Writer and director, Sam Raimi’s, first Spider-Man film is just ten years old and his final installment is just five – so is now too soon to reboot the franchise from the beginning? This has been a hotly debated question but it’s exactly the aim of The Amazing Spider-Man. Far from feeling lazy, this latest film re-tells the familiar story of Spider-Man’s origins with drama and skill.
The plot is driven by Peter Parker’s desire to find out what happened to his parents, making The Amazing Spider-Man an altogether more serious venture than those before it. With the exception of a cheesy hollywood kiss, this version is distinctly un-corny, focussing instead on drama. The story is also much neater than in Raimi’s offering, fitting together with precision rather than coincidence or cliche. In this re-vamped version, it is Parker’s clue-following that leads him to the Oscorp building, where he is bitten, and his intelligence that gets him noticed by genetic scientist Dr Conners (Rhys Ifans) with whom Parker shares crucial information. The Amazing Spider-Man is a long film at 136 minutes, but this early character development pays off. An attack on Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) comes just in time to step the film up a gear from Parker’s warm and funny exploration of his powers and cranks up the emotional investment.
This isn’t to say that the plot is watertight. The finale is rounded up with the help of a convenient piece of new information. And a few plot threads, including the identity of Uncle Ben’s attacker and the story of Parker’s parents, remain unresolved.
Spider-Man is often described as the most realistic of all the comic book super heroes and the cross-species genetic experiments of Oscorp are a credible source of Spider-Man’s powers. In this reboot, none of the main characters can be easily pigeon-holed. Yes, Parker is still very much an outcast but Andrew Garfield is a much smarter, more emotional Parker than Tobey Maguire. Garfield’s Parker is complex. Early on, behind his mask, he verges on over-confident, relishing any opportunity to humiliate those who deserve it. But more humbling scenes that remind the audience of Parker’s age and social awkwardness are never far away. Parker’s actions are believable, grounded in grief and guilt, making him relatable to any audience.
Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), is also a refreshing example of a comic book heroine. She is both fun and intelligent – far from the lead female who exists only to be rescued. Gwen doesn’t secretly swoon over Spider-Man’s mask: it is clear that Parker is the man she loves.
Even Dr Conners, doesn’t easily slip into the shoes of the bad guy. His interest in cross-species genetics might stem from a self-interested desire to learn how to grow back his missing arm but he dedicates his life to curing illness and eradicating human weakness. Only when backed into a corner, by Oscorp’s powers that be, does Conner experiment on himself. The result is a Jekyll and Hyde lizard-man and it’s never quite clear whether Conner’s actions from this point forward are calculated decisions or sheer animal instinct.
As for the action, it’s pretty standard fare. Spider-Man swings from a multitude of buildings and cranes, looks down from sky-scrapers and battles with a giant lizard. All of this is well done and exciting, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a convincing and enjoyable re-telling of Spider-Man’s origins that succeeds in revitalising the franchise. It has impeccable casting and a strong, convincing story. In a dramatic twist for comic book movies, it is not the action but the intensity of the characters that make The Amazing Spider-Man a must see summer blockbuster.