Wednesday 11 July 2012

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-man

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-man

How soon is too soon for a re-boot? Five, ten years? When Sony Pictures announced back in 2010 that a reboot of their lucrative Spider-man franchise was on its way, many people reacted with despair, proclaiming it too soon for Spidey to given the a rework since Spider-man 3 had only been in cinemas 3 years previously. Now, two years later, The Amazing Spider-man swings into cinemas a mere decade after the Sam Raimi original.  But does it live up to its namesake?

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey
Thankfully, The Amazing Spider-man does it's best to diffuse that overbearing sense of familiarity we all feared. Yes, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a shy, lonely high-school loser (again), is bitten by a super-spider (again), gains the ability to cling to walls (again), is responsible for his uncles death (again) and fights a big 'ol nasty baddie in New York (again), but director Mark Webb's (ba-dum-tish) new spin on the comic-book hero feels fresh, fun and cool thanks to a dash of great casting and lots of laughs.

This is (for the most part) thanks to the films hip, young protagonists Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker/Spidey-man) and Emma Stone (as spunky heroine Gwen Stacey). The chemistry between the two leads is infectious and entertaining, one of the best aspects about the movie. Garfield and Stone are brilliant together and they manage to act it more like a heartfelt romantic comedy at times, which is by no-means a bad thing. The banter the two shares is very playful and funny. Stone in particular showcases the same aptitude for laughs that we saw in Easy A. A stand-out scene where Peter asks Gwen out without being able to string a coherent sentence together is hilarious, and shows how Webb has used his previous work on rom-com 500 Days of Summer to extract maximum awkwardness from the duo.

Michael Sheen was a delight as the wizened Uncle Ben, but naturally his time on-screen is cut short to make way for the darker, angst-ridden revenge Peter dishes out as Spider-man. Likewise, Denis Leary as the committed and honourable police captain is another welcome addition. One thing that is noticeable when comparing Amazing Spider-man with "original" Spider-man is the distinct darker tone; Raimi's first film is, on the whole, a lot more cartoonish and brighter than this entry.

Inevitably with any re-boot, comparisons are going to be drawn with the existing work. Whereas Sam Raimi's 2002 Spider-man took the time to establish the specifics of Peter's spider powers and symptoms, Mark Webb discards much of this. Regardless of the films stand-out leads, Webb makes the first third of the film feel a little rushed, skating over much of the details surrounding Peter's transformation into your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man. One minute Garfield is, shy, introverted and 'orphaned', the next, he's tracking down and beating up his uncles killer with a cheeky cock of the head and a witty one-liner. It all feels a little too fast and the whole section where Peter is finding his feet and exploring his powers could have been fleshed out a little more.

Andrew Garfield finds his feet
No doubt these details were brushed aside to make way for "the untold story". The Amazing Spider-man attempts to distant itself from the original trilogy by trying to explore more of Peter's mysterious past and the disappearance of his parents. It's a nice addition to the story, one that interlinks well with the film's villain (Rhys Ifans as Dr Curt Connors/The Lizard) and one that will tie over into the already confirmed sequels.

Ifans is likeable (sans-scales) as the one-armed scientist Curt Connors, a talented geneticist with a link to Peter's lost parents. It is when he transfers into the snarling, tail-whipping Lizard that the cracks begin to show; the CGI is a little below par by today's standards and isn't overly impressive. The malice and villainy that Ifans brings is best on show when he is in Doctor Jekyll mode and not visa versa.

When the action kicks off near the films crescendo, it doesn't disappoint, a game of cat-and-mouse through the sewer systems being tense and brutal; Spidey is on the receiving end of some big slashes and cuts throughout the film.

Amazing Spider-man? Not quite, maybe The Entirely Adequate Spider-man is more apt. When judged on its own merit, Amazing Spider-man is a wholly entertaining film fully deserving of the moniker, amazing. Garfield and Stone are top-notch, a brilliant double-act who surpass Maguire and Dunst and the darker, hormone-fuelled high-school setting is a welcome choice. It's only when you consider it alongside those that came before it, that Amazing Spider-man is paled a little in comparison.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

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