Having entered July, we are now right in the heart of summer blockbuster season. This year, the highlights include two of the biggest superhero franchises going head to head: Spider-Man and Batman. While we must wait another two weeks (not that I’m counting down) for The Dark Knight Rises, reboot The Amazing Spider-Man hit cinemas this Tuesday. Here are my mostly spoiler-free thoughts on the film (read ahead at your own risk!)
Largely, the cast in the film is pretty good. Andrew Garfield looks and acts more like Spider-Man/Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire with near constant wise-cracking, erasing all fears that his age (28) would make him useless at portraying a teenager. Emma Stone is an engaging love interest as Gwen Stacy, but it’s the roles of Martin Sheen and Sally Field that are a highlight. Sheen as Uncle Ben makes the most of his character’s short time, bringing the philosophy the character is renowned for but adding an extra steel in his lecturing of Peter. At first, I couldn’t shake the connection between Sally Field and Mrs. Gump, but in the second half, despite a lack of screen time, she fits a classic role well. Rhys Ifans as Doctor Connors does fairly well, though a large number of his character’s plot points are left under-developed for the inevitable sequel.
The plot to the film was well done, despite the obvious problems with rebooting a franchise (see the negatives). Doctor Connors made for a compelling villain, borrowing a lot from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for good use. It leaves a lot of the plot open for a sequel but satisfies you with what it concludes here. Fan pleasing details such as Spider-Man’s web shooters link back to the comics far better than Raimi’s films. Richard Parker (Peter’s deceased father) is often an underused character in Spider-Man stories but here he plays a large part, although much of it is yet to be revealed. Some may argue there’s too much Peter Parker and not enough Spider-Man, but for an origin story, it’s a pretty good balance.
+ No Osborn
Norman Osborn (or the Green Goblin) is used in nearly every Spider-Man origin story I’ve ever seen, due to his role as Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis. Thankfully, to prevent re-releasing Sam Raimi’s 2002 movie, Norman Osborn is left out of the film for The Lizard to take the central villain role. Osborn still presides over a lot of the film’s plot but all from an off-camera position. There’s no doubt he will be showing up in a future sequel due to his position in the plot, but for now, the film feels like a proper reboot without his appearance.
+ Easy on the eyes
Visually, the film is very impressive – any trailer or screen capture of Spider-Man flying over NYC will prove that. There are a couple of sequences where the camera takes Spider-Man’s view point, which capture the visuals of the city best, although the change in perspective can be off-putting at first. A scene where Peter handstands on top of a building to check his balance had my fear of heights racing – that’s when you know a film’s visuals are working for it.
In places, the action scenes were really well done. The scene on the subway with Peter taking out five or six guys without even realising was really good. However, in some places I was reminded of Transformers’ awfully confusing action scenes. Spider-Man moves at such a quick pace that sometimes you can hardly keep up with him. In general as well, the film is less about action and more about Peter’s romance with Gwen. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just odd for a Spider-Man film to not have an action sequence that steals the show (think the scene with Spider-Man stopping the train in Spider-Man 2).
– What’s old is new again
The main problem with this movie is the amount of retreading it does, with scenes almost directly taken from Raimi’s Spider-Man. Of course, the Spider-Man origin story is fairly set in stone and a little repetition is guaranteed, but perhaps the first movie’s plot is still fresh in my mind. In particular, the fifteen or so minutes before Uncle Ben’s inevitable death gave me massive déjà vu despite the differences in location and scenario.
I’m not the biggest fan of 3D anyway, but Amazing Spider-Man uses almost no 3D. In fact, the only scene I can remember actually using 3D properly is the final shot. Sure, you can argue that the 3D improves the visuals overall, but with a lack of depth of vision or memorable 3D shots, it’s just an easy cash-in really.
– A whole load of questions, few answers
Peter’s relationship with his father (or lack thereof) is explored in this film, although it is largely stunted by the other stories running through the film. In particular, Doctor Connors association with Richard Parker and his implied involvement in his death is mentioned but unexplored. A mid-credits scene reminds you of this, but opens even more questions up. Obviously it is intended to interest in the sequel but for now, it leaves too much unexplained.
In many ways, The Amazing Spider-Man feels like it’s a challenge to DC Comics’ upcoming release. It raises the bar for Spider-Man films in general and repairs a lot of the damage done by Spider-Man 3. It will be interesting to see how the series proceeds from here, particularly with a scene during the credits raising even more questions. Overall, the film is a blast and reminds me a lot of how Christopher Nolan’s slow start with Batman Begins. I look forward to Spider-Man’s Dark Knight equivalent.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below or tweet me – @colemansa.