Saturday, 30 June 2012
FILM REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Marketed as "the untold story" of Spider-man, Sony Pictures' reboot of the blue and red spandex-wearing web slinger is more a case of 'same old, same old', only with the names changed; not so much to protect the innocent but to perhaps trick the average movie-goer -- and ADHD-suffering youths -- into believing that The Amazing Spider-man is indeed brand spanking new.
But the basic Spider-man origin story -- adolescent Peter Parker has no parents, lives with his aunt and uncle; Peter gets bitten by radioactive spider imbuing him with arachnid-like superpowers; uncle is killed sending Peter on a crusade for justice -- not only remains intact here, it's labouriously retold for very little effect.
Of course, it does introduce us to the new Peter Parker, Brit actor Andrew Garfield (best known The Social Network). And to his credit, Garfield makes the role of the outsider teen with a good heart and strong mind his own.
Garfield's Peter is much more amusing, empathetic and, well, likeable than his predecessor, Tobey Maguire, who, in Sam Raimi's trilogy, gave Spider-man's alter ego a whiny quality. For Maguire's Parker, with great powers came an awful lot of whinging about having great responsibilities.
Good, too, is Emma Stone, who not only replaces Kirsten Dunst but plays an altogether different kind of love interest. Gwen Stacy, classmate of Peter Parker, is also his intellectual equal. Not for her a life on the stage like Dunst's Mary Jane, Gwen, whose IQ is as bright as Stone's screen presence, has her sights set on a career in science.
Too bad, then, that the film's writers (James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, who penned #2 and #3 in Raimi's Spidey trilogy, and Harry Potter scribe, Steve Kloves), and director, Marc Webb (whose only previous film was the delightful non-rom-com, (500) Days of Summer), don't give the actress a whole lot to do.
The same could be said of Rhys Ifans as Doctor Curt Connors. A geneticist with an interest in splicing human DNA with that of animals in an attempt to fight disease and possibly restore limbs (Connors is an amputee, missing most of his right arm), the good doctor becomes positively cold blooded when his experiments, given a helping hand (no pun intended) by Peter, suddenly yield unexpected results.
The appearance of The Lizard, Connors' reptilian alter ego with a severe case of 'roid rage, doesn't necessarily enervate proceedings but to the filmmakers' credit, a GCI-8-foot reptile is a more convincing foe than The Green Goblin, Willem Dafoe's villain from Spider-man (2002), who gave off a rather unfortunate Power Rangers vibe.
Indeed, the action in The Amazing Spider-man, particularly the requisite scenes of Spider-man swinging through the streets of New York, is far more realistic than those in the previous trilogy: he actually looks like a flesh and blood man. Admittedly, the film's action scenes overall are not the strong suit of Marc Webb; shot mostly in close-up and seemingly truncated (and the 3D is neither here nor there).
Webb's direction, however, is much stronger when his hero is on the ground, out of his spandex and opposite Gwen; Webb no doubt chosen to enhance the story's human element and not, as we all joked, because of his surname (although why they couldn't make the pair college freshmen instead of high schoolers, I don't know).
To say The Amazing Spider-man is better than Spider-man 3 is almost to damn it with faint praise, given that the third instalment in Raimi's trilogy was unequivocally the weakest of the three. But while this reboot may be somewhat less than amazing, it's not necessarily bad.
In a post-Avengers world, the bar for superhero films may have been raised and, here's hoping, will be even more so by Nolan's impending The Dark Knight Rises. The Amazing Spider-man may suffer for being stuck somewhere between the lightness of touch of the former and the darkness of the latter, but it shouldn't be punished unnecessarily for that.