The Amazing Spider-Man: A Review
The Amazing Spider-Man – Dir: Marc Webb; *ing: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field
Alright, so let’s do a quick, cursory check of Hollywood’s sack of tricks of ideas for summer blockbusters, which came into being around the time Bruce the shark started chowing down on the good folks of Amity Island (Jaws – 1975): there have been sequels and prequels, a fist or two full of Bond flicks, and adaptations of high-concept novels/graphic novels, ‘foreign’ language imports, theme park rides (bottom-of-the-barrel alert!), and, of course, superhero comic books. A newer phenomenon is the franchise re-boot, wherein a familiar cinematic universe is tarted up and re-presented with new stars, a shift in sensibility, and also (hopefully) a fresh take on the essence of the story and characters involved. Think, for example, what a sorry, lame-ass, Bozo the Clown-ish franchise Batman had become at the hands of Joel Schumacher and co. in the 90s; and what Chris Nolan, Christian Bale and Heath Ledger achieved when they turned off the neon, got rid of the nippled suit and gave the Dark Knight his cojones back. This Spiderman reboot is a little more puzzling though, considering that Sam Raimi’s version (which, amazingly enough, was the first big screen web-slinger adaptation) was not only a critical darling and mega successful, but was also released a mere ten years ago. So the questions dogging Marc Webb’s 3D re-visit are: was it really necessary? Is it too soon? Can Andrew Garfield out-mope Tobey Maguire? Is there a wet t-shirt paired with an upside-down kiss?
The answer to the last one is a resounding no (you may go into mourning now, Stone fanboys) but the others are a little trickier and rather more subjective. The film does stick to and recreate the familiar origin story: orphaned, teenaged science nerd Peter Parker (Garfield) gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and hey presto, his inner arachnid is unleashed! Cue the violin strings as his kindly Uncle Ben (Sheen) shuffles off the mortal coil, the victim of a street crime that compels Peter/Spiderman to become a masked vigilante, helping rid Manhattan of its human vermin, while also stepping gingerly around his grieving Aunt May (Field), as well as his own emotional issues. Of course every superhero story requires a super-villain and that role is filled here by Dr. Curt Conors (Ifans) a.k.a. The Lizard, a mini-Godzilla in the foulest of moods and with a hankering for mass destruction. And then there is ‘the girl’, Stone’s feisty blonde Gwen Stacy replacing Kirsten Dunst’s more subdued redhead, MJ. In a departure from the Raimi version, the teenage romance here (which is crucial to the film) rings truer: a little less sugary sweet and dreamy, and a whole lot more hormonally charged on both sides. The tone is also lighter, as Peter slips and slides into his new avatar with a young-punk swagger, quips and comebacks at the ready. The sense of underlying melancholy that informed Maguire’s turn, is less obvious here. There are, needless to say, action sequences aplenty, the exhilaration of which is lent a heightened urgency by more refined CGI as well as Spidey’s true-to-comic-book-roots homemade web-shooting wristbands.
But, as noted earlier, the experience is subjective; some will find it exciting, enchanting, others will rubbish it. Even Garfield’s cocky interpretation, effortlessly charming though it is, will, doubtless, polarize people. The film does struggle to find its own identity, both as a discernibly different reboot to a recent franchise, and also, more importantly, in an era when you can’t sling a web without it running smack-dab into a caped, masked, iron-clad, pea-hued superhero with a Divine hammer. But as your average, run-of-the-mill summer blockbuster goes, The Amazing Spiderman ticks enough boxes efficiently enough to acquit itself respectably, and has fun doing it. Unnecessary? Most probably. Too soon? Most definitely. Still worth a gander? You betcha.
Cult: Flash Gordon (1980) – This high-camp adaptation of Alex Raymond’s comic strip about an intergalactic adventurer had an iconic score by Queen but was a no-show at the box-office. Ripe for a remake, what say?
Current: The Avengers – Writer/director Joss Whedon brings his deft comic touch to a mammoth franchise entry that would otherwise have been too overwrought to be truly enjoyable (looking at you, Transformers sequels).
Coming Attraction: Man of Steel (2013) – After the poor reception given to Christopher Reeve-lookalike Brandon Routh in the underperforming Superman Returns (2006), newcomer Henry Cavill will suit up as Krypton’s only surviving son in this Zack Snyder-directed reboot.