The Amazing Spider-Man
136 mins (12A)
Whether or not it is too soon to reboot to the Spider-man series just five years after Sam Raimi went out with a whimper in the wake of 2007's wearily disappointing Spider-Man 3, box office allure and fans' desire to see a post-Nolan web slinger have resulted in an early return for Marvel's most famous franchise. Taking the reigns for The Amazing Spider-Man is (500) Days of Summer director, Mark Webb (yes, yes, Webb, we know- ha ha) who transfers the teenage angst that saturated his freshman effort in the Spider-Man universe with ease. Donning the Spidey-suit for the fixie bike generation is Andrew Garfield, whose performance in the opening 15 minutes alone will settle the nerves of the cynics. Garfield brings a fragility to Peter Parker that was lacking during the Raimi era, and, although he is not helped by some rather rushed character develop, creates a lead that is always good company, as well as sympathetic and relatable.
The big change in story line this time around concerns Peter's parents; the catalyst for the plot involving his quest to carry on his father's clandestine research and uncover the truth behind his death. Parker enlists the help of Dr. Curt Connors, an amputee scientist and old friend of Parker Snr. who works in the field of cross-species genetics. When Peter inadvertently gives Connors the algorithm that makes his dream of growing back his lost arm a reality, unsurprisingly, the procedure has some dramatic side affects that could put the whole of New York City in danger.
In an attempt to distance itself from the previous films, while simultaneously appeasing the hard-core comic book fans, the filmmakers have opted to use Gwen Stacey as Parker's love interest this time around, and the casting of Emma Stone is as inspired as the choice of lead. Stone and Garfield exude a great chemistry (one that has continued off camera, incidentally) and, despite being preternaturally attractive and having a combined age of 51, they are never less than believable 17-year-old high-schoolers. In fact, the depth of character that Webb and his cast achieve in the opening half of the movie almost makes you wish that Rhyss Ifans' Dr. Connors would accept a teaching post abroad and spare us all the inevitable reptilian transformation and obligatory CGI rough and tumble.
Although The Amazing Spider-Man is a notably darker affair when compared to its predecessor, Webb and Garfield do not neglect the inherent comedy and playfulness of Spider-Man, and the film has a noticeably gritty edge whilst the humour and humanity of the characters remain intact. The film assumes a certain amount of prior knowledge in regard to its central characters, and the introduction of Peter Parker- isolated, disenfranchised boy-genius, is handled with all the hastiness of a friend kindly reminding you that you've in fact met their other half before- "You remember Peter, right? The nerdy one was always got his lunch money stolen?". There are other overly familiar plot points in the Spider-man origin story that can't be altered, and Martin Sheen's uncle Ben, excellent as he is, always seems to be on borrowed time, the image of Cliff Robertson bleeding out on the sidewalk and uttering the famous mantra all too fresh in the memory.
As is the way with all 3D, superhero summer blockbusters, The Amazing Spider-Man sadly cannot avoid atavistically descending into CGI, frenetic nonsense in its final act, and Dr. Conners' lizard rampaging through Manhattan, destroying everything in its path quickly becomes overly familiar and dull. It would be nice to see a film of this genre with enough respect for its audience to avoid reverting to explosions and 3D Onanism, but the wait goes on.
While elements of The Amazing-Spiderman draw inevitable comparisons to the Maguire/Raimi era, Webb's tone and added depth, along with some great performances from Garfield and Stone, ensure that Spiderman's premature return is more than justified. Welcome back Spidey.