When I rewatched the earlier version of the Spider-Man origin story I realized that the swinging scenes were stiff and boring. In The Amazing Spider-Man when Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) activates his self-designed web-slingers (more faithful to the comics than the self-produced ejaculate that Sam Raimi favoured for his trilogy) and whips around buildings or swings from girder to helicopter to building’s roof, it feels more organic and therefore more exciting.
And that is sort of the vibe of the whole movie—it is scrappier, less polished and more in tune with filmmaker Marc Webb’s past indie credentials. Which is definitely not a bad thing. Even if you are not a comic book fan you have probably seen the earlier movies, so you know how Peter Parker became Spider-Man. Since this is a reboot of that origin story, not much has changed. He still gets his powers from being bitten by an unconventional spider (genetically mutated in this case) and before long he is a stronger, faster, more agile version of himself.
In this latest version of the Spider-Man story we learn that Parker’s parents left rather suddenly one night when he was very young and that is how he came to be in the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). As a skateboarding 17-year-old with integrity and intelligence, Parker has to endure the usual movie humiliations of being a high school kid.
This time around he finds purpose when he encounters Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) an ex-colleague of his father’s, and a man obsessed with cross-species genetic mutation as a means of helping himself with a personal physical debilitation. Going back to the comics’ roots (in a sense) the romantic interest for Parker is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the daughter of Police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) and head intern to Dr. Connors.
Love comes easier for Peter this time around. As do his powers. And he does a good job with the development of both the web-shooters and his costume.
So the obvious question to ask is: was there a need for a reboot so soon after the end of the earlier trilogy? The answer is: of course! There is money to be made in telling the Spider-Man story over and over again.
My cynicism aside, this movie is a worthwhile addition to the moving picture lore that has been built around one of the most popular comic book characters ever. Mr. Garfield turns in an amazing performance and there isn’t a frame in this movie that he appears in, where he is not perfect as the conflicted, angry, teenager saddled with the gift/burden of being Spider-Man.
Because of how the sequence of events is presented however, this ends up becoming a pretty bleak movie. I realize that Spider-man circa 2002 didn’t exactly end on a shiny happy note either but somehow this one seems more doom-and-gloom than the first film in the old trilogy. Also, fans of the comic book, or even the casually aware, can probably deduce that all doesn’t end well for Gwen and Peter. So infusing all that teenage romanticism into their scenes just builds an added sense of dread for what is to come.
The action set pieces see-saw wildly between inventive and ‘dude, I can almost see your green screen’. And finally, characters seem to cope with death in such a chipper manner in this move that it seems to render the deaths, as well as the characters that died, entirely inconsequential.
Overall, I’d have to say that the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man outdoes the cast of Spider-Man. Still I can’t help feeling that the first Tobey Maguire-starring, Sam Raimi-directed movie was more satisfying overall.