If you remember back to the days of late June/ early July, you may recall that I wrote a Gaudion Spotlight on the Sam Raimi-run of Spider-Man movies in anticipation of the release of the franchise reboot; The Amazing Spider-Man. After a good two months, the film made its way to Alderney (actually rather quick for over here) and now I can finally present my views on the reboot that we probably didn’t need. Spider-Man 3 is much maligned, but is by no means terrible, and I still attest that a fourth film would have redeemed its short-comings. Now we’ll never know, so I guess we’ll have to make do with a new franchise. I have to say, I was perhaps more welcome to this than most; as a comic-book fan, I was with the opinion that comic-books reboot their characters all the time, so why can’t their film counter-parts do the same? But as a film fan and student, it did not make a great deal of sense, as Spider-Man 3 was far from a failure commercially, and there seemed to be plenty to mine within their universe. With that in mind, The Amazing Spider-Man had a lot to prove, and God bless him, Marc Webb tries his best, and thankfully it does impress more often than not. You just can’t shake the feeling that we have been here before.

In an attempt to present a new take on the origins tale, The Amazing Spider-Man initially involves the mystery behind the disappearance of Peter Parker’s parents, leaving him orphaned with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). This abandonment has led Peter (Andrew Garfield) to grow up into a socially awkward, yet brilliantly smart, teenager (despite having super-stylish hair and being totally rad on a skateboard). Soon enough, he discovers a briefcase that used to belong to his father, which leads him to seek out his father’s old partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), in the hope of finding some answers. However, once he goes to Oscorp Industries, he gets more than he bargained for, as an encounter with a radioactive spider leaves him with arachnid-like abilities.  All the while, Peter begins to strike a relationship with the beautiful Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), as he soon develops his powers to become a vigilante crime-fighter. With the police on his tail, Peter must also contend with the danger of a monster he unwittingly created in the form of The Lizard, who once used to be a certain Dr. Connors. 

Spoilers ahead. But lets face it, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already seen it. As much as the film may try, it cannot escape certain familiarities with its 2001 counter-part. The introduction of the mystery concerning Peter’s parents, although not taken from any comic-book narrative, is an intriguing enough premise, but one that seems to disappear come around the latter part of the second act. We can safely assume that it will continue to play a part in the inevitable sequel, but it is rather strange that it seems to serve quite a large purpose to begin with, but then rather suddenly doesn’t seem to play into proceedings at all. The death of Uncle Ben is very much a point of concern; it happens rather hastily and is forgotten about just as quickly. It has similar beats to the 2001 incarnation, but Raimi’s movie certainly dealt more with the repercussions and guilt that fell onto Peter (a theme which lasted throughout the trilogy in fact). It is a waste of a very pivotal moment in the Spider-Man mythology and of Martin Sheen. Aside from that, narrative-wise, Peter discovering his powers is displayed in a much more progressive fashion, as it does seem to have a conscious sense of not repeating the same discoveries as the first movie.

Another weaker area of the movie, before I delve into the positives, is the villain. The Lizard is a very famous and well-known character within the comic-books, and I was very disappointed that we never got to see what Raimi would have done with the character, as Curt Connors did feature rather significantly in the last two installments (poor Dylan Baker). Rhys Ifans is perfectly fine in the role, it is just that the way the character is written is nowhere near as satisfying as Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. Connors himself seems to change from a very reasoned scientist, to a power-mad monster determined to rid the human race of imperfection. The CGI work on The Lizard is impressive enough, but the Jykell and Hyde aspect is too shoe-horned in and fails to make an impact within the running time, and reflects Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin far too much. A much better interpretation of The Lizard can be found in the Spider-Man Animated Series from the 90’s. This film certainly borrowed a lot of imagery from that incarnation, namely the base within the sewers, which evoked a certain degree of nostalgia, but ultimately reminded me of a better version of the character.

Now on to the positive remarks. Despite taking liberties with the mythology in some areas (namely the tip-toeing around the immortal line of ‘With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility’, they should have just bloody said it), the film is clearly made by a director and written by a group of people who do love the source material. The film seems to blend elements from the Original Ditko/Lee run (mechanical web-shooters) and the most recent Ultimate series (which I read religiously as a kid), with certain moments and touches putting a smile on my face. This can be put down to the portrayal of Peter Parker. He isn’t perhaps as much as an outcast as he should be, but Garfield evokes a genuinely awkward teenage spirit that reflects the Ultimate series, especially in terms of his cockiness and wise-cracking. Garfield makes for a much more convincing Parker, both out of and in the tights. You full-heartedly believe that he is in the costume, thanks in due part to more practical web-swinging effects. He brings a believable athleticism and poise to the role, as well as inhabiting his Parker with a strong sense of intelligence. And he has some great support. Webb evidently uses his skills with actors that he employed so well in (500) Days of Summer when it comes to the relationship between Peter and Gwen. It also helps that Garfield and Stone have absolutely perfect chemistry. Their flirting and playfulness feel entirely genuine (it probably was, considering that the two are in fact a couple), and the film is at its strongest when the two are together. The film as a whole is much better when dealing with character then it is action. This Parker is given much more of a chance to show how much of a genius he is, and the corny dialogue this time is replaced by much more natural conversation.

Raimi’s movies had a very definite style; cartoon-esque, energetic and quite deliberately corny. It worked, particularly for capturing the atmosphere of the 1960’s comic books. Webb isn’t as energetic, nor is he quite as inventive in the action sequences (to give him his due, this is his first action picture). The P.O.V. shots are well conceived and his sense of movement manages to stand out from the Raimi crowd. Spidey’s movements have a more gymnastic sense of energy to them, a movement all their own, and great it would seem that a great deal of attention has gone in to recreating poses from the comic-books. Webb does display a deft hand with the action, but it is his deftness with character that shines through in the scenes between Garfield and Stone, which makes it shame that most of these scenes are interrupted by the action sequences. I’d never thought I’d say that about a comic-book movie. Webb has to be commended for making the atmosphere of the film feel somewhat different to the Raimi run, despite the glaring similarities. Webb evokes a similar spirit to the animated series and Ultimate comic-book series, which provoked a wonderful sense of nostalgia within me, and has the courage to give the film somewhat more of an edge where needed. It remains fun, largely thanks to the cast and enthusiastic direction. It does fill me with hope for this new franchise, now that the origins is out-of-the-way, it paves the way for this new interpretation to further evolve into its own identity. Spider-Man 2 remains the best Spider-Man movie, and Raimi’s first installment wins points for having done everything first. But it is easily an improvement on number 3. I hope that Webb continues to make this franchise his own; as with a great property, comes great responsibility. I more than look forward to the next spin.

3/5- It suffers greatly from re-visiting plot points from the original movie, particularly when those points were done better the first time round. But it shows great promise for the future of the franchise, thanks in large part to the spot-on casting and fresh direction. The wall-crawler is back, so we might as well enjoy it!