Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Here we are, little more than ten years on from the first Spider-Man movie and the franchise has been rebooted. A new director, new stars, and the promise of an ‘untold story’. Will The Amazing Spider-Man live up to its title, or will we be wishing they left the series alone? Read on and all will be revealed.

We all know the story by now, it is almost modern-day myth and legend – Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is the nerdy outsider at high school who is bitten by a genetically modified spider (radioactive in the good ol’ days) and gains the proportional speed and strength of an arachnid. When Peter’s Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) is shot and killed, Peter dons the red and blue suit and vows to fight crime and help the less fortunate as the amazing Spider-Man.

If only it were that easy. Nope, there’s usually some supervillain whose evil scheme needs thwarting and this time it comes in the shape of Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Connors is geneticist who lost and arm and is desperately using reptilian DNA to grow a new one. When he tests the formula on himself he turns into the giant Lizard, half man, half reptile, and it’s up to Spider-Man to stop him and his nefarious plan to turn all the people of Manhattan into human/lizard hybrids.

I’m going to come clean – I’m a BIG fan of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. I think they are great superhero movies. Yes, they can appear hokey and a little camp to the modern eye (it’s astounding how far superhero films have come in the last decade) but they are simple stories well told, and have an essential understanding of Peter Parker and the nature of heroism and sacrifice. To reboot the franchise so soon after these classics (even if Spider-Man 3 was a DOG) you need to be absolutely confident you have something new to say, and I’m not sure The Amazing Spider-Man does.

The marketing for the film promised “The Untold Story” of Spider-Man, delving deep into the disappearance of Peter’s parents. To be fair the movie does start that way, but it’s abruptly dropped, as if the maker had a crisis of conscience about where they were taking Peter’s origins. We know that more was meant to be revealed because the trailers have lines of dialogue that didn’t make it into the final film – “If you want the truth, Peter, come and get it” and “Do you think what happened to you, Peter, was an accident? Do you have any idea what you really are?” – so why was this storyline canned? Running time? Awfulness? Whatever the reason, the film is robbed with one of its main reasons for existing.

So, if it doesn’t offer anything radically new to the Spider-Man’s story, what does it do? Well, there are slight changes from what we’ve seen before. Andrew Garfield’s Peter is less your classical nerd, more your typical outsider – skateboarding with his hoodie up. This was one of my biggest concerns about the reboot, that the Peter I grew up with and could relate to would be sacrificed on the altar of cool and edgy. Garfield looks and plays the part well, offering up a more emotionally rounded Parker than Tobey Maguire’s two-tone wide-eyed wonderment/tear-filled sadness.

That said, the film takes liberties with character that I just can’t let go. This Peter is a whiny, self-involved child. That’s fine if he goes on to learn something during the film, but he doesn’t. Also he’s a bully. Shortly after he gains his powers he confronts and embarrasses Flash Thompson in front of the school. Uncle Ben chews him out for the incident, but Peter shows little if any sympathy. The death of Ben, where Parker should come to know and truly understand the meaning of “With great power comes great responsibility”. Nothing. Nada. No regrets. No great remorse. Nope, he goes on a revenge trip, beating up and making fun of the criminals as he searches for Ben’s killer. There’s a fine line between Spider-Man quips and out and out assholery, and here Parker oversteps it. One of the greatest moments in the original Spider-Man is when Peter sits down in his room after his graduation and says to Aunt May “I miss him so much”. It’s simple and devastating, and says so much about him as a character. In The Amazing Spider-Man Peter barely spends any time with Sally Field’s May after the murder, let alone exchanges any meaningful words. This is not the Spidey I know. This is not the Spidey I want to know.

Emma Stone does a fine job as the pretty and charming Gwen Stacy, replacing Kirsten Dunst’s rather soppy and wet Mary-Jane as the love interest from the previous movies, but the relationship between her and Peter is all too easy. There’s never the feeling that these two characters won’t end up together and as such I can’t bring myself to care about them as a coupling. If pretty people kissing and canoodling is your thing, though…

The thrill of Spidey swinging through the streets is gone. The 3D adds nothing, and the much-vaunted first-person scenes feel very computer gamey. Much like the CGI monstrosity that is The Lizard. He feels very much like a fourth choice villain and his whole ‘turn the city into lizard people’ plan feels tacked on, like nearly every Hollywood blockbuster threat. When will they learn that it’s the CHARACTERS we care about. Have them threatened, put them at mortal risk. The audiences investment in a film doesn’t increase just because you’ve raised the potential stakes to a city or the world.

I don’t want to rip on director Marc Webb because he came to The Amazing Spider-Man hot off the heels of 500 Days Of Summer, or say something stupid like all directors should stick to the genres at which they found success, because that’s bullshit. But it feels like he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the character. Case in point – at the end of the original Spider-Man, Peter is kissed by Mary-Jane. We know there’s nothing more in the world he wants to do than be with her, but he rejects her. He makes a choice, a personal sacrifice of his happiness, to ensure she is kept safe. That’s what heroes do. Rarely in any Hollywood movie does the hero not end up with girl, but he did here, and it meant something. In The Amazing Spider-Man no such sacrifice is made.

I loathe to include spoilers in my reviews but I feel it needs it needs the examples to show exactly what I’m talking about. Skip this to remain spoiler-free *SPOILER* Peter has to promise a dying Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) that he won’t involve Gwen in his web-swinging ways, so any choice showing how brave and noble Peter could be is taken away from him. That’s not the worst of it, though, oh no. The film ends with a teacher admonishing Peter for being late to class and Peter promising not to do it again. The teacher says “Don’t make promises you can’t keep” Peter whispers so only Gwen can hear “Yeah, but those are the best kind”. NO THEY FUCKING AREN’T. So, Peter gets the girl AND ignores a dying man’s last wish. Way to go, you douche! Who the slippety flick wrote that last line and thought it would sound anything other than words of a self-involved cock-end? *SPOILER ENDS* See what I mean about a misunderstanding of character?

The film has its moments. The car dangling/kid saving sequence is Spider-gold. Spidey’s takedown of the SWAT team is slick. Everything involving Martin Sheen. These are good things. Ultimately, you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve seen it all before. And infinitely better. Robbed of the untold story, The Amazing Spider-Man has no new tale to tell, and without it, no real reason to exist.

The Amazing Spider-Man is out in cinemas around the world now.

More Reviews:

Prometheus

The Grey

Iron Sky

The Avengers (Marvel’s Avengers Assemble)

Ghost Rider – Spirit Of Vengeance

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Drive

Haywire

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Melancholia

Coriolanus

Troll Hunter

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

Tron

The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Hackers

WarGames

Super 8

The Parallax View

Cowboys And Aliens

Swamp Thing

X-Men First Class

The Human Centipede

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: