Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans • Directed by Adam Shankman • Age restriction: 13VMA • Released 13 July
The biggest stumbling block for The Amazing Spider-Man has been the fact that it’s a reboot of such a recent superhero franchise. There’s been a lot of “What’s the point?” and “But we just saw this!” – especially because both 2002’s Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man deal with the origins of the web-slinging superhero. Comparisons are inevitable: between Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, Sam Raimi and Marc Webb, Uncle Ben now and Uncle Ben then. Fortunately, Amazing Spider-Man is a great film – and at times, surpassing its original
Helmed by (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb , The Amazing Spider-Man takes Peter Parker back to high school. Played by The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield, Peter is geeky, socially awkward – and a much more human interpretation of the superhero than we’ve seen before: Garfield brings a wonderful balance of honesty, wry humour, cockiness and angst to Peter, making his leap to the wisecracking Spider-Man believable and emotionally resonant. While intent on doing good, Peter’s road to greatness is not an easy one – and this fascinating journey takes up a significant amount of screen time. Garfield takes Spider-Man and owns it.
The film opens with a young Peter seeing his father’s home office broken into. Without much explanation, he’s shipped off to his Uncle Ben and Aunt May’s home as his parents disappear. Years later – and providing the catalyst for the events of the film – Peter discovers his father’s briefcase, and documents hidden inside. He realises a link to Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and the massive Oscorp, and sneaks in to the laboratory under the guise of an intern where he falls on to Connors’ radar (oh, and gets bitten by a highly unusual spider). Connors is hell-bent on using lizard DNA to regenerate his on lost arm – and a trusting Peter provides him with the solution to why his experiments have been failing. Of course, things go awry and Connors is transformed to the mutant Lizard – going on the rampage around New York City and becoming fixated on transforming the rest of the local population into lizard-people too.
There’s also the beautiful and clever Gwen Stacy – played by Easy A and The Help star Emma Stone – Peter’s first love and confidante. Their on-screen chemistry is one of the highlights of the film: they have a natural, tender rapport, and Stone’s confident, independent, strong Gwen is a perfect counterpoint for the awkward and sometimes reckless Peter.
Peter’s realisation of his powers – and his first attempts at getting them under control – provide some of the most fun in the movie, giving Garfield some moments to flex his comedic muscles. As he’s catching the train home, he starts to accidentally take out the passengers one by one – with him mumbling and falling over himself as he tries to apologise to each person. He’s a typical, awkward teenager – which also means that Peter’s not above using his new powers to show off, at first, and provides a hilarious running commentary as he takes his new found vigilantism to the streets.
There’s a lot going on in this film, and it’s packed into two-and-a-quarter hours of running time – which bar one or two moments, never seems overly long. Just don’t expect too many answers: the filmmakers clearly have the trilogy in mind, and there’s a fair amount that goes unresolved. We don’t really know what happened to Peter’s parents, the real “villain” behind Oscorp is not yet revealed and there’s a lot of teaser talk hinting at the return of another iconic Spider-Man bad guy, which I won’t spoil.
However, the action set-pieces are wonderfully choreographed, with epic sequences as the Lizard goes on a rampage on a bridge – but are often tinted with a generous helping of humanity. The bridge, for example, provides a wonderfully touching moment in which Spider-Man reveals himself to a terrified boy, handing the boy his mask to keep him safe. The action leads to a surprisingly King Kong-esque climax on the Oscorp tower, providing some moments for the 3D to shine. There are dizzying flights across the skies of New York – truly heart-stopping moments, where Peter’s enthusiasm is infectious – made all the more thrilling by the 3D, and while the special effects are largely superb, there are moments where it all feels a touch artificial – largely when the Lizard is on screen.
There’s much to love in The Amazing Spider-Man, and it’s largely thanks to an incredible cast and crew that manages to make this well-worn story feel all fresh again. Unnecessary a film though it may be, considering how recently Tobey Maguire donned the Spidey suit, The Amazing Spider-Man is a darker, grittier and more human take on the tale, and promises great things to come in its inevitable sequel.