Film review: The Amazing Spider-ManBy Kim Francis
July 18, 2012
The last Spider-Man film only came out in 2007 but Hollywood has already seen fit to give the series about the troubled Lycra-clad crime-fighting webslinger a fashionable reboot.
And so back to the beginning of Spider-Man’s story we go, and a visual re-imagining of how parentless schoolboy Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) comes to develop special spider-like powers and why he makes the decision to fight crime.
As the tale unfolds and concentrates largely on his childhood – and home, school and (awkward) love life – it feels as though time is running out for a supervillain to enter the picture and the inevitable battle between hero and nemesis to follow.
But at 136 minutes long, director Marc Webb makes sure it’s levered in, leaving the film subsequently feeling unbalanced and overlong.
Rhys Ifans makes a worthwhile conflicted adversary, however, as the seemingly good-at-heart Dr Curt Connors, former partner of Peter’s father (Campbell Scott), who turns into the vengeful human-reptile hybrid The Lizard.
But the biggest change in this superhero franchise is the audience it targets. No longer primarily in pursuit of fanboy viewers, Webb’s Spider-Man reboot is aimed squarely at the Twilight crowd, and elevates the love story element to draw in Twi-hard teenagers.
Dealing with intense adolescent feelings and tender romance as it does, as an adult, it feels mildly voyeuristic to watch. It feels weird that we are encouraged to invest emotions in these two teens falling in love.
Other elements do even out the soppy teen romance a bit, thankfully, such as a focus on Peter’s feelings of loss, rejection, regret and isolation, the sweet and loving relationship he has with his aunt and uncle, and, of course, the superhero action. Andrew Garfield makes a less geeky Peter Parker than we’re used to in Tobey Maguire, imbuing Parker with a welcome dose of leading man appeal.
He’s a keen skateboarder (he’s kinda cool) and he stands up to the school bully even before he has developed his spidey powers.
The film is further bolstered by a stellar supporting cast and key roles are filled by Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, Ifans as Dr Connors, Denis Leary as Captain Stacy and the perky Emma Stone as love interest Gwen Stacy.
The Amazing Spider-Man somehow doesn’t feel as spectacular or as grand as the 2002 Sam Raimi vision, perhaps partly because since that was released, countless movies like it have dulled our enthusiasm.
But it does have a pleasingly retro feel early on that recalls the opening scenes of Richard Donner’s 1978 version of Superman, and reminds us that for all that cinema likes to show off about in 2012 (big bangs and big budget special effects), what is arguably most powerful about cinema is its power to evoke.