In a summer packed with three highly anticipated super-hero movies, Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’, Christopher Nolan’s final installment in his Batman series ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and this reboot to the ‘Spider-man’ franchise, Spidey is seen by many as the unfortunate third choice on the list.
The main question when The Amazing Spider-man was announced was ‘why does a series need rebooting when it was just 10 years since director Sam Raimi made the first spider-man film?’ It’s only 5 years, after all, since the last of that trilogy. After script problems with a planned Spider-man 4, it was decided to re-boot the franchise with a new cast and creative team and offer a fresh new take on the series. Out went Sam Raimi, and in came director Marc Webb, with just one directorial credit to his name, 2009’s indie rom-com (500) Days of Summer. Changes to the cast included Andrew Garfield in the title role, Emma Stone as new love interest Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans as main villain ‘the Lizard’.
The film opens with a young Peter Parker being left with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben as his parents are forced to leave town in a hurry, never to be seen again. Cut to the present and while Peter enjoys a happy home life he struggles at school, running into trouble with school bully ‘Flash’ and being ignored by girls. Far from being the nerdy science student the comics originally portrayed him as, this Peter Parker is more troubled outsider, with his dark clothes and skateboarding in the corridors, which probably fits better with the contemporary setting and the issues that are raised by his feelings of abandonment by his parents.
Parker is, however, still a science whiz, and this leads him to the laboratory of Dr. Curt Connors, who once worked with his father. At the lab Peter is bitten by a genetically modified spider and, as we all know, develops amazing spider-like abilities and, after the death of his uncle Ben, becomes the costumed crime-fighter Spider-man. Dr. Connors, who, after losing an arm became obsessed with lizards and their ability to re-grow lost limbs, is also transformed; becoming the monstrous ‘lizard’ after taking an experimental formula designed to re-grow lost appendages.
Andrew Garfield is excellent as Peter Parker. His thin wiry frame perfectly captures the twisted contorted shapes made by Spider-man as he fights or swings through the city, and his delivery of one-liners as he sees off bad guys fits the wise-cracking character of the comic books. In keeping with the comic, Parker creates his own formula for webbing and creates web shooters to fire it, a device that displays the boy’s scientific credentials. The scenes between his character and Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben are moving, with the actor effectively conveying a soul troubled over his parents disappearance and the angst of growing up.
The budding relationship between Parker and Gwen Stacy is also nicely handled and there are sweet moments of real tenderness between the two. The lizard makes for a good villain, and like all the best Spiderman antagonists Parkers relationship with the human doctor complicates his feelings over fighting the monster.
Although this film is well handled it doesn’t feel like a massive departure from the 2002 take. Obviously with the same character and with the exception of a few minor tweaks the same story, it was never going to be massively different, but by the end it didn’t feel like anything that hasn’t been seen before. It now seems like a cliche to describe a superhero sequel as being ‘darker’ than the original but there is an intensity in the relationships between the characters in this film that felt stronger than that of the original and it will be interesting to see where this is taken in the future.
The Amazing Spider-man hits the cinemas in Japan on June 30.
By Christopher O’Keeffe