Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Cast your mind back to the beginning of 2010. Remember anything strange happening that month? Perhaps the sound of a thousand keyboards being hammered within an inch of their lives echoing around your street? That was the sound of Spider-Man fans going postal after they heard the news that Sam Raimi and Toby Maguire would not be returning to make a Spider-Man 4.

Let’s be honest – Spider-Man 3 stank. It flopped both with the critics and with the audience. Was this a big enough offence to ditch Raimi and Maguire though? Probably not. They had after all made two previous films that, while they weren’t masterpieces, were certainly well executed. The arrival now of The Amazing Spider-Man, a reboot to the franchise, does seem to have arrived too soon. If Marvel are doing what they should be doing and trying to figure out how they can emulate the success of Batman, they should realise what makes The Dark Knight so big is the fact that when a new film is released it is an event movie. The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t an event movie, but it deserves to be.

Andrew Garfield plays the new Peter Parker, a science geek who’s bullied at school and has a crush on his fellow classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). He’s also trying to figure out what happened to his parents, who disappeared when he was a child and left him with his Aunt and Uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen). His search eventually leads him to his father’s co-worker Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), whose scientific lab contains a radioactive spider that has Peter Parker’s name on it.

There is no doubt that this reboot, which no doubt will lead to sequels, is heading in a completely different direction from Raimi’s trilogy, and for the most part this is for the better. We get more emphasis on Peter Parker’s school life, something which for the most part rather overlooked and skin-deep in Raimi’s films. Here it provides a good backdrop and atmosphere to the story of an outcast teenager discovering he has super powers. The discovery of the powers is even handled a little slower than Raimi did. When Toby Maguire discovered he had Spider-sense, it happened in one scene. Here we have a selection of comic scenes which add a little humour to the story.

The only problem is that with so many changes, many plotlines are left twisting in the wind. It just gets a little bogged down with all the possibilities, and clocking in at around 136 minutes, it should really have been able to achieve more in that time. The mystery plot of what really happened to Peter’s parents is the most intriguing, but that is often left to the side in favour of some action set pieces which really could have been better. They are good, but they’re not breath-taking.

This is director Marc Webb’s first film since his likeable indy hit (500) Days of Summer, so this is someone who certainly has more experience with actors than with special effects. It is certainly the actors and indeed the characters that come off best in Webb’s latest. Andrew Garfield is superb as Peter Parker, making for a comparatively better Spider-Man than Toby Maguire (I look forward to your letters, Maguire fans!). Emma Stone also puts in a solid performance as Parker’s lesser known love interest Gwen Stacy. With Stone in the role, she should be able to keep Mary Jane out of things for a while. Rhys Ifans and Dennis Leary provide great support as Curt Connors and Stacy’s father, the former of which of course transforms into The Lizard. And of course there’s Martin Sheen, as always doing what he does best.

This film does bold well for the rest of the franchise, and if in the future they are able to keep the depth in characters and find a good plot to go with them then Marvel will be on to a winner. But if you’re comparing this to the yardstick set by a certain British-American director, and a certain rich guy who likes to do push-ups and dress like a bat, then Spidey still has a long way to go.

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About Eric Wood

Eric Wood is 21 years old, from Bury in Greater Manchester, and a graduate of Salford University where he studied Journalism and English Literature. His first novel comes out later in the year, and he begins work directing his first feature length movie in the summer. Eric absolutely adores all forms of writing and loves movies so he’s the ideal film critic. His greatest inspiration for many years has been Michael Crichton, as Crichton has written novels, non-fiction, screenplays, and directed movies. Eric would love to be able to achieve all of those things in my lifetime.
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