Director: Marc Webb
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
Plot: When Peter Parker tries to investigate what happened to his parents, he is bitten by a genetically engineered spider and acquires new powers which he must use to thwart the plans of a mad scientist.
Marvel Studios’ behemoth of a cash-nabbing conveyor belt continues to churn out the obligatory blockbusters. After Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, we had The Avengers (basically an excuse to cobble most of the above together in an attempt to squeeze more money out of us) and now a remake after just 10 years (not a reboot, as some had claimed) of the Tobey Maguire-starring Spiderman franchise. Cue another twenty-something high-school student playing the geeky Peter Parker, but this time he’s without Mary Jane and has to face an even more irritating adversary than the extremely camp Green Goblin.
Parker (Garfield) walks into his father Richard’s (Campbell Scott) study and discovers that it has been broken into. His parents quickly scoop up him and a plethora of documents, taking Peter to stay with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) from where they flee into the night. Years later, a teenage Parker is attending Midtown Science High School, where he is being bullied by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka), but catches the eye of Gwen Stacy (Stone). When he returns home, Peter finds some of his father’s papers and discovers that he once worked with Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans) at OsCorp. Managing to fake his way into OsCorp by stealing an ID, Peter gets into one of the labs where he finds that spiders are being genetically modified as part of a series of experiments – one of which bites him on the back of the neck, resulting in shocking, spider-like qualities.
Peter goes to visit the one-armed Connors, who is trying to find a way of splicing lizard DNA to replicate their ability to grow new limbs in place of lost ones. Connors is also being pressured by his employer Dr. Ratha (Irrfan Khan) to find a cure for the enigmatic dying head of OsCorp, Norman Osborn. Peter tells Connors that he is Richard Parker’s son and gives him the answer to a ‘decay rate algorithm’ equation that solves the conundrum of methodology that has been, until now, elusive. At school, Peter gets revenge on Flash and gets into trouble, forcing his uncle to change shifts in order to meet with the school principal. Ben asks him to pick up his Aunt for him, but Peter instead goes to the lab at OsCorp where he and Connors manage to regenerate a limb on a three-legged mouse. Upon returning home, Ben berates him for not fetching May – Peter storms out and Ben goes after him, but when Peter lets a thief go by who then runs into Ben and shoots him, Peter realises that he must seek revenge by using his new-found abilities, except that he hasn’t reckoned on the appearance of a giant lizard who begins terrorising the city.
The Amazing Spider-Man is not too unlike its ten-year-old cousin Spider-Man (2002). There are some very familiar plot strands in here, which are based on the comic strip but suggest a lack of direction rather than a re-imagining. Indeed, if you were to watch the two films back-to-back you might question the wisdom of Marvel’s producers for even bothering – and you would be mostly right. Let’s not forget that it is only five years since the third and last film in the previous franchise graced our screens to predictably diminishing returns. So, why bother? It would be a hard cynic to point solely towards the ultimate goal of lining the pockets of Marvel’s executives. If this new dawn in the Spider-Man saga were a complete and utter waste of time, then to belittle it straight away on such grounds would be justified. Yes, there is little originality as far as the story is concerned, but there are plus points to be had, even if at first glance it looks like a money-making exercise. The casting is critical if we are to believe that new life has been breathed into this particular incarnation of arguably Marvel’s most famous superhero. Garfield, Stone, Sheen and Field is a superb billing which should appeal to both young and old audiences alike.
Andrew Garfield, who bears a striking resemblance in a certain light to the gangly gait (and hair) of Andy Murray (Wimbledon 2, anyone?), conveys a terrific sense of zero-turns-hero, whilst he finds out how to harness his new powers to his delight at first, but then horror when he realises the implications. There are some nice touches of comedy which Garfield portrays well, such as flooring a group of thugs on the subway and humiliating the school bully. There’s perhaps a better sense of believability as opposed to Tobey Maguire, who was a little stiff and starchy in comparison. Emma Stone, who at five years younger can just about get away with playing teenagers for a little longer, is very competent as the love interest. She is not as wimpy as Kristen Dunst’s Mary Jane, yet doesn’t overdo the ‘independent woman’ vibe, which could have become irritating. The major blot on the landscape is Rhys Ifans’ Dr. Connors, who is camper than a row of tents. When the compulsory mad doctor turns into a lizard there’s a relief of sorts, but even then the guys in the CGI department have done a valiant job of making the character even less convincing, if that was the intention. As with many superhero films, the villain of the piece has to be worthy of fighting, yet here it is severely lacking.
The Amazing Spider-Man may look great behind rose-tinted 3D spectacles, but the fact of the matter is that Marvel have regurgitated rather than rebooted. Having said that, there is plenty of time for the game to be upped and for this particular superhero to redeem himself. In Garfield we may very well have to trust for now.