However history judges The Amazing Spider-Man as a film it might represent a significant moment for franchise movies. After only five years since Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3 the series is going back to its beginnings with a fresh slate. The reboot is nothing new but never has such a popular property seen such a quick turnaround. A lot of people are pretty cynical about this but I find it difficult to understand why. Only two more years separated Batman Begins from Batman and Robin compared to this case and anybody who complains about Nolan’s first foray into Gotham appearing less than a decade after Joel Schumacher’s second deserves to be slapped with a wet fish. The point is that if a film is good enough it should need no greater justification to exist. Besides this is the way the franchise movie industry is going. Batman is already in the process of being rebooted and it won’t stop there. Any reimagining is welcome if the elements involved are right and the results are enjoyable and with The Amazing Spider-Man that is definitely the case.
Andrew Garfield is Pater Parker, an orphan with an aptitude for science and a social outcast living with his aunt and uncle but you knew that already. This Parker is geek chic, a nerd and a target for bullies but a handsome skateboarder with a stylish buzz. With geek culture rising into the mainstream (huzzah) the Garfield Parker is the perfect modern representation of the character but one that remains true to the classic comics. More importantly Garfield makes such a charming screen presence that Tobey Maguire’s incarnation is almost forgettable by comparison. Garfield nails both social awkwardness and romantic hero, bringing with him the sarcastic sense of humour that helps maintain his masked alter-ego’s enduring popularity. There’s also a great deal of truth and humanity in his performance, his emotional moments are powerful, he’s a flawed character with some shades of grey who makes bad decisions. He seems very natural in the red and blue costume, handles action beats effortlessly and is never anything less than highly convincing whatever he is doing on screen. This Spidey is a triumph.
And he’s not the only one. Emma Stone glows as Parker’s original love interest Gwen Stacey, injecting her scenes with humour and verve that elevates the character above the standard romantic interest role. Martin Sheen never fails to raise a smile as a joking Uncle Ben and Sally Field’s Aunt May shared great chemistry with him, nailing a number of emotional and amusing scenes of her own. Then there is Rhys Ifans’ Dr Curt Connors, the genius one-armed scientist with ambitions of regrowing his missing limb. His is a subtle depiction of a good man driven over the edge by an obsession to do good that spirals into madness when his experiments transform him into the Lizard. He typifies the story’s greatest strength, those shades of grey, something that even extends to Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka). Nobody is entirely right or wrong, the good guys have shortcomings and personality flaws, the bad guys have good intentions and softer sides.
The rest of the plot doesn’t fare quite so well. Many scenes feel disjointed and oddly paced. There are unresolved subplots including one about Peter investigating the truth about his dead parents that fails to fully satisfy and J Jonah Jameson’s absence is sorely missed. Likewise some of the action could be better, an exciting high school scrap between Spidey and the Lizard being the standout but there is nothing to touch Spider-Man 2’s elevated train episode. Overall compared to the best franchise reboots like Batman Begins that combine deep exploration of the main character with top-notch action and a smart plot, The Amazing Spider-Man feels somewhat unambitious.
But that doesn’t mean the film is a disappointment and there are still plenty of highlights. Plenty of fun is had with Spider-Man’s web-shooters, a returning element of the comics and a number of scenes do well to remember just how cool a concept they are. The CGI is excellent throughout, Spidey’s web-slinging sequences progress with realistic weight and momentum while the Lizard looks superb and impressively human. I can understand why the film has received some fairly average reviews, there are definite rough patches and the viewing experience isn’t as breathtakingly cinematic is it might have been but I found myself so entertained by the cast and felt such goodwill to an earnest presentation of a much-loved character that I just didn’t mind. Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man and his first outing in the role is a lot of fun.
Like the Peter Parker it presents the film is flawed but that doesn’t necessarily mean it fails. The impressive cast, amusing script and intelligent look at characterisation raises the film above the sum of its parts. Arriving in between such behemoths as Marvel Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man is some fine meat in a tasty sandwich.