Of all the Marvel characters to have another origins story released as a feature film, the last one that would expect is the one that changed the British rating system upon its release. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) was critically successful and was the stepping stone to a successful comic book franchise, even though its release led to the creation of the ’12A’ rating in the UK – so kids also can enjoy the fun. Oh joy.
Five years after Spider-Man 3, we have another film based on the eponymous superhero. New cast, new director – and a not-entirely new premise.
The Amazing Spider-Man sees Peter Parker (The Social Network‘s Andrew Garfield), bitten by a genetically modified spider and gain similar abilities such as climbing up walls and ‘spider-sense’. When his beloved uncle Ben is murdered, Parker becomes a vigilante known as ‘Spider-Man’ to track down his killer. Meanwhile, he meets and assists a former colleague of his late father, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who dreams of using his research to regrow his arm. Unfortunately, his experiments leads to him becoming a half-man, half-lizard hybrid and it’s up to Spider-Man to stop him.
Now, the news of a Spider-Man reboot coming out so soon after the cancellation of Spider-Man 4 and Raimi’s departure from the franchise was surprising. Not due to the fact that Spider-Man’s origins story has been covered in depth by films, cartoons and comic books, but the idea of another possible film franchise can become as, or even more, successful as Raimi’s creations seem unlikely. The Amazing Spider-Man is the second feature film of Marc Webb, whose debut film 500 Days of Summer (2009) was a commercial and critical success, becoming one of the ‘sleeper’ hits of the year. Still, having Webb – a director whose 15-year career mainly consists of music videos – tackle one of the most renowned superheroes in the Marvel multiverse, was a big gamble by Sony Pictures.
So, it comes as no surprise that trying to see this as a separate venture and not draw comparisons to Raimi’s film is a challenge.
Rather than show the emotional conflict of Parker and the feelings he has with the supporting characters, such as his Aunt May and Uncle Ben (Sally Fields and Martin Sheen respectively), his love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and even Dr. Connors, Webb makes a film that focuses on entertaining the viewer, by try to deviate from what the fans know and love. However, his efforts do not compete to the same levels as Christopher Nolan and Matthew Vaughn when it comes to creating a ‘deep’ superhero origins film that brings something new, as well as can lead to something more.
On the flipside, having a superhero film being fun and entertaining is a welcome perspective – like The Avengers (<–note the proper title). What with numerous reboots and origin stories going, it’s sometimes nice to be entertained. There are moments designed to make you giggle throughout the film, from Parker’s discovery of his new abilities in a subway to Stan Lee’s compulsory cameo.
Andrew Garfield is great as Peter Parker, who is evidently relishing the role. Showing brains and a rebellious side, Garfield’s Parker is not too socially awkward or emotionally conflicted but he does get the odd cut or bruise, showing that all superheroes are not invincible. In short, he is more relatable Peter Parker and all the more enjoyable to watch. His chemistry with Emma Stone is fabulous because it sizzles – Parker doesn’t mope or fawn over her, there is a genuine spark between them and you can actually believe there is real heart and feelings in their relationship. Stone doesn’t play the typical damsel in distress – like Parker, her Gwen Stacy shows she is more than a pretty face and it is great to see her in more of an action-based feature.
Ifans’s Connors is quietly motivated to do good and his real transition to the Dark Side starts when CGI takes over and he becomes The Lizard. He is not the most egotistical villain or megalomanic and his relationship with Parker could have been developed a little more, so Ifans has not created a memorable enough antagonist to help kick-start a new franchise – though with a sequel coming up in 2014, is The Lizard destined for more in Webb’s Spider-Man?
The Amazing Spider-Man is enjoyable filled with great moments and wonderful performances from Garfield and Stone. In terms of in-depth character development, there are slight flaws but in this day and age, do you really need that from a superhero film?