Director: Marc Webb
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 7.5/10
With Hollywood rebooting everything in sight, it surprised no one when Sony announced they’d be hitting the reset button on the Spider-Man franchise after Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire said their goodbyes. When director Mark Webb (500 Days of Summer) and Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) were announced as the foundation of the reboot, however, eyebrows were raised and skepticism grew.
The first teaser trailers didn’t help, highlighting odd, first-person POV, Mirror’s Edge style camera-work. Nobody seemed to know what the filmmakers were trying to do.
The film’s finally arrived, caught in between The Avengers and the soon-to-be released The Dark Knight Rises and the question is…can it measure up?
The answer is yes…and no. As a story about Peter Parker, his struggle in dealing with his father issues and his relationship with Gwen Stacy (the always good Emma Stone), The Amazing Spider-Man is just that – amazing. When it switches to following Peter’s alternate life as the crime-fighting web-slinger, though, the film loses some steam.
To start with, Andrew Garfield is the best Peter Parker we’ve seen on screen. In Raimi’s trilogy, Tobey Maguire somehow played the part with too much camp while somehow also taking it too seriously. His Peter didn’t feel like a character, it felt like a caricature. In this film, Peter (and in turn, Spider-Man) is irreverent, rebellious and a bit of a wise-ass. He enjoys talking to the criminals as he’s beating them down and making random quips that only he can hear and enjoy. In short, this is the Peter from the comic books, and Garfield nails the portrayal.
Just as good is Stone, who plays Gwen as a beauty with brains who sometimes has much more trouble putting together a sentence than she does solving a complex equation.
The relationship between the two anchors the film, and it’s where Webb excels the most as director. He’s proven he can do romantic comedy, and instead of the relationship feeling like it was tacked on to attract a demographic, it’s actually the main thread that holds the rest of the film together.
That’s not to say the other relationships are not important. In fact, it was quite interesting to watch Peter interact with his Uncle (Martin Sheen) and Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary). At various points in the film, both are stand-ins for Peter’s absent father, dispensing wisdom and butting heads with Peter’s teenage ego. The interactions in this film are the highlight.
Which is why it is so disappointing that the film seems to wilt a bit before our eyes when it switches to the requisite action. The set pieces aren’t bad, necessarily, but they do lack a bit of cohesion and at times play as unrelated vignettes rather than scenes from a contained work.
Part of the problem is the film’s villain (played gamely by Rhys Ifans), a bland CGI creation that somehow never feels like much of a threat and as such, deflates what should be intense action sequences.
The climax, in particular, is poorly realized. There is one particular contrivance that is so badly handled that it threatens to pull the viewer out of the film, but even then, the humanity of the characters and their relationship to each other salvages it to a point.
The Amazing Spider-Man is, overall, a better movie than a lot of people expected, and might actually be one of the few superhero movies that could find an audience in those moviegoers who usually don’t care for such fare. It’s shortcomings, however, prevent the film from being great.