Release Date: July 3rd, 2012
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
The Amazing Spider-Man marks Sony’s fourth Spider-Man film in ten years, and is the second time the studio has told the origin story of our friendly neighbourhood superhero in the same timeframe. As a comic book reader, I have become well-accustomed to reading different author’s interpretations of superhero origins, but the rebooting and remaking practice is often given more of a chance to breathe on the big screen. That being said, the last release in the series – Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 in 2007 – left a bad enough taste in my mouth that the notion of hitting the reset button on the franchise seemed wholly appropriate.
You may have noticed superheroes are totally in right now. In the five years since the previous Spider-Man iteration we have seen the release of the hugely-successful Avengers franchise from the original Iron Man to this year’s The Avengers, as well as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and their influence can be felt throughout The Amazing Spider-Man. However, the film has more than enough of its own charm and ample differences from the previous films to hold its own and justify the admission price.
The story focuses on Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) transformation from an awkward, nerdy social outcast in high school to everyone’s favourite spandex-clad web slinger. At the heart of the film is a romance between Peter and Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) which is extremely well-constructed and definitely a highlight throughout. The pair have a great on-screen chemistry and it’s not surprising to find the highly-acclaimed (500) Days of Summer in Webb’s directorial repertoire. That doesn’t stop Webb from getting his hands dirty on some of the action-heavy sequences, though, with some great set pieces peppered throughout. In particular, the subway sequence where Peter accidentally discovers the side effects of his mutation and the chase scene through the sewer system both worked really well.
The narrative broad strokes found in The Amazing Spider-Man will be familiar to fans of the previous films, comics and television adaptations. For instance, it’s pretty safe to assume that at some point Peter is going to be bitten by a radioactive spider and he might just fall out with Uncle Ben at the worst possible of times. However, the film avoids retreading on too much traversed territory — you wont find the Daily Bugle, Green Goblin, Harry Osborne or Mary Jane here. This helps to separate the experiences and the writers take it a step further by changing Spidey’s personality from the humble, heroic and righteous protagonist of the Raimi films to a witty, wise-cracking and charmingly arrogant Spider-Man reminiscent of the character from both the comics and Spider-Man: The Animated Series. To me, this felt like a far more accurate representation of the character than Toby McGuire’s interpretation which, by comparison, always seemed like a rather generic hero character who just happened to wear a Spider-Man outfit.
Another noteworthy addition is the occasionally-experimental score by James Horner which at times deviates from Hollywood tradition of orchestral strings and synthesized accompaniment to allow a solo piano to take centre stage. It is a really jarring effect which works extremely well, especially in the tense moments inside OsCorp tower during the third act. And speaking of music, keep an eye out for perhaps the greatest Stan Lee cameo yet. Hint: it won’t be difficult to spot.
It’s not all positive though. As with most origin stories, there is a lot to cover over the course of the two hours we spend with the film, and it is easy to lose sight of the good old fashioned good vs evil conflict threaded throughout. Dr. Curt “The Lizard” Connors (Rhys Ifans) seemed like a character which, had he been given a little more screen time, could have developed into a truly sympathetic, tragic figure. The film seemed to be aiming towards this earlier on but lost its way towards the final act, where Connors ultimately ends up rather forgettable.
For my money though, The Amazing Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man film to date. It’s a shame that it has arrived so soon after the Raimi trilogy, as I think a bit more distance would have prevented it feeling almost like an unnecessary release. Whether or not you think this reboot is necessary, the film is solid, and I could not be more excited to see where this universe ends up.