What do we think of The Amazing Spider-Man? Is it invigorating or a mess?
Despite Stan Lee’s protestations to the contrary, Peter Parker is not a character with whom teenage boys will find it that easy to relate. Part of the problem is that while his nerdy normal persona is contrary to the usual jockery displayed by superheroes like Iron Man and Thor, as soon as he dons the red latex suit and mask that transforms him into Spider-Man, he becomes a sneering, sarcastic lout who isn’t funny or clever enough to be a worthy alter-ego.
In The Amazing Spider-Man this issue is addressed to a certain degree by either keeping Parker (Andrew Garfield) out of the suit as much as possible or, while he is in costume, having him remove the mask to show the human side of the wascally web slinger two or three times in each action sequence.
Hopefully that will serve as a decent enough introduction to a discussion of what some might call a terminally premature movie reboot of a comic book character who has received more than enough coverage over the last decade.
If you were at all concerned, don’t be. The Amazing Spider-Man is good, which you will already have gathered from the four star rating it has earned here. But its issues are almost the exact opposite of those which arose during Marvel’s Avengers Assemble earlier this summer. Which means that the neatness of the big budget experience is not without its messily masked flaws.
The film portrays Peter Parker as a lithe, bright and broodingly handsome teen who is less ostracised from high school society than he was in Sam Raimi’s recent adaptations. This makes his character all the more believable, while also explaining the easy attraction that develops between Parker and fellow science enthusiast Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone).
Revelations about his deceased father’s work on cross-species genetics leads Parker to visit the labs of Oscorp, where one-armed innovator Dr. Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans) utters the hilariously ill-judged line “I’m not a cripple. I’m a scientist”.
After being a nosey…Parker, with a radioactive spider bite to prove it, the freshly minted Spider-Man learns to adapt to his newfound strength and adhesiveness in sequences that are played for laughs, with middling success.
Meanwhile Parker’s divulgence of a hidden equation to Dr. Connors allows him to perfect a formula that could help him regrow his phantom limb, while external pressures encourage the scientist to carry out early human tests on himself, creating the scaly villain of the piece.
Garfield and Stone certainly have that much touted chemistry which makes their romance enjoyable, although the latter seems more comfortable with the scenes during which she is required to be approachably likable. Look out for the moments when she dons her one ‘serious face’ for some unintended laughs.
What causes the main issue is that the film spends three quarters of its run time exploring the well known backstory of Spider-Man. While there are key plot differences between this and 2002’s Spider-Man, it can feel unnecessarily exhaustive at times. It also means that the film’s climax is squeezed into a five minute segment after having been clumsily set up much earlier. This is where the film diverges from Avengers Assemble, whose last 30 minutes descended into an increasingly meaningless action gangbang because the story has been used up across five other films.
Further similarities between The Amazing Spider-Man and Raimi’s trilogy are unavoidably established in the style of the action. The promise of some first-person sequences established in the early trailers is only partially realised, with stints inside of Parker’s mask far too brief and infrequent to be memorable, or truly rip off Mirror’s Edge.
It is pleasing to see that as much time as possible is spent watching what appears to be a real man in a real latex suit, rather than a plasticine-looking graphical rendering. But this film too has its embarrassingly silly sequences of swinging which match the ‘Spider-Man in front of the American flag’ scene from the atrocious Spider-Man 3. Kids won’t care. Neither will the majority of adults. But some might.
So, while it is almost certainly too soon to have rebooted this franchise, no one in the cinema will be able to stop smiling for long enough to notice.