Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man
Pros:Good performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
Cons:Originality is exhumed and re-buried twice as deep.
The Amazing Spider-Man is anything but, retreading old ground and old mistakes.
Reviews of Gus Van Sant’s 1998 Psycho remake ranged from the dismissive to outright lambasting. Remakes are nothing new (in every sense) but this version of Hitchcock’s classic was a near shot-for-shot recreation, with colour and some contemporary twists added. Otherwise, the film was an exercise in duplication. It failed, however, to recreate any of the tension or nerve of the original, was oddly cast and generally left people bemused, wondering ‘Why?’. There will be points during The Amazing Spider-Man that you might also wonder ‘Why?’. Not necessarily questioning the decision to reboot the franchise – there is, after all, money at stake here – but why the makers have lazily lifted so much of the Sam Raimi original?
Superhero origin stories are each cut from the same mould. There will be two parts: first, the hero’s backstory and origin of powers interspersed with his personal life and second, a confrontation with a recently emerged villain, wrapped up in time to plead for a sequel. The Amazing Spider-Man does not veer even slightly from this tired formula. To double the familiarity factor, entire tracts of the Raimi story, its interplay with characters and themes are covered in 3D gravy, but this is still very much the same meal we ate in 2002.
Admittedly, some pivotal features and the lore of Spider-Man should probably be retained in all incarnations, but the attempts to be new are superficial and for it, very frustrating. The film opens with a new slant, constructing a backstory for Peter Parker’s parents which eventually feeds into the main plot. This single new string to the bow of the film ultimately feels of no consequence. It’s 2002 all over again – a director untested in blockbuster territory, an unlikely lead chosen to the play the hero, a film that angles for as much emotion as action. We’ve got a plot about a geeky guy bitten by a spider, encumbered with great responsbility, overcoming initial vigilante instincts, contending simultaneously with suspicious authority figures and a deranged green coloured villain while his love life is restricted by potential danger to the gal…
This is where we have to start. Had The Amazing Spider-Man been a true, newly-created entity we could have given scant acknowledgement to Tobey Maguire et al and judged the film on its own merits. Instead our judgement of the film is an exercise in assessing what was done better or worse than in the original.
Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man and is great. The roles that have won him notice to date have been older characters but here Garfield is a believable teenanger, with a pitch-perfect American accent and, moreover, is an endearing character. Even when the suit goes on, his quips and demeanour still show a teenager awkwardly engaging in new surrounds. Spider-Man is, after all, one of the few teen heroes with no mentor as such to guide him so it is nice to see character retained when the suit goes on rather than a CGI take-over.
That said, the film is at its strongest when Spider-Man is off screen. Garfield is electric and works brilliantly with Emma Stone as original love interest Gwen Stacey. A moment in the school hallway where Parker awkwardly asks Stacey on a date and a rooftop confession are the film’s highlights. There is natural charm and humour and a brief reprieve from the cynical exercise we’re otherwise caught up in.
When we turn to Rhys Ifans and his tacked-on villain story of science gone wrong and New York in peril it is deja-vu. As with 2002, the battles and high flying acts, the lack of logic and the mix of saccharine sentimentality as New Yorkers come to aid the hero in a rushed 20-minute anti-climatic finale are just history repeating with no lessons having been learned.
As much as there is nothing new in what this film delivers, there is nothing new to say in criticising such pointlessness. We’re left unchallenged and uninspired at every turn. At the risk of sounding like a Joe Duffy caller, don’t we deserve a bit more for our hard-earned cash? We’ve been pitched this movie with a tagline of an untold story. No amount of smart marketing can get past we’ve all been here before.