With this reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise coming a mere ten years after Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, it was always going to be under huge scrutiny. When it was confirmed that Spider-Man 4 was dead in the water and Sony were going to start afresh, thousands of Spidey fanatics swamped message boards to give their opinions. There were those who were outraged at a reboot and another origin story happening so soon, whilst others were hoping that this time they would finally “get it right”.
In The Amazing Spider-Man we get the same origin story we got a decade ago, and the first act feels a little too familiar – geeky outsider Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) gets bitten by a radioactive spider giving him all sorts of arachnid-like abilities. He then learns to come to terms and use them before his not-long-for-this-world Uncle Ben gives him some spiel about ‘responsibility’. However, the film does have its own identity, and this time we get more a focus on Peter’s parents and how he ended up living with his Aunt and Uncle, as well as a new romantic interest in the form of Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone).
There’s also a new villain in the form of Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), an Oscorp scientist with one arm obsessed with learning the secrets of regenerative lizard DNA to help grow back his missing apendage. In true super villain style his experiments go awry and he transforms into the imaginitively named Lizard. Of course it’s Spidey’s job to put a stop to his evil plans.
For those concerned whether this reboot was actually needed, the good news is it feels fresh enough to stand alongside Raimi’s trilogy. Spider-Man 3 marked a considerable downturn in the series after the high of número deux, and with the studio and writers and director and actors all at odds about the direction of the next film, a reboot wasn’t actually the stupid decision that it first seemed.
So out goes Tobey Maguire and in comes Andrew Garfield. Despite clocking in at 28 years of age, Garfield has the youthful looks and gangly physique perfectly suited to a high school Peter Parker. One problem some had with Tobey Maguire was that they just couldn’t see him as Peter Parker, but they should feel a lot happier with the Garfield in the role (complete with mechanical web shooters).
Garfield brings just the right amount of athleticism, vulnerability and comedy to the role of Spider-Man, although he does seem a little too cool at times for the supposedly outcast Parker. The rest of the casting is also pretty spot on. Emma Stone is very good as love interest Gwen Stacey, replacing Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, and Martin Sheen and Sally Fields are a class above the previous incarnation of Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
As previously mentioned, chunks of the story are still a little too fresh in the memory, but it does just enough to stand alone as the start of its own franchise. The dialogue is wittier and the whole thing feels much more like a comic book brought to life; again Garfield has to take a lot of the credit for this. However, the action set pieces are a mixed bag. The pick of the bunch is arguably smaller scale bridge rescue which has a lot more emotional punch than the somewhat disappointing climactic showdown with the Lizard. The film is also a little on the long side, although that can be an ailment of origin stories, having to cram so much information into a relatively short period.
For those who would no longer consider themselves ‘young’, ten years between origin stories probably seems like no time at all. However, for anyone under the age of 25 or so, it probably seems a lot longer. There is most definitely a place for The Amazing Spider-Man, although it won’t be until the sequel roles around in a couple of years’ time will we really see whether the reboot decision is vindicated. A slightly lengthy running time, patchy set pieces and the worst use of a Coldplay song in the history of film don’t hold The Amazing Spider-Man back from being a solid comic book adaptation that will no doubt inspire a whole new generation of wannabe web-slingers.
Words: Chris Thomson