We return to the beginning of the Spider-Man story with a new hero (Andrew Garfield) a new love interest, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a new villain, The Lizard / Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and a new attitude. Peter Parker / Spider-Man has to come to terms with his new powers, his first relationship and the fact that the villain he is fighting is one that he created.
So… The Amazing Spider-Man. This is a film that we did not necessarily need; it has only been ten years since Sam Raimi’s version of the superhero first graced our screens, and while it is true that franchise quickly lost its way, this doesn’t mean that we had to start all over again; but we have, and here we are.
Andrew Garfield takes over the nerdy specs and spandex suit from Tobey Maguire, and he actually does a pretty good job of it. Although it is obvious that Garfield is more comfortable as Parker than Spider-Man, this does not seem as though it is anything to do with the actor, more the director Marc Webb. Garfield is rather endearing as the awkward Peter Parker, and his interactions with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy are warm and cute. When he dons the Spider suit, however, Garfield descends into a caricature of Spider-Man and is actually rather annoying. Yes the character hides himself and his insecurities behind the mask, but the Spider-Man persona is arrogant, overly sarcastic and a bit of a jerk.
Emma Stone does a fine job as Gwen Stacy – the girl at school who is pretty, clever and warm – but the problem is that we have seen Stone play feisty characters who are equally as relatable but have a healthy dose of fire, and this is something that is missing from Gwen Stacy. Rhys Ifans plays Curt Connors as a man of contrasts and when he begins to channel the crazy, the character is interesting although slightly limited. Shame the CG is mediocre as it could have made up for some of the stranger choices made for the character, including; why does Connors constantly display the stump of his arm? Surely he would get cold, and the audience gets the message fairly quickly.
The supporting cast do their job well. Sally Field and Martin Sheen have sweet chemistry as Aunt May and Uncle Ben – it is obvious that these two actors have great respect for one another – it’s just a shame that Denis Leary is utterly unremarkable as Gwen’s dad.
The story is one that we are slightly familiar with from the Raimi films, but certain things have been included and exluded for the sake of actually making a different film. First of all, the issue of Peter’s parents dominates the first half of the film before it is forgotten in the face of The Lizard, Uncle Ben dies in a different manner and Gwen, while she is not a challenge for Stone, is actually a more relatable character than Mary Jane was, and the fact that Parker tells her about his secret identity makes her an ally and a co-conspirator, rather than a hindrance. As well as this, Stan Lee’s cameo is actually rather amusing, as though the scriptwriters took a leaf out of Iron Man’s book.
Marc Webb is obviously more comfortable with the human scenes, rather than the superhero scenes, and this is why the film ends up feeling divided. Once the superhero stuff kicks in, Connors’s and Parker’s grief for what they have lost – this loss being a motivating factor in both of their actions – is forgotten as Webb struggles to make the action sequences as interesting as the relationship scenes. Webb also ends up coming out of the film without a distinct voice; a shame for the director who brought us the endearing and distinctive (500) Days of Summer.
The Amazing Spider-Man sadly fails to live up to the hype of it’s own name. There are many endearing and charming moments, but the action sequences let the film down badly. Garfield and Stone are great in their roles, but the overall feeling is that the film is surplus to requirements, which, of course, it is. I would love to be able to forget the franchise that has gone before – this might mean I would enjoy the reboot a lot more – but sadly I am just the right age to remember it all. Younger audiences may enjoy it all the more for this reason.
Oh, and the 3D is pointless, but we already knew it would be. 3D sucks.