Dir: Marc Webb, 2012
Peter Parker will never forget the night his parents mysteriously vanished without a trace. Seventeen years old and looking for answers, Peter’s investigation will lead him to encounters with his parents’ friend Dr Curt Connors, high school crush Gwen Stacy, the New York City police and most importantly, a radioactive spider.
A reboot for a franchise whose last instalment was only five years ago seems like a strange idea. I mean, it took audiences eight years after the catastrophe that was Batman & Robin before they were ready for another. Even then Nolan’s vision was radically different. Sure, most people will cynically fail to oversee Sony Pictures’ clause that stipulates if there isn’t a new Spidey feature every few years the rights revert back to Marvel. Realistically, comic book tales can always be told in a different light.
The promotional material for Webb’s new spin expressed an “untold story” revolving around Peter’s parents and the strong effect their characters had on the newly-rebooted franchise. Despite being heralded as a multi-film arc, there still wasn’t enough of an impression left by Richard and Mary Parker on the webslinger and his world. Rhys Ifans, who is both touching and menacing as Dr Curt Connors aka The Lizard, seems to manifest the spectrum of this untold story but is all too busy destroying cars or formulating moustache-twirling schemes to warrant any further depth. Frankly, I fear for any potential sequels as it will be hard to overshadow the villains Raimi utilised in his trilogy.
To be fair, Webb does stylise Spider-man in his own way. The film is more glamorous and reminiscent of science fiction rather than comic book. The campy overtones that Raimi riddled his trilogy with are long gone, replaced with genuine humour and technological prowess. Ironically, the comic book Spider-man’s wit was amiss in the previous films, Garfield certainly demonstrating the egotism and enjoyment that most people would gain from superpowers, “Why does everyone think I’m a cop?!” Sadly, the shift in social paradigm over the last ten years has demonstrated that geeks now rule the world, David Fincher’s game-changer (and Garfield’s breakthrough) The Social Network proving this. As Dylan wrote, the times they are a-changing, and The Amazing Spider-man pays the price for this, as Peter Parker’s low place on the high school food chain isn’t all that present.
The rule of reboots; different isn’t exactly worse, meaning that Webb’s portrait of Spider-man isn’t altogether inferior, simply lacking. An often-made mistake around origin stories is that they focus too much on the story, whereas character should take prevalence – Batman Begins, Iron Man and Unbreakable being the few exceptions. Important plot points that shape Spider-man such as the spider bite and Uncle Ben’s death are brushed past too quickly. The action scenes are top quality (bar an anti-climactic final battle), the visual effects are gorgeous and the slapstick is more than welcome but Webb can’t seem to nail the dramatics, even hiding some of the emotionally powerful scenes by tossing in a cheap joke at the finish.
Don’t get me wrong, The Amazing Spider-man is an enjoyable watch which I would whole-heartedly recommend but the only artistic reason for a reboot so soon after the originals is to have something vastly different to say. Unfortunately, Webb just doesn’t have that creative vision which is peculiar for someone who brought us 500 Days of Summer, one of the most imaginative romantic comedies of recent years. The little things are knocked out of the park – the casting, the special effects, the score… nevertheless the film simply has more wrong moves than right ones and doesn’t justify another swing at the franchise.
Stylistically different but a disappointingly similar subject matter, The Amazing Spider-man is entertaining but will fall short of both the amusement of The Avengers and the expectant theatrics of The Dark Knight Rises. Teenagers will swoon at the romance and children will gape at the action but it’s doubtful that anyone from an adult audience will leave actually “amazed”.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆