Twice bitten – The Amazing Spider-Man review

The Amazing Spider-ManStarring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifans. Directed by Marc Webb. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

Comic book characters get rebooted all the time, and that’s perfectly fine. Different writers and illustrators are entrusted with reimagining new beginnings, or adding twists to the basic template set eons earlier. Individual authors have their own distinct flavour, and no-one expects them to stick to the canon. For instance, Batman once went on the hunt for Jack the Ripper in 19th century Gotham; Mark Millar wondered what would have happened if Superman was born in the Soviet Union; and in 2011, Peter Parker was killed off, and a black teen by the name of Miles Morales donned the Spider-Man suit. Eventually things return to normal, or, even better, are spun off into even wilder scenarios. This is the wonderful ebb and flow of the comic book world.

So, why then does everyone get annoyed whenever a reboot is announced by the Hollywood studios? Gents like The Incredible Hulk and Superman are ageless, and born for reinvention. Look at Christopher Nolan‘s Batman movies; they worked out all right! Therefore, I can think of no reason to be angry at the existence of Marc Webb‘s The Amazing Spider-Man, even if it does come a mere ten years after Sam Raimi‘s original. There is cause, however, to be mildly disappointed. Whereas Raimi’s pictures carried his personality and had a singular tone, Webb’s version feels particularly bland. And that is the real crime of this reboot: if we’re going to do this once a decade, why not try something fresh?

Peter Parker is played by Andrew Garfield, he of The Social Network and being 28 but looking 16 fame. Parker’s parents disappeared one evening under mysterious circumstances, and he was left in the capable hands of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). As a teenager, he’s gawky and out of touch; this is exemplified by the fact he still shoots photos with a non-digital camera, rides a skateboard, and uses Bing as his primary search engine. He skulks around high school and lusts – sweetly, of course – over blondie Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), though he’s mostly concerned with finding out what happened to his ma and pa. After doing a little digging – with the aid of Bing! – he discovers a connection between his father and Dr. Curt Connors (the always reliable Rhys Ifans), a one-armed geneticist obsessed with limb regeneration.

While scoping out Connors’ lab at Oscorp Towers, Peter is accidentally bitten by a genetically-modified spider, gifting him with all powers traditionally afforded an arachnid. When tragedy strikes, Peter is driven to devote his life to battling the ills of New York City, and becomes a masked vigilante. Armed with Spidey sense, super speed, and incredible gripping ability, he cleans up the streets, much to the chagrin of Gwen’s dad, police captain George Stacy (Denis Leary). But the cops are soon relying on Spider-Man’s help when Connors trials a serum on himself, and mutates into The Lizard.

Webb’s directorial debut, 500 Days of Summer, was a delight, yet there’s no evidence of the filmmaker who made that here. Gone is Webb’s flair; in its place is the generic, “gritty” look of all the superhero flicks that have followed in Batman Begins’ wake. Garfield and Stone have a nice rapport, and a more sexual one than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst ever had as Peter and Mary Jane; however, little of that credit can go to screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves. Raimi’s first Spider-Man was far from perfect, but it at least delivered some iconic scenes, such as the upside down kiss and Uncle Ben’s ‘Great Power’ speech. I struggle to think of anything in this edition that will live on past the closing credits. Certainly not James Horner’s score, which is distracting, forgettable, and derivative (a triple threat!).

That being said, The Amazing Spider-Man is not without some wonderful, web-slinging moments. The action – if sparse – is mostly well executed, and death is a persistent threat that takes a real toll on our hero. Though Garfield doesn’t get to crack wise as much as Maguire before him, he’s given much to chew on when it comes to the guilt that bubbles under Parker’s surface.

Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 was, at the time (and maybe still), the best superhero feature ever made. Without the burden of the origin story, he could deliver a thrilling and very affecting instalment in the ongoing saga. The Amazing Spider-Man is no better or worse than the first film; or maybe it’s just better in different ways and worse in other ones. I hold out hope that the inevitable sequel will similarly be an improvement too, because this cast is too good to waste.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

The Amazing Spider-Man arrives in Australian cinemas July 4, 2012.

5 Responses to “Twice bitten – The Amazing Spider-Man review”

  1. That this movie does not measure up to Spider-Man 2 is a given, and I certainly respect your opinion on it overall, but I must, MUST object to the claim that Andrew Garfield does not “crack wise” as much as Tobey Maguire did; on the contrary, his Spider-Man is INFINITELY more of a jokester than Maguire’s bland webslinger. In the course of THREE movies, I can think of only THREE times Maguire’s Spider-Man cracked jokes while in costume, which only averages out to one per movie, and of the three cracks only the first one (made to the wrestler played by the late Randy Savage) was even vaguely funny. Garfield was all over the place with wisecracks, both for the common thug he overpowered and the Lizard. Sure this new movie has shortcomings, but at least this Spider-Man has mechanical webshooters AND his signature wisecracks!

  2. I was disappointed that he missed the opportunity to call himself “your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man”.

  3. Agree with Jim – Garfield kicked Toby Maquire as more true to the proper character of Spiderman. This was far superior to the equally aweful Spiderman 2 and 3. I would actually place it above the fist Sam Rami Spiderman. AND he had mechanical webshooters. We obviously have vastly different tastes as I loved this film and thought 500 days of summer was utter tripe.

  4. I don’t really think it’s a remake… Didn’t the Spider-Man comic books develop different, parallel universes? So there’s more than one version of how Spider-Man came about? … So really it’s not that much of a re-make… eh?

  5. Martin Sheen should totally play Kernel Sanders with that look he has going in this movie.

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