THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, C. Thomas Howell, Jake Ryan Keiffer, Chris Zylka, Kari Coleman, Michael Barra, Leif Gantvoort, Andy Pessoa, Hannah Marks, Kelsey Chow, Jill Flint, Annie Parisse and Stan Lee.
Screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves.
Directed by Marc Webb.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 136 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Only in Hollywood would they think it was a wise idea to completely reboot a franchise that is only ten years old. This is doubly perplexing because the most recent chapter of the series is only five years in the rear view.
Sam Raimi’s three Spider-Man movies were huge hits and critical darlings of the past decade (well, at least the first two) and told this iconic comic book tale with verve, flash and humor. However, by the time that Spider-Man 3 came along in 2007, you could tell that the ideas were running out. Spider-Man battled five super-villains over the run of the series – including three in Spidey 3 alone – and while there were still bad guys left, they were running low on ways to play out the story of Peter Parker.
So how did the movie studio stumble upon the bright idea of rebooting a series that no one had gotten a chance to really miss yet?
As it so often goes in filmmaking, it was mostly a business decision. Word is that if Sony Pictures did not make another Spider-Man film, the film rights to the character would revert to Marvel Studios and become the property of their new parent company, Disney. Sony wanted to hold onto this cash-cow character, but had pretty much forced Sam Raimi from the franchise after the lackluster response to the third film. So voila, they added the word “Amazing” to the title, reverting to an often-used comic sub-title, hired a new director and cast and suddenly we have an all new Spider-Man.
Movies that are made specifically for the corporate bottom line always turn out to be such a treat.
The problem is that The Amazing Spider-Man is not an all-new Spider-Man. In fact, it’s a pretty straightforward take on the well-known Spider-Man origin story which also formed the basis of the first Raimi film. Peter Parker, high school nerd, science geek and photographer, gets bitten by a radioactive spider. He gains amazing powers – strength, the ability to climb walls, monster jumping skills and web-slinging (though in this movie, like the original comics, Peter must invent his web shooters, he does not just naturally derive the skill like in the last series.) It is only when his beloved Uncle Ben is murdered that he realizes he has to use his powers for good.
Yes, they changed the story up in small ways. Peter has a new cute high school crush – Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, who is a character from the original comics, but is still pretty interchangeable with Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane. There is a new mad-scientist super-villain conducting experiments on himself and transforming into a killer villain – Rhys Ifans as the Lizard, who was a scientist for the same company as Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Also they have dumped J. Jonah Jameson and most of the Daily Bugle subplot (the Bugle seems to be mostly a cable network now) and the “Spider-Man is an evil vigilante” tack is mostly taken up by Gwen’s police chief dad (Denis Leary).
Despite these little tweaks, The Amazing Spider-Man is essentially a remake of the older film, which is a mere ten years old. That seems awfully soon for a new version of the same old story, especially when Raimi’s version is still widely available on video. When you get down to it, other than the corporate bottom line, there is really no reason that this film needs to exist.
That said, the movie has been made. So how does The Amazing Spider-Man hold up on its own?
The Amazing Spider-Man is a lesser version of the story, but it is still a fairly entertaining one.
This is the first blockbuster tent-pole film from indie director Marc Webb (what are the chances that a Spider-Man director would be named Webb?) who was previously best known for his wonderful, quirky but very intimate romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer. Honestly, his talents seem to be more comfortable with the smaller scale of his former film, but he does add some interesting quirks to this iconic tale.
It is interesting that Sony took the reins from a director best known for gonzo horror (Raimi had done the Evil Dead films) and replaced him with a guy known for romantic comedy. True to Webb’s wheelhouse the characters have shifted somewhat personality-wise, particularly Peter Parker/Spidey, who seems more self-confident and even a bit cocky, as portrayed by British actor Andrew Garfield (best known in the US for his supporting role as Mark Zuckerberg’s college best friend and Facebook co-founder in The Social Network.)
The new movie is lighter (not that the originals were all that dark) and more jokey, but that is a negative as well as a positive. You do not quite build up the feelings for this world that you did in prior films. Still, while The Amazing Spider-Man is not as good as the Raimi films (though it is arguably as good as the third one), it is still a lot of fun, particularly the scenes with Rhys Ifans as the bad guy doctor-turned-lizard.
Did we need another version of the Spider-Man origin story?
By the time the next sequel rolls around – and we all know it is nearly inevitable, even if you didn’t stick around to watch a sequel strongly hinted toward in a short scene buried in the closing credits – hopefully, the new Spider-Man crew will be freed of the shackles of the origin story and be able to do something new and interesting with the character.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 3, 2012.