By Dave Campbell | 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
Another decade and another origin of Peter Parker’s alter ego. This time around played by Andrew Garfield, Parker is a high school black sheep reared by his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). We learn that Peter was suddenly abandoned by his parents as a very young boy, after the Parker’s safety is threatened due to Richard Parker’s (Campbell Scott) scientific breakthrough’s at Oscorp. As Peter matures, he searches for his own identity while dealing with the absence of his father.
Clues to his father’s past are revealed when Peter finds his father’s old briefcase in the basement; thus beginning Peter’s journey to investigate why his parents disappeared. All arrows point to Oscorp and the lab run by the one-armed man Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who was once his father’s scientific partner and friend. Connor’s work revolves around the splicing of genetic DNA to give humans the benefits of self healing and limb/organ regeneration. While at Oscorp Pete discovers more than he bargains for, and while snooping around he is bit by a GMO spider. Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man.
At school Peter is falling in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) who is conveniently the assistant to Dr. Curt Connors, AND the daughter to Police Captain Stacy, who is leading the agenda of capturing the vigilante known as Spider-Man. At the same time Connors’ is on the verge of termination if he doesn’t make immediate headway. So like any desperate scientist missing an arm, he moves to human trials…on himself. Now there’s a giant humanoid lizard terrorizing the city and Peter must choose how to “swing” forward and become who he is meant to be.
It was only 10 years ago this summer when Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire hit theaters. It was a huge critical and box office success that spawned two sequels which wrapped up in 2007, just 5 short years ago. With creative differences between Team Raimi/Maguire and the Studio Suits (Columbia/Sony Pictures), the Raimi and Maguire exit meant an inevitable reboot for their superhero cash-cow.
Several great ideas sprout up throughout the retelling of this Spider-Man origin saga, but unfortunately they aren’t fleshed out or used to their full potential. Unlike the previous Spider-Man series, this film lacks scope, and you don’t feel the sheer size of the city that Spider-Man will eventually watch-over. So much time is spent setting up the situations for the climax of the film that it feels as if much of the character’s are jumped forward without proper development (most notably Dr. Curt Connors and Gwen Stacy).
On the positive side the physical design of this Spider-Man is much more in touch with the look and feel of his comic book origins, and I can’t really complain about the casting choices and their respective performances. They all held their own, each with a solid presence considering what they were up against. The special effects and visuals have improved over the last decade which lends well to a film where the suspension of disbelief is grandiose.
The main issues come with the overall story and how it is executed. Marc Webb’s direction feels lazy and borrowed; unable to retain it’s own style and independence from the previous series. The score was also a sore spot for me and completely pulled me out of the story several times with it’s bizarre range of styles that didn’t carry a consistent complimentary tone. In what could have been a great chance to redefine an iconic character (like Christopher Nolan did for Batman), the lingering production team and studio executives — intoxicated by the glimmer of more dollar signs — staggered their way into a massively missed opportunity.
Maybe I would feel differently about this film if I had never seen the other Spider-Man films. But the fact is, I have, and so have the record breaking audiences that turned out for the last trilogy. The Amazing Spider-Man is essentially a double dip; a movie we have already seen, with slight adjustments, substitutions and updates. All things considered, it is absolutely impossible not to draw comparison or criticize The Amazing Spider-Man against the shadow of a series still fresh in our minds.