Jul 052012
 

For months and months, there has been a parasitic crime at our cinemas – that bloody Amazing Spider-Man trailer; it’s been the same thing for a good 6 months; playing before everything; horrors, comedies, you name it, it was there. Not even The Dark Knight Rises is getting this much hype, and the trouble is, the trailer was boring, and gave away everything. For a film like that, about Spider-Man, you have a problem; with the ridiculous decision to reboot the franchise from Sam Raimi’s trilogy only 10 years after the first one was released, The Amazing Spider-Man has all the potential to be car crash of a film, and while it’s better than expected, it’s still pretty naff.

The Amazing Spider-Man sees another origin story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, Never Let Me Go) turning into the teenage superhero Spider-Man. It’s a coming of age tale with the puberty driven young man fending off girls like Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, Easy A), bullies, and giant lizard scientists (Rhys Ifans, Little Nicky). He’s also angst ridden after the death of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, The West Wing) and the developing of his new spider-like superpowers.

Apart from a couple of exceptions, the cast is great. Garfield does a better job than Tobey Maguire at both Peter Parker and Spider-Man; showing great charisma in and out of the suit (except in times of depression), and with the freedom of a new script enabling some proper Spider-man wisecracking, Garfield nails the tone of it perfectly. Emma Stone is a damn good young actress and plays the lady Stacy very well; she’s too pretty to be Ifans’ lab assistant, and she’s a bit of a bitch for ditching the school jock to go neck Parker, but when she was that convincing as Gwen Stacy it’s easily forgivable. Denis Leary (Rescue Me) plays Gwen’s dad, and is effective as the gruff, no-nonsense police Captain Stacy that doesn’t want those damn Spiders and Lizards running around his city (leading to an enjoyable dinner table conversation about Spider-Man’s ethics between Garfield and Leary, where the facial expressions they throw at each other are tremendous), and Sheen is the best Uncle Ben there’s ever been; for a short role, he gives some dramatic weight to the role which is usually just used as an inspirational totem.

But there were some lame lambs in this otherwise heavenly flock of a cast; Ifans as Dr. Kurt Connors (and the voice of The Lizard) doesn’t inspire at all, his English accent is flung wildly around, coming and going as it pleases, he suffers from looking more like a rock-star berk than a convincing scientist, and when watching him you can’t help thinking how much better an actor like Steve Buscemi could have been. Sally Field (Mrs. Doubtfire) as Aunt May is a poor substitute after the perfect match of Rosemary Harris, and just hangs around the film like a bad smell; failing to offer any motherly and/or inspirational advice (which is what A.M. does!); making her a real waste of a character.

The “darker” mood, inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, is practically childish, and there should be enough emotion in The Amazing Spider-Man with Peter’s role-model Uncle Ben dying, but in an attempt to go after a more female/Twilight audience there’s a lot more focus on the love story between Peter and Gwen; which is fine, until the ridiculous angst at the end just makes Peter out to be a horrible person instead. And, really, is this what ladies want from their men nowadays… angst-ridden emotion?!

One of the biggest bug bears is the fact that not only is the robber who kills Uncle Ben made sympathetic, but whole the reason for Peter Parker to become Spider-Man is obscured; Spidey’s motto is “with great power comes great responsibility” (said by Uncle Ben as a means of understanding power and the use of it), and this, coupled with Ben’s death, drives Peter to become the red and blue hero we know and love. Well, not in this. There’s a gibberish line from Sheen, right before he goes off to have his big death scene, which has the word “power”, but that’s it. Of course, seeking revenge from the robber who kills his uncle is motivation enough, but without this epic line it doesn’t have the organic feel of an epic beginning to a character; it’s like having Batman… but his parents are still alive.

Going with a remake was a bad decision anyway; two similar films within 10 years is too short a timeframe. Spider-Man 4, that’s fine, but don’t try doing another origin story when there’s a perfectly decent one already there, it could even been like James Bond movies; we know Bond’s backstory, but his history isn’t why we’ve turned up to see this particular episode of his big screen adventures; we all know that Spidey is a teenage superhero with spider powers, so what do we want from The Amazing Spider-Man? well for Spidey to beat up a giant lizard man, not tell us his life story… again! We’ve seen the bulk of this movie already (and not too long ago).

A big problem with the remake is that we know what’s going to happen; Uncle Ben will get shot, Peter Parker will become Spider-Man, he will meet Gwen Stacy, he will fight the Lizard; and there’s no surprises for the hardcore fans; especially since they’re doing the Captain Stacy storyline from the comics. Whilst Spider-Man 3 was chock full of enough stories for two films, the content was spread too thin here, and just moves from bland-point-A-to-bland-point-B.

The Lizard wasn’t a great choice of villain either, forget him waking up after his transformations in the cleanest sewer in history (where the water is clear!), they’ve just turned him evil for no reason; in the comics Connors is a reptilian Jekyll and Hyde, here, though he’s in full control of his Lizard personality, and his whole reason for being evil is to make the human race “complete and pure” by making them all… Lizards? Great plan.

Most of the CGI is shocking; there are some nice bits with Spider-Man web-slinging through the air, but the first person views should have stayed on the cutting room floor (they never looked convincing from the first trailer debut, and nothing has been done to touch it up); it’s nowhere near as realistic as it could have been, and the CGI for the Lizards is truly atrocious; he looks like a disabled dinosaur who was rejected from Jurassic Park in the ‘90s.

Ignoring the goofily ironic name (which some executive must have laughed at all day long), director Marc Webb (500 Days Of Summer) can do decent little romance scenes, and some characterisation, but that’s it. The music picked to go into this film is odd; not the soundtrack, but the instrumental interludes; the most horrific example of which comes from when Gwen was hiding from the Lizard in a lab, and there was some random piano keys being smashed in the background. Why?! It doesn’t reflect the mood being portrayed on screen at all!

It’s really a good thing that Webb can do romance since the pacing needs looking at (it takes 45 minutes for Uncle Ben to die, and, as you know he’s going to die, why bother investing in him?), and he can’t do action either; there are no set pieces that stand out when you compare moments in the franchise before (Spidey vs. Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2 for example); and considering Spider-Man is driven by action, this is a cinematic crime.

Like the Raimi Spider-Man, Peter takes his mask off far too much, and he’s just too keen to whip it off; it must have been captured on film when it comes off during the Lizard fight in his school (there must be security cameras, considering how NYC schools are paranoid about inner city gun crimes), dozens of police officers fight an unmasked Spidey and hear his real name, so you’d think some of them could put 2 and 2 together, but apparently not; secret identities are obviously a thing of the past.

Oddly enough, from a character point of view, The Amazing Spider-Man is probably the best Spider-Man film there is. Spidey’s spot on as the wisecrackin’ webslinger, but everything else is nowhere near as true to the source content; there are far too many problems, and a lack of originality has simply led to a pointless reboot, and a Spider-Man film short of ideas; sure it was decently cast, but The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t come anywhere near as close to it’s ‘amazing’ moniker as you’d like.

Terry Lewis@thatterrylewis.