Movie review: The Amazing Spider-Man


There was a time you could tell it was getting close to summer due to the change in the weather; but thanks to climate change, that method is no longer as reliable as it once was.

Thank the heavens then for superheroes, who in recent years, have become the cinematic barometer marking the arrival of the summer blockbuster season.

With the Avengers assembling in an orderly fashion last month, and the dark knight waiting eagerly in the wings, there's just time for our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man to make an appearance with a remarkably familiar tale.

High School student Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) appears to have the not so amazing power of invisibility at school, as no-one seems to notice him. He doesn't mind though, as he can go about his business taking pictures, without being bothered much.

Peter is raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and aunt May (Sally Field), after his parents abandoned him in the middle of the night when he was young.

After an accident in their basement, peter discovers some documents belonging to his father, connecting him with scientist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who it turns out, was a friend and colleague of Peter's father. He passes on this information to Connors, which includes an odd looking formula. It turns out that it's the key to unlock the doc's research into cross species genetics.

While snooping around his lab, Peter ends up in an area he really shouldn't be in, and subsequently gets bitten by a spider. Not long after, Peter soon notices a change in himself; he's somehow physically stronger than he used to be and more agile.

He's not the only one to notice either, as his fellow students, most notably Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), soon see a difference in him too.

Peter doesn't have much time to enjoy his new-found abilities though as he soon finds himself having to cope with not only a family tragedy, but also a rampant lizard-like creature on the loose in NYC. And so a new superhero is born.

Despite being marketed as a 'reboot' (which let's face it, is just a new, made-up media buzz word for 'remake' anyway) of Sam Raimi's 2002 film, you should have no doubt that this is nothing more than a re-telling of Spidey's origin story. There maybe a few new tweaks here and there – a new actor in the lead role, a different love interest and villain – but essentially exactly the same film. Again.

That's not to say that, appropriately named director, Marc Webb, doesn't do a good job; the script is engaging, with far more laughs than previous versions, with a great soundtrack composed by James Horner.

Where he hits a home run however is with the casting of Garfield. This young British actor delivers an exceptional performance, giving his character real emotional depth – possibly far greater than the character actually needs or deserves. Denis Leary also manages to shine with the small amount of screen time he has, playing Gwen's father Captain Stacy.

There are also a number of great supporting parts, particularly those given by Sheen and Field, which help lift the story and relationship parts of the film to the kind of height that isn't often reached by other superhero flicks.

But the real problem is still that we've seen it all before. If they had taken a darker route, as is the case with Christopher Nolan's re-imagining of the Batman character, a re-telling of Spider-Man's origin story might have been that bit more bearable. But this is nothing more than a pimped up version of the original.

It would have been a braver move to pick up on, say, the Venom character that first appeared in the Spider-Man comic series in the eighties. Yes it's a little darker and edgier in tone, but considering the success and appetite for Nolan's Batman, it wouldn't have been a complete gamble.

There's also a scene towards the end of the film, where construction workers come to the aid of our web-slinging hero, that just feels awkward and a little too much like a Hands across America initiative.

To add insult to injury, the 3D version fails to make an impact, which is a shame considering that swinging around New York City's skyline had the opportunity to really pop visually. It didn't.

Garfield is definitely a welcome shot in the arm for the series, but it's still disappointing to see that they decided to re-spin Spidey's origin story that has been spun one too many times already.

3 booms

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