinely funny sequences, the director splicing the humour between sticky web based shenanigans and the much more human aspect of falling in love for the first time. Both are handled well here, Garfield and Stone forming a delicate but warm connection. Webb struggles a little more to make the film’s action beats distinctive (although he finds a few improved ways to shoot Spider-Man going about his masked business), they’re watchable and sporadically thrilling, but they lack the genre defining ingenuity of recent fare such as “X-Men: First Class” or even Raimi’s superior 2004 follow-up. `That being said, for a film-maker almost completely green in the realm of CGI, Webb handles the digital facets of the movie like a pro. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a very accomplished film to look at. 


The casting changes are well judged. Garfield sometimes emotes a little too heavily, but his Peter Parker is suitably different than that provided by Tobey Maguire. Garfield plugs the shy-guy routine more overtly, dialling back the geek quality considerably. He seems comfortable in moments of light comedy and action heavy bravado, if he had calmed the overcooked emotional distress in a few scenes then it would be more or less a perfect performance. Still, on the whole he’ll do. Emma Stone is adorable, quick-witted and sympathetic as Gwen (a vast improvement over Kirsten Dunst’s dull work in the original trilogy) whilst Ifans gives good conflicted villain as Connors. A special mention should be reserved for Martin Sheen, who sells his relationship with Peter wonderfully over a few short scenes, bringing the best out of Garfield’s moping as a consequence. 


The dialogue is clunky in parts, especially when it comes to exposition and interaction between the film’s shadier characters. When Webb seeks to remake Raimi’s flick things also turn a little sour, the scene featuring Uncle Ben’s execution feels like an after-thought, shot over a couple of hours and shoved into the final cut halfway through post-production. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is at its most entertaining when attempting to be its own entity, revelling in spectacular New York vistas, high-school romance and troubled boffins. 


Sequels are inevitable and fans should be aware there’s an extra sting during the credits (I don’t have a clue what it means though). I wouldn’t object to further adventures under the guidance of Webb, the film-maker doing an admirable job on his first run around the blockbuster track. There are minor problems that need ironing out, but on the whole “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a decent summer diversion. Think of it as the “Quite Good with Potential for More Spider-Man”. 


A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2012

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