While I read comics during my childhood and leaned more towards Marvel than DC, I really didn’t read that much Spider-Man. I was more interested in characters like The Punisher and X-Men with the former being my favorite character, which is kind of ironic. Spider-Man is one of Marvel’s iconic characters that has already had a successful film franchise. While Sam Raimi’s adaptations weren’t 100% true to the comic story line, the first two became the catalyst for making comic superheroes equal blockbuster cash. After the final entry in Raimi’s trilogy definitely left a bad taste in fans mouths, I didn’t think that the Spider-Man character would need a complete reboot. Especially, not this soon after the last entry back in 2007 which might be the reason why Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man might meet mixed results among most mainstream filmgoers.
Webb’s (come on, no laughter) adaptation of the character brings in a more faithful translation to the character’s origins as this is a re-boot and at heart an origin story. Peter Parker is played by Andrew Garfield who is bitten while visiting on an intern tour, one of which he snuck into under someone else’s identity in order to get more information on some documents he found in his father’s briefcase. This curiosity is the fuel to what brings him closer to Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). The story is mainly about Peter & Gwen and how they seem perfect for each other but haven’t properly come together in their timelines. This Peter Parker is a solitary teenager trying to just get by while being a model student and adopted son for his Aunt May (Sally Field) & Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). Once he realizes that after he is bit by an radioactive spider that he has acquired a sticky habit, he is then throttled into a life of vigilantism due to Uncle Ben’s murder.
While there was really no explanation on why Peter was an orphan and taken in by his Aunt May (played here by Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) in the comics, the film tries to interweave some of that into the corporation of Oscorp in order to fill that gap. This is when we get the sense that Oscorp has a strong presence in the city that all of these characters inhabit. This is a welcome change to not only the comic but also the previous film adaptations as it seems like the story is doing its best to fill in some gaps left vacant in Spidey’s original story. The screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves should tell you that they have tried their hardest to make a cohesive story that uses every minute of its screentime to be useful. Sadly, there is some fat that definitely could have been trimmed. Gwen Stacy’s father, the police captain (Denis Leary), is introduced as a character who may be fleshed out but never is and by the end of the film seems worthless that he was ever introduced. His only use is call out a manhunt on the vigilante known is Spider-Man only to let him go once he realizes his true identity. Another strange thing about The Amazing Spider-Man is it seems like a bizzaro universe film. It is a film that rightfully ignores Raimi’s previous films yet still has a third act that feels like it was freshly written after the September 11th attacks. Patriotism and community become a main focus of this final act that it almost makes me a bit sick. It’s hokey, heavy handed and unfortunately more of a time waster.
What Webb does get right are the personal relationships between Parker and other characters he meets. Gone is the campy feel and the hunky-dory Peter Parker after his Spider-Man identity is established, Garfield’s interpretation of Parker is an every man that while he likes to verbally torture his victims with sarcasm. This is a Spidey you would have a tough time hearing “Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” out of.
Unfortunately, I think not enough of a time gap was given to audiences and the film will be compared to the previous entries. For better or worse, the film does stand on its own and while I admire this new take of Spider-Man and feel that Garfield is a far better actor that Tobey Maguire ever was in the role, Raimi knew how to blend everything together while Webb has a bit of shakiness to the delivery of the story & execution. Also given the fact of the box office still feeling the aftershocks of The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man will feel to the majority of people as a dud. There is a lot to like in this reincarnation, you just have to get through some of the stale, cobwebbed corners of it.
While the film was shot in 3D yet lacks the depth of field needed for that format and ends up looking worse than some post-converted 3D films.