The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man

Back in January 2010, Sony Pictures announced that director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire would not return for Spider-Man 4 and the future of the $2.5 billion grossing franchise was left hanging by a thread. As is currently fashionable in Hollywood, Sony immediately announced plans to “Reboot” their franchise, allowing a new director to take the reins of their blockbuster behemoth to start again from scratch. The man selected to replace the great Sam Raimi in the director’s chair, was the appropriately named Marc Webb; fresh from the success of his brilliant debut feature 500 Days of Summer. With a global army of fans, with such fond memories of the series, Webb had a sky-scraper to climb in order to overcome the expectations placed upon his, relatively, in-experienced shoulders. The most important ingredient for Webb’s crime-fighting cocktail was a new actor to fill Maguire’s skin-tight, lycra boots: Enter Andrew Garfield.

Best known to British audiences for his blistering work in Tony Grisoni’s Red Riding trilogy, Garfield’s Hollywood star is on the rise, with David Fincher, Robert Redford and Terry Gilliam a few of his recent directors. As a self-confessed fan of Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-man series, Garfield’s cool, laid-back portrayal of Peter Parker is a stark juxtaposition to the more socially-awkward Parker, as played by Tobey Maguire. Since the original Spider-Man‘s release in 2002, Silicon Valley has replaced The White House with Facebook is the new super-power and The Big Bang Theory has made nerds fashionable: The geek has inherited the earth. Garfield reflects this new social order, his intellect is celebrated, his photography is cool and girls notice him for the right reasons. The new-found self-confidence seen in the web-slinger is dialed up to 11 after gaining his arachnoid abilities. After that faithful spider-bite, Peter uses his gifts just like any teenager would, to master skateboard tricks, humiliate criminals and show off on the basketball court. Whereas Maguire’s Spiderman saw his powers as a curse, Garfield plays them as a blessing and who can blame him? Who wouldn’t enjoy the ability to fly through the air at breakneck speeds, to embarrass bullies who made their lives hell? This youthful exuberance exuded by the new Peter Parker, renders him one of the most likable cinema heroes of recent memory. The support cast elevate this project even further with Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Rhys Ifans and Denis Leary all excellent, although sometimes under-utilized. However, Parkers chemistry with love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) sizzles, providing the movie with the emotional lynch pin to hold the narrative together.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker

Following Christopher Nolan’s example, director Mark Webb declared an ambition to use practical effects as much as possible when shooting the many action scenes which punctuate the movie and the extra work has paid off. When Spider-man swings through the Big Apple, the sequences are exhilarating, inventive and all the more spectacular in 3D: However, the film lacks a standout, jaw-dropping action sequence such as the truck flip in The Dark Knight, or Thor vs. Hulk in The Avengersthe absence of such a scene is notable but not a major flaw. Also missing is a boo-worthy villain for Spider-man to go toe-to-toe with. Although Rhys Ifans is brilliant as Doctor Curt Conners (aka The Lizard), the script goes to great lengths to paint him as a victim of circumstance rather than a true manifestation of evil. The desire for a sympathetic villain is a poor hangover from the Raimi days and it isn’t the only one. Some key scenes are lifted almost word for word from previous entries and fail to contribute anything new to the development of the title character. It’s almost painful to see Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, dancing around the phase `with great power, comes great responsibility.’ It is easy to emphasize with the director; changing a key scene for dramatic effect would unshackle the film from easy comparison but would also incur the wrath of the fan-boys. Sadly, Webb’s failure to take risks harms the movie as it appears to be out of ideas and struggles to present any fresh reading of the Spider-man mythos.

Ultimately, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fantastic slice of entertainment although it suffers from the audience not being given enough time to forget the Sam Raimi trilogy; it’s just not quite the factory reset Sony would have hoped for. It comfortably sits alongside this summer’s other super-hero selection and Garfield easily escapes the shadow of Tobey Maguire. With this week’s announcement that the movie would be the first of a new trilogy, Webb has woven a strong base to build upon on in the near future.

 

About The Author

Liam graduated from the University of Kent in 2012 with a first class degree in Film Studies. Whilst studying at Kent he discovered his passion for cinema criticism by questioning the merits of as many examples as possible'; from Hitchcock's The Lodger, to The Hangover Part II. Liam's cinematic range encompass' genres and auteurs far and wide, however, the fusion of technology with outstanding storytelling is where his key passions lie: Therefore, the work of James Cameron, David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson forms the bulk of Liam's must see catalogue.

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