IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 136 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Young Peter Parker is playing hide-and-seek with his scientist father when he discovers his father’s study has been broken into. His father gathers up hidden documents, and Peter’s parents take him to the home of his Aunt May and Uncle Ben then mysteriously depart. Years later, a teenage Peter attends Midtown Science High School, where he’s bullied by Flash Thompson and has caught the eye of Gwen Stacy. At home, Peter finds Richard’s papers, and learns his father worked with fellow scientist Dr. Curt Connors at OsCorp. Faking his way into OsCorp as one of a group of high-school interns, Peter sneaks into a lab where extremely strong “biocable” is being created from genetically modified spiders, one of which bites him. On the subway ride home, he is shocked to find strange spider-like abilities manifesting……..
What’s the point?
That was my immediate reaction on learning that only five years after Spiderman 3 [which I don’t think is quite as bad as its reputation and needs that Director’s Cut that fans have been clamouring for but Sam Raimi has steadfastly refused to do], the next film to feature the masked web slinger would be a reboot and start all over again. Surely they could have just made Spiderman 4 with some different lead cast members? It worked for James Bond several times, and would be far preferable to retelling an origin story that was done well enough in the first Spiderman, a film which for me ranks in the top ten superhero films list and was done almost as well as it could have been. Still, curiosity began to get the better of me and many early reviews have been very good indeed. I shouldn’t have let myself believe them though; when one positive review calls the film “the Twilight of superhero films”, as if any similarity to that abysmal franchise is a good thing, you know it can’t be that good!
Well, it’s certainly not the Twilight of superhero films; it’s far better than that. It’s an enjoyable, well made entry in the Marvel canon. Taken on its own, it would probably seem very good indeed. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to take it on its own, and this is not so much because there have been previous Spiderman films. No, it’s primarily because it’s basically a remake of the 2002 picture. This might sound like a strange thing to say, but it’s 50% a remake of the first half and 50% a remake of the whole film. Peter Parker is in high school the entire time and much of the film is devoted to him becoming Spiderman, but we also have a villain to contend with, while elements not used at all are often still given variants. For example, Peter does not become a journalist so we have no J. Jonah Jameson, the editor who considers Spiderman a criminal and wants to catch him, but we do have Captain Stacy, a police chief who thinks the same way about Spiderman.
Instead of being treated to a rousing piece of music by Danny Elfman and cool titles, things which really set up the excitement in the Raimi movies, we get into this particular picture straight away. We briefly see Peter as a young boy and meet his parents before flashing forward some years where Peter is now a teenager. For around an hour the film then becomes a rehash of the first third of the original film, only played at slower speed and in more detail. A good example is when he creates a device to shoot a web properly [something that is more faithful to the comics than Raimi’s character, who fired webs from his actual wrists]. He has lots of trouble before he gets it right. Unfortunately, the film is also very repetitive and takes forever to get going. When it eventually does, replete with a lame redoing of the death of Uncle Ben from Spiderman and the creation of a villain called the Lizard, the film becomes very action-packed and almost too fast-paced. It isn’t clear exactly why the Lizard becomes villainous and other matters are rushed. Nor is there room for any memorable lines like “with great power comes great responsibility”, though at least the moral aspects of the story are present and correct.
The final third consists mostly of Spiderman battling his opponent in various locations – the best brawl being one that rages through the college and includes the best cameo by Spiderman creator Stan Lee yet – but none of these scenes improve on the Spiderman Vs Dr Octopus train battle in Spiderman 2 and, as with the first half, it all just becomes very repetitive. The best action scene actually occurs about half way through as Peter uses parkour-like abilities to battle and evade a street gang. Now I didn’t see this in 3D, as I think it’s a mainly pointless and nowhere-near-perfected format that I resent paying any extra money for, and also because I think all those Spiderman swinging scenes would make me feel sick! Actually the swinging scenes are quite few in number and often brief, though I did notice a few choice moments where things are hurled at the audience, something I sometimes think 3D is only really good for, and a few POV shots which would would be quite effective. The advances made in CGI between the first film and this one are also evident, making the original’s swinging sequences look very fake.
That’s probably the only improvement though, which mostly just repeats situations and ideas from the 2002 film in an inferior manner. Even the subplot of Dr Curt Connors, the guy who becomes the Lizard [and a character who actually appeared in Spiderman 2 and Spiderman 3 but never got a chance to turn monstrous] features things like his bosses cutting the funding for his project and him talking to himself. Even though the tone of the film does get quite dark, I just got more and more fed up with the sense of déjà vu and overall this Spiderman film just doesn’t have enough of its own identity, with director Marc Webb refusing to put much of a personal stamp on it. Even things which they could have improved upon are usually botched. Something that annoyed me about the Raimi trilogy was that, whilst Peter was as awkward and put-upon a nerd as you could imagine, when he became Spiderman he never became the cheeky, slightly arrogant Spiderman of the comics that I remember loving when I was a kid. In this film, they get Spiderman right, but Peter seems far too confident and sure of himself. In one section he virtually does a bit of spying. None of the Spiderman films so far have shown that Spiderman is actually a very different character to Peter.
I did like the way the film almost ignores the idea of Peter trying to hide the fact that he’s Spiderman to his girlfriend Gwen Stacy [also in Spiderman 3], though there’s little chemistry between the two and certainly no equivalent to that wonderfully romantic upside down kiss! The Amazing Spiderman is mostly well acted. Toby Maguire will always be Peter to me but Andrew Garfield is a better actor and gives the poorly written character some nice nuances. The film also boasts one of James Horner’s strongest scores of late, which is more diverse than Elfman’s efforts and has a decent main theme, but I’m not convinced that the film should ever have been made. At least it leaves some matters unfinished and therefore sets things up for a sequel which should be a bit more original. As the final scene of Spiderman swinging about came up and I started to get up from my seat and head for the exit [I didn’t bother to stay for the after-credits scene which is apparently as meaningless to those not ‘in the know’ as the bit at the end of The Avengers], all I could think of was…….
What’s the point?