The Amazing Spider Man Review By Adam
How soon is too soon to remake a film? This is a question we, as film-goers, have to ask ourselves regularly as it seems Hollywood has every major property (even the perfect ones) in their sights. Whinge and moan all you want (I do), but make no mistake: the onslaught is coming. Some films have great, malleable, central ideas and, with the right director, a remake can be even better than the original (I’ll take The Departed over Infernal Affairs any day). Sadly, this is a rare phenomenon as most remakes don’t even understand what made the original great and are absolutely shit. Why am I talking about remakes? Isn’t The Amazing Spider-Man a new, independent take on the webslinger, akin to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins? No. Whether The Amazing Spider-Man wants to admit it or not, this is a remake. Batman Begins took an unexplored idea (how did Bruce Wayne become a superhero?) and easily differentiated itself from Burton’s original. It was also helped in no small part by arriving on the coat-tails of Joel Schumacher’s rancid and retarded Batman & Robin (Arnie is car-crash good in it, though). We all know that Spider-Man 3 sucked, but did it have to come to this? A ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy? I would have taken a Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man 4 over this retread any day.
I have always been enamoured with the Spider-Man franchise. I loved the comics as a boy, watched the cartoons religiously, skipped school and watched the original film three times in a row on the day it opened, I saw Spider-Man 2 (aka the best superhero movie ever) six times theatrically and even had a Spider-Man cake for my 18th birthday (Hello, ladies). Mostly, I dig the themes at Spider-Man’s core – primarily, the conceit: what if any everyday teenager had to save the world by night? Suffice to say, I wanted The Amazing Spider-Man to be a knockout. Like most of you, I had my doubts. The advertising campaign has been uninspiring to say the least and almost all coverage of the film has been met with a universal meh. I don’t blame the detractors, as stated before: Why do we need a new Spider-Man? I still held out hope, I have previously claimed that I am a cinematic optimist, and this notion was no more in effect when I sat down to watch this new take on my favourite wallcrawler. The one thing I knew going in was: This has to be great. This has to show us something we have not seen before to succeed. Unfortunately, what I got was a good film, but one that drowns in the shadow of its predecessor.
I’m not even going to bother talking about the plot of this film, as I imagine that there are only three Amish kids who don’t know the origin tale of Spider-Man (even then, I am selling them short). The Amazing Spider-Man carries the tagline ‘The Untold Story Begins’, but this is bullshit. Yes, the villain is different (The Lizard). Yes, it has Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) instead of Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and yes, it tries to tell some of Peter Parker’s backstory. But, as far as differences, that is all we get. The majority of the time we are treated to (inferior) retreads of scenes we have already seen: Peter discovering his powers (a subpar sequence in a subway), the Uncle Ben storyline (robbed of all emotion or reason) and Peter saving people on the Queensboro bridge (with worse effects). Except for its plain redundancy, what annoys me the most about this film is its blatant sequel baiting. I’m on the record as stating that every film (sequel or not) should be a perfect working whole. Unless you are Peter Jackson, do NOT set up plot elements in your film that you have no intention of resolving. MILD SPOILER: The Amazing Spider-Man has two mysteries at its center (who killed Peter’s parents and who killed Uncle Ben?) and both remain unresolved by its conclusion. The film spends a large chunk of its (considerable) running time (136 minutes) on these tangents and then just dumps them for big CGI battles. END OF SPOILER.
What does work in The Amazing Spider-Man is the new cast and their flawless chemistry. I think Tobey Maguire IS Peter Parker. His casting was lightning in a bottle and the minute he appeared on screen the world sighed in relief. That said, Andrew Garfield does a remarkable job filling his shoes. His Peter is still angsty, but far more assertive – almost to a fault. Maguire’s version needed to become Spider-Man otherwise he would have been downtrodden for life. You get the feeling that, for Garfield, becoming a superhero is just a bonus; the dude is a skateboarding, Ramones t-shirt wearing loner. The major departures in Garfield’s performance are the snark and the charm – Peter now routinely pokes fun at his adversaries (a staple of the comics) and when he romances Gwen we understand why she would fall so hard; the dude is magnetic. Maguire may have looked more the part (suit included, the new one is less iconic), but Garfield is the stronger performer. Unsurprisingly, Emma Stone is a knockout as Gwen Stacy. She is quickly becoming the most endearing actress of her generation and her involvement in this film elevates it considerably. Gwen is kind, smart and brave (not to mention sexy); thankfully, she is the antithesis of the damsel in distress. Rhy Ifans has always been a strong performer and he is fittingly conflicted as Dr Curt Connors/The Lizard. There is a bit of confusion in the script as to Dr Connors’ motivations. He starts off like many Spider-Man villans: idealistic, conflicted, hasty and reckless, but quickly descends into a wild anarchist in some parts. I imagine this is a reflection of his increasingly reptilian state, but I would have liked this tale to skirt closer to the tragedy of the comics. It is also a shame that his performance is frequently overtaken by inconsistent computer animation as he could have created a memorable villain if he had had more input into its monstrous form. Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Dennis Leary all bring class to their slight but authoritative roles.
Choosing director Marc Webb to helm this film was a huge gamble for the studio as he only had one feature film (the great romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer) to his name. Unfortunately, this gamble does not pay off. Webb handles the high school romance element with aplomb, but he fails to create a jaw dropping spectacle, which, frankly, Spider-Man is all about. He is not called ‘The above-average Spider-Man’ for a reason. Despite adding some effective web slinging POV shots and a cool sequence in a sewer, Webb doesn’t show the giddy inventiveness of Raimi’s originals; action-wise this film feels like a downgrade. I must note that the 3D is exceptional though. Much like Prometheus this film contains holograms and other neat pop-ups.
Spider-Man is a AAA franchise and should only be given to directors of the highest order. Letting someone find their cinematic feet on this franchise is just plain dumb. Raimi may not have cut his blockbuster teeth before he made the original, but had directed nine features and demonstrated that he was a director of unique vision. I hope Webb copies Raimi and knocks the sequel out of the park.
While it would appear that I am a salivating Raimi fanboy, I don’t think his films were perfect (except Spider-Man 2). The original film had a heap of bad decisions in it – primarily, having a fucking Power Ranger as a villain. And I left Spider-Man 3 utterly depressed, certain I would never see it again. The Amazing Spider-Man is a good film with a great cast and some inspired performances. It is certainly better than Spider-Man 3, but it fails to hit the lofty heights this franchise could so easily achieve. Usually, in comic films, an origin tale is the medicine we swallow to get to the sugar. In the case of this film we are suffering from a double dose. Comic books are episodic by nature: you pick one up, read a quick introduction on the character and then you are away on a new adventure. I wish this film had have taken this concept and ran with it. A quick pre-credits sequence would have been all we needed to set Spidey up. Instead we have to wait over an hour to see what we came for: Spider-Man in action.
I imagine that the studio is hoping to make a new generation fall in love with Spider-Man, but for those of us who own a set of pubic hairs, this film is a case of been there, done that.
Oh, if the producers want to reboot this again, they can give me a call. I’m game.