The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

Review by FilmFellaDarren – 8/10

The Amazing Spider-Man man looked a million miles away from amazing the last time he swung onto the silver screen.  Having previously built a wonderful franchise with his first two Spidey instalments, director Sam Raimi, spectacularly trashed the series with the third film, tangling the weary looking web-slinger up in ludicrously loose dangling plot threads, trapping the iconic hero in a contrived web of nonsense. In that ill-fated third film, poor Spider-Man suffered more abuse and punishment at the hands of Raimi and Sony – the interfering studio that own the franchise rights to Spider-Man – than could have been mustered by a team of Spider-Man’s arch enemies.  Even Raimi recognised how bad the third Spider-Man film was, attempting to appease the Spider-Man faithful by showing his determination to redeem himself with a great script for Spider-Man 4.

Alas, Sony were obviously more concerned with making money than restoring integrity to the franchise; they wouldn’t give Raimi the time to work-out the problems with the script, Raimi was pressured to meet Sony’s May 2011 release dead-line, and fearing a disaster more damaging than the third film, Raimi walked away from his beloved Spider-Man, leaving Sony with a dilemma. Do they replace Raimi or re-boot the franchise? They decided to go with the second option, replacing the whole cast – even the likeable, if a tad overly goofy – Tobey MacGuire.

It was a massive risk by Sony which might’ve had disaster written all over it. Would audiences really want to see a reinterpretation of the origin story when they could have witnessed Raimi’s redemption, the progression of the story, and the tantalizing prospect of John Malkovich as The Vulture?

So due to creative differences, the triumph of commerce over artistic integrity and decisions based purely on cost cutting, we are starting again. It seemed like a terrible idea, destined for failure – that is until the trailer for the new look Spider-Man hit the world wide web, ensnaring audiences all over again in a web of intrigue for the iconic character.

Sony are lucky. They banked on there being a lot of love out there for Spider-Man and Peter Parker – and that is definitely the case. There is just something fundamentally enthralling about the Spider-man back-story. An awkward teen gaining special-powers and becoming a hero – it’s a story with universal appeal that is set to resonate all over again. The highest compliment you can pay to this new version of Spider-Man is, that, even though audiences know all the plot details inside-out, the film still surrounds Peter Parker’s remarkable journey in suspense, intrigue and tension; despite the familiarity, you can’t help but approach the following plot points as if you don’t know what is going to happen.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is just your average teenage orphan, struggling through high school life, growing up under the wistful guide of his Aunt May and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen).  Unlike other teenage boys however, Peter Parker is about to go through a spectacular and radical transformation. It all starts when he finds his deceased father’s briefcase and discovers his Dad was a scientist working for Oscorp alongside another scientist – the mysterious Dr. Curt Connors(Rhys Ifans).  Parker decides to pull at the thread he’s found, hoping it will unravel the mystery of his father’s demise.  He goes to Oscorp, meets Connors, talks about Connor’s radical theories of cross-species DNA, then wanders about the company, sneaking looks at the top secret research undertaken by Norman Osborn’s corporation; then he inadvertently proves the merit of Connors research when he is bitten by a lab spider.

It’s not long before Parker discovers, he has super human strength, a superb grip, arachnid agility, and a range of other powers. But with great power comes great responsibility and sadly, Parker hasn’t had time to learn that yet, leading to a tragedy that will shape his life and future and spin his moral compass in a direction facing a desire to do the right thing.  But if he is going to fight crime, he’s is going to need an alter-ego and maybe an identity concealing suit….

Meanwhile, Dr Curt Connors is getting desperate to perfect his own cross species DNA, meddling with lizard DNA in the hope of re-growing his amputated arm. Science-fiction has proven that a desperate scientist is a dangerous scientist. Spider-man better get a move on before Oscorp resembles a reptilian house and Manhattan is besieged by yet another rampaging, villainous creature….

Sony drafted in 500 days of Summer director Marc Webb to re-tool the franchise. With an arachnid themed name like that he was seemingly destined to restore honour to the troubled Spider-Man franchise. Despite his lack of blockbuster experience, the director does a great job of making the fantasy play naturally. He’s helped a great deal by Andrew Garfield who definitely brings something to the character of Peter Parker, more than adequately filling the Tobey McGuire shaped hole.  Thanks to Webb’s direction and Garfield’s presence – the story of Spider-Man seems even more realistic than it did before.  Tonally, there is just enough variation on the story to justify Sony’s bizarre decision to recycle the Spider-Man origin story. Despite being 28, Garfield is convincing as a teenager.  McGuire played Peter Parker as a goofy geek – Garfield’s Parker is harder to slot into a teen type – consequently he’s more respectable and is far easier to relate to than McGuire’s version of Parker. He finds a lot of teen angst when he needs it – he also pulls off the cocksure humour that Parker finds when he puts on the Spider-Man suit.  There’s a moment when he hands Dr. Curt Connors a key piece of information that does wonderful things to the plot – and also shows that this version of Parker is intelligent enough to inspire scientists, albeit mad ones. Garfield provides a really well-rounded version of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man.

There’s a lot more detail in the source story this time – The spider that bites Peter is not radioactive here, but instead the product of the labours of his father and Connor’s research into DNA. From this, Webb weaves a really interesting plot; there are poetic parallels between Spider-Man’s powers and the powers gained by Connor which shrewdly draws the characters rather tightly together, playing around cleverly with DNA theories. Although in a way the DNA thread of the story has more in common with Jurassic Park than the 2002 Spider-Man film.  When you consider that Connor’s alter-ago is a giant lab-coat wearing lizard that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Jurassic Park – you start to see that Webb has spliced the DNA of Spider-man with Jurassic Park and the results are anything but the abomination expected when this project was announced.

The character of Peter Parker is loyal to the original but, pleasingly, he is more organic here; it was a good idea to bring in a new adversary for Spider-Man to battle with, which stops the film from being an out-right remake of Raimi’s first film.  If you want a guy to play a character that isn’t quite human, Welsh actor Rhys Ifans is your man.  In Human Nature and err, Notting Hill, he’s played simian and now he’s playing reptilian. Ifans starts out looking very suave and sophisticated, convincing as a scientist and his relationship with Parker shows no-sign of any animosity between the two. He has a distinct lack of dastardly villain about him prior to his-Jekyll and Hyde-esque transformation; he’s just a bloke trying to work out a way to regrow his lost arm, which makes him very sympathetic. He does have an English accent though– always a sign of a potential villain in a Hollywood movie. When he comes over all green , it is exciting to see a giant scaly lizard stomp all over a big city again, but the CGI does render The Lizard a bit non-descript. He looked more distinctive as a cartoon character. He is the catalyst for some exciting action-set-pieces though. In terms of action, The Amazing Spider-Man is way ahead of Spider-Man 3, better than Spider-Man and not quite as rip-roaring as Spider-Man 2. The slam-down between Spidey and The Lizard in the underground sewer however is worth the ticket-price alone.

Does the extra dimension add anything to Spider-Man’s world? Well largely no – but there is an argument to say, that when Spidey gains full swing, the 3D does replicate the experience of  what it must be like to glide through skyscrapers, better than it has before. Some of the action sequences in 3D do produce a few vertigo inducing optical illusions, but whether the enjoyable moments in 3D are worth watching the whole film with significantly reduced image light is highly debatable.

Along with Garfield and Ifans, the rest of the new cast are welcomed new additions. Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben was a great scoop by Sony. Sheen is so likeable in a pivotal role. Emma Stone as Parker’s new love interest is a much stronger presence than Kirsten Dunst – whose Mary Jane looks rather feeble in comparison to Stone’s Gwen Stacy. All in all – it is a pretty smooth transition to a completely new cast.

Humour wise, there is plenty to laugh at, but the humour style has changed from Raimi’s off-kilter quirkiness. The humour, like everything else, is much more organic. When Parker discovers his powers, there is a stream of visual gags about how hard it would be to control massive increases in physical ability. Garfield in both his Parker and Spider-Man roles has a cheeky sense of wit, adding to his likability factor.

The flaws to the film are minor really. The selection of a Coldplay song to accompany Parker’s discovery of his abilities seems an odd choice. Surely there is something a little inspiring than Coldplay to capture the monumental journey of self-discovery Parker experiences in the wake of the spider bite. James Horner composed the score; it’s largely an epic soundtrack, the kind you’d definitely want on your I-pod in the unlikely event that you were to swing past skyscrapers – so why Horner didn’t compose something to capture the most important scene is bewildering. Another minor issue is that there is a little confusion surrounding Connors transformation, with a half-hearted suggestion he’s got voices in his head – Green Goblin like voices in his head. Blink and you’ll miss this suggestion – it’s hardly well defined.

Overall though, these are minor complaints, The Amazing Spider-Man is packed full of drama, and excitement, yet Webb ‘s direction renders the story more believable than it has been before, whilst Garfield provides a likeable, more naturalistic, and consequently more relatable version of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. There’s definitely enough thrilling entertainment to justify the decision to put the superlative in the title. Franchise integrity restored – Spider-Man is amazing again.

About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

7 Responses to The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

  1. Robert Smith says:

    For a thrilling villainous performance of someone who is essentially inhuman you don’t need to look no further than Enduring Love!

    • Filmfella Darren says:

      I’ve seen him in Enduring Love and I concur that he isn’t quite human in that film as well. He was memorably sinister in that film – I think that is my favourite Ifans performance – but he isn’t really simian or reptilian in it which is why I never mentioned Enduring love in my review. I thought I’d give you an Ifans related anecdote. My brother was in a pub in London watching Wales play England in rugby. Ifans was there watching the game alongside Gruff from the Super Fury Animals and Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics. Wales went over for a winning try against England and my brother thought it was a good idea to say to Ifans: thank you God! Ifans famous line from Notting Hill of course. My brother said Ifans did not look amused and just sort of shook his head in disgust. As a Welshman, I am delighted to see a Welsh actor providing a super-villain to take on Spider-man. I wish Ifans had kept his Welsh accent in the film though – then it would have looked like he was turning into a Welsh dragon and not a Lizard –which would have blown the mind of my compatriots back in the homelands.

  2. steven says:

    great review dude, i like how you used the word spectacular for his transformation, as spectacular is a title of one of the spiderman books, spectacular, sensational, amazing, ultimate.
    i agree that gwen was far better than mary, an i believed the relationship more, they looked like they were in love, thought the relationship between the two of them was amazing, scared of what will happen in the next film, if you read the comics, you know there are very very bad times ahead😦 in my opinion, i think it beats the originals, i had one or two effects that i didn’t agree with, an thought the lizard was a bit hulkish at times, bit other than that solid film

    ohhhh, an i agree, different music, the music let it down. worst part of the film….terrible, just seemed safe, i find it hard to describe, boring, it didn’t grab me…

    • Filmfella Darren says:

      Hey Steve, just returned to this Spider-Man review I wrote and noticed this comment from you. Thanks for the comment. Yeah, the relationship between the two of them was interesting but the pop music was a bad choice. It does seem that the effects wizards are stumped when it comes to rendering thinks that are green authentic on screen. The Lizard did look a bit like the Hulk and (shudder) Godzilla. Your comment that you are scared what will happen in the next one has got me anticipated what is coming. Any more teaser hints?

  3. Filmfella Lozz says:

    Good in-depth review, FFD. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I can’t quite agree though. As much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel there was enough originality to warrant this new take on it. From the point of view that it’s always entertaining to watch a superhero become a superhero, I was sufficiently entertained. Garfield was more believable than Maguire. And I prefered Emma Stone as Gwen. Why the hell was he showing everybody his face though?! That seemed weird. As soon as I left the cinema, I forgot all about it. Which doesn’t really say much. As far as superhero movies go this year so far, this wasn’t a spot on The Avengers, for me. Let’s see what happens with The Dark Knight Rises now!

    • filmfellajames says:

      I concur with FilmfellaLozz. Watched it last night, very forgettable, something I will examine in my next blog. Sad night for me last night. Sad. Yo

      • Sweetbean1 says:

        Really? FFL and FFJ? I thought the original Spiderman’s were rubbish! I don’t remember enjoying them at all and by the time the third one came out I was very disappointed! This version kept me hooked all the way through, I really enjoyed it. Can’t wait for the next one :o).

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