Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves
Directed by Marc Webb
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans and Denis Leary
Spider-Man: Hey! Watch it! I’m swingin’ here! I’m swingin’ here!
My guess is that calling the new Spider-Man reboot, “The Occasionally Amazing but Mostly Just OK and Reasonably Redundant Spider-Man” might not have been a slam dunk, marketing wise, so I get why they went with the shorter, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN instead. The fact is, this latest film incarnation of everyone’s favorite web slinging superhero exists for one reason and one reason only. If Sony didn’t put out another film before a certain date, they would lose their rights back to Marvel, and one of their most successful film franchises would be finished. So they took a gamble and decided to start from scratch on a series that only finished five years ago, hoping that just enough time had passed for the next generation to claim Spidey as their own. The gamble has paid off financially, which is of course the only way that really counts, but as for its critical success, my opinion is still swinging from side to side.
Under the direction of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER helmer, Marc Webb, who incidentally loses all trace of originality and personal voice as part of this massive machine, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN takes us back to when our lovably geeky hero, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), was still in high school. It isn’t long before he is bit by a radio active spider when he breaks away from the group at a laboratory focused on cross-species genetics. And not long after that, Peter can just tell; something is not right from his spider bite. The problem here is that this whole spider bite bit has already been done, and not so long ago. Sure, everyone is entitled to their own different take on the tale but Webb’s doesn’t feel all that different than Sam Raimi’s 2002 version. You can’t really mess too much with an origin story, unless you want to enrage the fanboys (and girls), but that doesn’t leave today’s viewer, whose memory may not have entirely faded after just ten years, to feel like they’re watching something they haven’t already seen. By the time Parker loses his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) in a senseless mugging, it feels like a plot point we just had to get past rather than the pivotal moment it truly is.
To overcome the more plodding details of the plot, Webb must differentiate his Spider-Man visually and through character. Garfield is a great Peter Parker. In his teenage form, Parker is very shy and befuddled around others. He has a strong moral compass but he hasn’t yet figured his whole self out so his motivations can occasionally be heavily influenced by his ego. And once he’s flying through the air as Spider-Man, Garfield continues to soar in the part. He is a more aggressive, more raw, more fearless Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire ever was. His cunning often caught me off guard and Spidey’s rumbles with The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) are some of the film’s more exhilarating moments. When it comes down to it, if you’re a fan of Spider-Man movies, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN can be an incredible ride. I for one love flying through the air on nothing but a web and a prayer, but when this ride comes to its inevitable end, some may feel like they’ve already been on it before.