By Jessica Delfanti | July 3, 2012
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt (story/screenplay), Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves (screenplay), Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (Marvel comic book)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka
It was ten years ago that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man initiated a trilogy that would span from iconic (that kiss!) to embarrassingly idiotic (that Venom arc!). Ten years was enough for the moviegoing public to get excited and then bored by the teen hero, so it is no surprise that Marc Webb’s reboot The Amazing Spider-Man finds much of its audience less than enthused. While Webb’s film has its moments, it fails to bring enough new content to infuse Spider-Man with new life.
Perhaps the film’s core problem is that it focuses mostly on Peter Parker’s well known origin story. Here, Peter (Andrew Garfield) is a wiry outcast with an attitude, splitting his time between obsessing over his absent father, Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) and his crush, Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). When a genetically modified spider’s bite grants him with uncanny physical abilities, Peter embarks on a campaign against petty criminals and ultimately faces off against a real “bad guy,” the Lizard (Rhys Ifans).
New iterations on previously used superheroes has certainly become standard in film, especially as the most popular characters get used up in the comic craze. However, The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t add anything interesting to the mix. Certainly, there are references to a conspiracy that is presumably the plot focus of later installments, but the result of pulled punches is a film that doesn’t hit hard enough. For audiences that just stopped hyperventilating from the rush of The Avengers, or have rewatched trailers of The Dark Knight Rises dozens of times, a film that saves its best elements for later simply doesn’t hold much allure.
That said, The Amazing Spider-Man contains two saving elements: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Garfield plays Peter with a sharp but sweet edge, alternating between darkly assertive statements and flustered jests. He brings a different level to Peter, something darker and more desperate than we’ve seen in previous iterations: it is almost a shame when the Spider-Man mask comes into play and covers up Garfield’s fantastic face acting.
In turn, Stone is, as always, a pleasure to watch. Her addition to the film here lies far more in her innate charm than her ability to act, as the Gwen character isn’t graced with much to do or say in the script. But Stone and Garfield have a fresh and natural chemistry that make their Spider-Man irrelevant scenes in the high school some of the film’s best.
In costume, Spider-Man is rendered as a lithe and jointless entity, and seeing him swing through the city like a spandexed Tarzan is a pleasure. In fact, the film could benefit from less talk and more action. The effects are as polished as one would expect, with some subtle but elegant uses of 3D. However, simple good craftsmanship isn’t enough to hold attention in an otherwise lackluster narrative.
Perhaps it is the extra talk at the beginning, or the repetition of the origin story so many of us know so well, but the film seems to drag on about 45 minutes too long, and by the time the mid-credits scene rolls, audiences will be eager to leave the theater. We can only hope the anticipated sequel brings more to the table–or better yet, we see Spider-Man next sitting at the Avengers’ table instead.