The past decade has seen Hollywood reboot, remake and re-envision a multitude of superbly heroic men – Hulk, Ghost Rider, Batman and Bond to name but a few – and they’ve done so with barely an eyelid batted. Somehow when the news that Spider-Man and Peter Parker were to get another origin movie in the form of this here Amazing Spider-Man folks were not best pleased. There was something about this particular revamp that vexed the masses and, sadly, after an hour of watching some broadly similar material you’ll be able to see why.
Like snowflakes, no two cobwebs are ever the same. At a glance, however, with the lights turned down low, they certainly appear pretty effing kindred and so for far too much of The Amazing Spider-Man events transpire as they did in 2002. Peter Parker, living with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, spends his unhappy school days taking pictures of and longing for the affection of his female classmate (Gwen Stacy trading for Mary Jane). Visiting some genetically designed spiders birthed by weapons manufacturer OsCorp, Peter is bitten and quickly exhibits symptoms of a human/spider hybrid. After a personal tragedy he opts to use his new found wall crawling powers for good.
If the similarities between Spider ’02 and Spider ’12 came to pass here, at the end of Act One, things may have looked more comfortable for this new incarnation. Alas, and without divulging too much in the way of spoilers, events continue with pockets of déjà vu all the way to the closing credits. Spider-Man wouldn’t be Spider-Man without his tropes – bullying, responsibility grabbing, stalkerish photography – but by the time a big green villain starts conversing with himself Gollum/Goblin-style any patience for something new will have died like so many Uncle Bens.
The fault, dear Brutus, lies mainly with the three writers. Happy to tinker and tamper when what was needed was a full bespoke re-fitting or a brief origins recap in less safe hands the exposition laden script could have been even worse. Before the opening titles it was clear that Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins would aim for broody and psychological and we knew that Joss Whedon’s Avengers would rise or fall on its witty character interactions. Even Raimi’s first take on Spider-Man had the director’s sticky fingerprints of crash zooms and black humour but the unanswered question with Marc Webb was what – apart from manna from heaven for lazy pun writers – would the (500) Days Of Summer helmer bring to the table. The reply is a steady hand with the teenage romance, a satisfactory touch with the action and a Shins song. Nothing to really make it his own.
For the majority of the film you can’t help but play contrast and compare between the two Spider-Man Begins and it’s here that it’s such a shame that the writers decided to revisit such old, familiar ground. Because on paper The Amazing Spider-Man eclipses its predecessor on quite a few fronts. Ten years of forward motion in the effects world have rendered Spidey’s spandex head and shoulders above the ropey CG of Tobey Maguire’s first and underneath the suit it’s fair to say that Garfield (yes even with the salon hair) nails awkward and clumsy in a way that is likeable and believable without ever feeling cartoonish.
Likeability is key also in the battle of the red-head turned blonde vs. the blonde turned red-head, with Emma Stone achingly desirable where Mary Jane was simply nagging and annoying. Let’s put it this way, the chances of Gwen Stacy running off and sleeping with Pete’s best mate are decidedly slim. The scenes that Garfield and Stone share are more than enough to make the sequel an attractive proposition. By then, hopefully, Spider-Man will be well on his way to being his own arachnid.
The ‘Adequate’ Spider-Man. With Spider-Man 3 doing its utmost to wash poor Spidey down the drain, The Amazing Spider-Man sees Peter Parker and friends crawl back up again, slightly soggy, but – thanks mainly to Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone – very much alive.