Cinema Review: The Amazing Spider-Man
Currently On General Release at UK Cinemas.
After appearances in Doctor Who and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Andrew Garfield has been marching on from strength to strength. He received a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his strong performance in David Fincher’s The Social Network. Now replacing Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man; Andrew Garfield looks set to become a household name.
The Amazing Spider-Man takes the story back to Parker’s high school days where he tries to balance education, his love life and the investigation into his parent’s death with his newly acquired special abilities. The plot (as we all know) is familiar; Peter Parker gets bitten by a genetically modified spider and of course develops super-powers while a desperate, misguided scientist inadvertently turns himself into a monster, and of course, attacks New York.
So no difference then? Well there is… sort of. The Amazing Spider-Man’s story attempts to delve in to the mystery of what happened to Peter’s parents and the scientific research his dad; Richard Parker was working on and it is this scenario that answers how Peter ended up living with Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
Other differences also include the aforementioned misguided, desperate scientist in the form of one-armed Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who after years research and failed results trying to replace his limb by combining reptilian and human genes, conducts a trial on himself and subsequently turns into (in this case) a giant lizard. Gone is the organic webbing that transformed a character with spider-like abilities into a spider-man. There’s no Mary Jane, instead Gwen Stacy played by the lovely and talented Emma Stone and there’s more of a detailed depiction of her father Captain George Stacy, (Denis Leary) – the man tasked of bringing the web-slinging hero, or in his eyes a lawbreaking vigilante, to justice.
There’s no doubting that The Amazing Spider-Man is a very good movie. The aptly named director, Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) handles this, a big film and new franchise extremely well. Not bad for someone who is only directing his second full length feature. The action sequences are eye-poppingly fantastic (with a few scenes filmed from a first-person perspective)… all in glorious 3D but Webb’s vision isn’t solely about the special effects. The visuals are secondary to the all round excellent performances. Martin Sheen and Sally Field make for a wonderful Uncle Ben and Aunt May, comedian Denis Leary is good as Captain Stacy; Rhys Ifans who was a surprising choice as Curt Connors/The Lizard is superb but the film hinges on Garfield and Stone’s performances. Thankfully, they are superb complete with a convincing awkward teenage-esque ‘we like each other’ chemistry that feels and looks great on screen.
Despite these positives, The Amazing Spider-Man does have some major flaws. Claiming this is the untold story of Parker and offering an improved, more detailed focus on other characters (that Raimi only flirted with in his trilogy) and with amazing 3D sequences does not disguise the fact that it is way too similar to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man.
Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is of course a direct replacement for Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane; Ifans’ Lizard is more or less the same chararcter as Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Leary’s Captain who is after Spider-Man’s blood is akin to J.K. Simmons cantankerous J. Jonah Jameson.
These similarities may leave the viewer feeling a little cheated because one could more or less have stayed at home and watched Raimi’s Spider-Man on DVD or Blu-ray because there is very little new being offered here. Simply put, a ten year gap between Raimi’s original and Webb’s vision is not long enough to justify a reboot (but as everyone knows, the studios will not care about time elapsed between movies and franchises because if the figures come in they will have been proved correct) and five years after Spider-Man 3 means that the original trilogy is relatively fresh in the memory.
Unfortunately these flaws prevent The Amazing Spider-Man from being a four star movie, however it do not distract from the fact that Webb’s retelling, even though not entirely fresh and revolutionary is extremely enjoyable and entertaining.
FMV Rating ***½