An ordinary origin tale...
Orphan Peter Parker’s quest to find out what happened to his parents leads to an arachnid encounter, super powers, first loves and a terrifying nemesis.The Amazing Spider-Man is familiar origin story territory, a mere 10 years after Raimi’s original. Arguably, that doesn’t really matter; comic book universes are gnarled and twisted things, with characters reborn and tweaked over decades of canon.
So we get a new Spidey for a new generation, with an all new cast and an attempt to add enough new material to make this adventure appealing to fans old and new. Overuse of the word ‘new’ aside, this move is generally successful, 2012s iteration focuses much more on the truth behind what happened to Peter’s parents. The film is very much about fathers – absent, acquired and projected – and the younger lead (Parker is still in high school) makes these lost and broken connections all the more raw.
This Spider-Man nails the human drama better than its predecessors, adding depth through the relationship between Parker and his aunt and uncle as well as the nascent relationship with young Gwen Stacey. The move away from the former character of Mary Jane is a good one, this is an adolescent love that’s brought to life wonderfully by Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield – no doubt helped by being a real life couple. Their scenes together are impeccably played, including warmth, humour and a realistic awkwardness that makes them some of the best moments the franchise has ever produced.
The drama is more than serviceable, it whenever the film shifts up a gear that the problems start to surface. The action in The Amazing Spider-Man is alarmingly dull. Say what you like about Sam Raimi’s lurid trilogy but the man knows how to invest his set pieces with infectious energy and a strong sense of where to place the emphasis of an action moment. First time blockbuster helmer Marc Webb is completely out of his depth in this department, bringing all the technical elements that come with a $200 million plus price tag and delivering scene after scene of empty effects.
I was wary when the trailers were suspiciously low on spectacle but even now, just a couple of hours on from the screening, I can’t recall a single strong moment of action bar the iconic coda. In keeping with the rest of the series, the film ends on a showcase of Spider-Man’s abilities in a sweeping CG shot. And, sadly, it’s the high point of the movie, using slow motion, inventive camera angles and a sense of style that makes me think it was completed without the direct involvement of Webb.
The casting is where the film scores highest – Garfield is a sympathetic, somewhat funny and occasionally dickish lead while Emma Stone continues to stake a claim as one of the most charming performers on the planet. Aunty (Sally Field) and uncle (Martin Sheen) are enjoyable and even Denis Leary is bearable as Stacey’s dad. Ifans is a little more variable – he never quite convinces as the overzealous good guy but as the Lizard he’s also remarkably light on nefarious deeds, making the final smack down feel a little harsh.The Amazing Spider-Man is a messy film. Apart from the lacklustre action, the strands of the story are too loosely weaved to support the two hour plus running time. Garfield and Stone are cute on screen but their characters get too little screentime, never even getting the chance to go on a proper date. It is manipulative too, using character deaths as a way to drum up some token emotion, something which James Horner’s totally forgettable score fails to do. Even the hero moment, where the people of New York work together to help their arachnid saviour, is convenient and underwhelming. Worse still, the film doesn’t even bother to tell us much about Peter’s lost parents, leaving that for an inevitable sequel.The Amazing Spider-Man is attractive and somewhat likeable, with solid CG, effective 3D and a pair of charismatic leads but it simply fails to deliver the scale and spectacle expected of a summer blockbuster. Nestled between the dual threats of The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, this origin 2.0 may well disappear without a trace.
Reboot, refresh, retelling – call it whatever you like but there’s no denying that