Director: Mark Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
Running Time: 136 minutes
Release: 3 July
Just five years on from the release of Spider-Man 3, the much maligned third film spun from the mostly successful actor director team-up of Maguire and Raimi, we have The Amazing Spider-Man, a franchise reboot with a title so loaded it’s just begging to be rebuffed. No, not amazing, not even close, sadly.
The gleeful self promotion of the film’s title is only matched in audaciousness by its marketing campaign, which throws around the term ‘untold story’ like it actually believes it. No super powers required to realize this tale’s been told before. Yep, it’s the classic radioactive spider, murdered uncle, great power & great responsibility origin story. Still, it’s delivered here with a heavier, healthier focus on teenage drama, as to be expected from director Mark Webb (500 Days of Summer). Mary Jane is out of the picture—for now—substituted with Gwen Stacy, brought to life with confidence and charisma by Emma Stone. Andrew Garfield is the titular Spider-Man, and though he nails Spidey’s quippy attitude, his Parker hints at a dopey dreariness that gives Maguire’s maligned turn as emo Spider-Man a run for its money. The relationship between the two teenage leads is easily the film’s saving grace, though even it’s a victim of the overstuffed and clumsy story.
Amazing is simply too chunky for even the spacious two hour Spidey suit it tries to slip into. And no, the greatest mystery of all—how he whips up those spiffy spandex duds—is still brushed over. For all its dramatic beats and sweetness, motivations remain foggy, especially frustrating when it comes to both the hero and villain (Rhys Ifans, as Spidey’s mentor turned maniac—sound familiar?). The chain of events leading Parker from insect attack survivor to primary coloured vigilante unfold not so much quickly as clumsily, the character absorbs it all with surprising indifference and never is a moment taken to reflect on the absurdity of it all. Motivations aren’t the only foggy aspect of the film, with so many plot threads hanging loose that the whole web feels close to collapsing. Mysteries are great and all, but incessantly referring to characters’ unexplained deaths doesn’t automatically qualify it as something actually worth caring about.
Amazing delivers scattershot action. The grand finale falls flat, wrapped up in a vague sense of urgency but also undermined by an incredible second act set piece—an impeccably staged high school battle against the Lizard, where Spider-Man feels his truest, using his powers and environment intelligently against a foe too strong for straight out conflict. Said foe is an impressive sight too, the Lizard is a well crafted CG creation, though one that truly shines when stomping through shadows like the velociraptors of Jurassic Park, as opposed to monologuing his heinous plans.
The Amazing Spider-Man hints at greatness, but is encumbered by a bloated script and lack of identity, secret or otherwise. It’s shiny and gritty and dark and witty and new and yet not all that new, really. It’s somehow uncovered the long lost secret formula for a boring superhero film. P.S. true believers, skip the 3D, but stay after the initial credits for literally the worst bonus scene ever.