Following on from (500) Days of Summer, Director Marc Webb makes the jump to a big budget summer tent pole for his sophomore effort, and sticks the landing. It’s not quite Amazing Spider-Man, but it’s a great start.
For this reboot, Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) dons the spandex alongside Emma Stone (Easy A) as Gwen Stacy, who comic fans know was Peter’s first love, before Mary Jane. Rhys Ifans is Dr Curtis Connors, whose attempts at bettering the human race, and himself, results in dire consequences, and Denis Leary is Captain George Stacy, father of Gwen and the Police Commissioner determined to catch this new vigilante.
Before getting more in-depth, let’s deal with the Arachnid in the room…the Raimi trilogy. I remember enjoying the dawn of the comic book film era with Spider-Man 1, the brilliance (and at the time best comic book film) of Spider-Man 2, and then sadly the turgid mess that was Spider-Man 3. They certainly had their pros and cons, but they are their own beast, and although TASM follows many similar story beats to SM1, it tackles them in such a way as to come across completely differently. Comics are constantly rebooted, and it was only a matter of time before the films based of them followed suit with quicker turnarounds.
This film is ‘darker’ and ‘grittier’ than the previous installments, but this does nothing to diminish the playful (though at times vengeful) and cocky nature of the main character. There are several funny scenes (The knife scene shown in teaser footage being a high point), along with plenty of young romance Webb has no doubt transferred from ‘500 days’.
It also has attitude, mainly reflected in Parker himself. He’s a genius, with an underlying cockiness, and though quiet around girls, is far from unlucky with them. Speaking of girls, the relationship between Parker and Stacy is believable and touching, and alongside the portrayal of Spider-Man himself, is the best bit of the film. Stone portrays Stacy with a strength and warmth not found in the barely there portrayal given to us in Spider-Man 3. You can see why she is one of the biggest loves of Peter’s life, which leaves you caring and engaged. They are ably backed up by Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Sheen in particular provides a loving but stern turn as the surrogate father who sets Peter on the right path and provides a strong moral compass.
He needs it too, as he is challenged by Rhys Ifans as Dr Curtis Connor, aka The Lizard. The more I saw of him in trailers, the more sceptical I was, but I was mainly wrong to be. Connors is a tragic character; misguided and corruptible. The CGI used to create the Jekyll side of him is decent, if not ground breaking, which is more than can be said for some of the smaller lizards used to signal his presence.
Less CGI has been used for Spidey himself, and it brings a great level of immersion. Exhilarating POV shots combine with liberal use of bullet time effects to show you how cool and freeing it must be to swing, jump and climb around Manhattan. Garfield really sells that this is a teenager who has gained great power, even though in reality he’s 28. His suit is given a fresh take and is sufficiently different, whilst retaining the overall look audiences have come to know. To its credit it looks like a suit someone has made, with wrinkles and overall a less ‘Hollywood made’ feel. I’m also a big fan of the use of web shooters, which not only help showcase Parker’s genius, but look cool too.
The Amazing Spider-Man fits in near the top of the ever swelling ranks of quality comic to film adaptations. It’s funny, touching and entertaining, with some great performances. Garfield and Stone shine, so whilst sometimes the story tries to do too much, I’m looking forward to seeing where it swings to next.
Let me know what you think!