Review: The Amazing Spider-Man ★★★☆☆

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After a mere ten years, Columbia Pictures and Marvel decided it was time for a reboot in the Spider-Man franchise. For many of the audience members (myself including), Sam Raimi’s film from 2002 is still relatively fresh in people’s memory and many have questioned the need for the reboot of the series. This newest outing, directed by the aptly named Marc Webb (whose directorial debut was the romantic-comedy 500 Days of Summer) doesn’t reinvent the franchise as such but gives it a different edge and I left the cinema thinking ‘that was good’ rather than being amazed as I felt I should have been (or so the title leads us to think).

The film tries to advertise itself as an origins story by looking at how Peter Parker becomes the Spider-Man of the famous and much-loved comic books. Yet I have to agree with critic Mark Kermode in that Raimi’s film did the origin story in half an hour which this latest film spent an hour and half doing without much gained in the process. The emotional scenes involving Parker’s relationship with his uncle and deceased father were a nice break from the action sequences but it didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. Whilst I feel Raimi’s film was superior in telling how Parker turned from high-school nerd to superhero, the love interest story is handled better in Webb’s film.

Twilight-esque sullen looks and awkwardness unfortunately dominates their relationship for most of the film

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (playing Gwen Stacey) have a lukewarm on-screen presence when together but are slightly more entertaining than Maguire and Dunst in Spider-Man.  However, a little more chemistry would have been a nice touch. The upside-down kiss in the rain from the original Spider-Man was superbly done and the new film needed something to bring the two closer together. Emma Stone alone however is the real star of the film, both charming and funny, and I for one am looking forward to how her career will grow from this point.

Another impressive feature of the film is the CGI that demonstrates the progress computer images have made over the past ten years. Spiderman flies through the streets of New York and looks magnificent doing so. Although lacking in action sequences, I wasn’t left bored during these scenes that some blockbusters can do by putting us into an explosion-coma.  I did see the film in 2D as I have many reservations about 3D films (the darkened images, how unnecessary it is and so on) and yet the depth and quality of the images was superb and what I come to expect from a big budget Hollywood production. Even during scenes in the sewers under the city, there’s a great richness to the image that I can imagine would be lost by any 3D screening.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few issues with the film. Although Rhys Ifans’s acting was credible, the villain character of The Lizard is nowhere near as engaging or interesting as Dafoe’s Green Goblin or Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. At times he fell into laughable territory that Sandman also did in Raimi’s last film. A giant CGI-lizard just isn’t a great villain for modern film-audiences. Also, whilst Garfield’s performance was stronger in the second half, I don’t think he captured the Parker character as well as Maguire did, although many would argue otherwise. Whilst he aced his performance in The Social Network, he just didn’t have the screen presence when alone to capture my empathy.

Even more unforgiveable was the plot, which was tediously predictable, culminating in what was as flat and as boring an ending as you will see throughout cinematic history. If you’re going to remake a film franchise so close to another one, it needs to bring something new to the table, which The Amazing Spider-Man fails to do.

It is hard to just see this film as something standalone and not part of a filmic canon, however I think for this film it is a good thing. As a film on its own, it is average. When compared to Raimi’s films, Webb is clearly trying a different angle to the Spider-Man saga but needs greater conviction to succeed. Let’s hope these bugs (pun intended) are ironed out before the next film in a rumoured trilogy. The Raimi Vs Webb debate continues…

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), directed by Mark Webb, is distributed in the UK by Columbia Pictures, Certificate 12A. 

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