After only five years since Sam Raimi’s final instalment in his Spiderman trilogy comes the inevitable franchise reboot from director Marc Webb. The film treads a familiar narrative ground to Raimi’s original, re-establishing Peter Parker and creating familiar character clashes and emotional arcs.
Andrew Garfield portrays Parker as a more flawed, multi-layered character than Tobey Maguire, while Sally Field and Martin Sheen offer solid support as Aunt May and Uncle Ben.
As well as confrontations with school bully Flash, Parker’s love life conundrums (this time in the guise of Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy) and gaining the respect and friendship of an elder at Oscorp (his father’s old friend Dr Curt Connors) even arch nemesis The Lizard bares similarities to the Green Goblin from Raimi’s original.
What is different about this origin tale re-tread is in its execution. Director Marc Webb could be considered an unusual choice given his only previous film was a quirky indie drama (500 Days Of Summer). Yet he handles the relationship aspects in a mature, sophisticated and more sustained manner than Raimi did with Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, developing Parker’s inner conflicts and character traits instead of the saccharine coy exchanges from the 2002 film.
Rhys Ifans delivers a pantomime villain performance as Dr Connors with relish and at times his Lizard incarnation feels like a genuine threat (in stature) to Spiderman despite having far too smiley a face to be completely menacing, but the creature design is only a slight improvement on the discarded Power Ranger attire donned by Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin in the first film.
Aside from this, most of the tongue in cheek aspects of the original trilogy and comics are cast aside in favour of a more character focused tale with well executed set pieces and an epic grandiose visual style almost better suited to a different film entirely. Whilst this style melded perfectly with the stories and characters in Chris Nolan’s Batman films, it is not quite fitting to the world of Peter Parker and the tale of his metamorphosis.
Director Webb delivers a sweeping vision with well crafted action/ effects sequences rendered with stunning digital clarity and impressive 3D, but these technical achievements are no substitutes for a well structured story and do not always compliment the development of Peter Parker as a character.
At times the set pieces seem somewhat shoehorned in at random moments, resulting in an often unfocused and sprawling narrative. And while this more serious tone might be considered appropriate by some given the fans of the original are probably looking for something a little more grown up while still tapping into their childhood love of the superhero, it all feels a little too serious at times, and lacking the fun, frenetic pace of the 2002 film.
The Amazing Spiderman is slick, visceral and often exciting but it lacks originality and inventiveness to make it a truly worthwhile update. While the characters are well developed the narrative treads a predictable, familiar path. Yet the cast are impressive, especially Denis Leary as a disgruntled cop. But it is entertaining enough for a Friday night out.