There was always going to be a lot of comparisons drawn between this and Sam Raimi’s 2002 original, as well as a lot of criticism about whether this remake was really needed. The answer: Absolutely.
Taking the series in a new direction, The Amazing Spiderman provides a much needed break from the original, taking it down a far more personal, and consequently more engaging, route. If you are familiar with the series Spectacular Spiderman then you’ll be happy to hear this adaptation is far more in line with the tone set there. As the comparisons will be unavoidable I may as well start by saying this one has far more focus on the characters. Indeed, as an origin story it spends a significant section of the film sans spandex. While some may take this as a criticism, and with the previous films it surely would be, this ends up being one of the major strengths of the film.
When retelling an origin, it’s hard to cover new ground. Break away from the source material and you’ll have the fan-boys biting at your heels, stray to similar and risk people coming away asking what was the point. Andrew Garfield does a fantastic job as a teenage Peter Parker, capturing the awkward geekiness in an easy and charming manner. His presence on screen screams of a naturalness not found with Toby Maguire’s take on the character, and this is most powerful when coupled with love interest Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). The two deliver superb performances and together have a wonderful chemistry that really grounds the film, making us care.
There is a lot of time spent building up to the infamous spider bite accident, between scenes with Aunt May and Uncle Ben (far less annoying this time around) and school. While I love and value this exposition time, perhaps the pacing could have been a bit faster, allowing the story to deal with some plot holes left mysteriously alone. When the powers arrive and the villain of the piece (Rhys Ifans) gets into full swing, that’s when things start to pick up. A fight scene in the high school highlights director Marc Webb’s individual focus, placing even the action in a personal location.
Ifans does a great job sliming it up as the Lizard, but it’s here that the similarities started to weigh things down, the noble scientist turned to evil in pursuit of the good is a great storyline, but it was covered in the previous films. When he starts speaking to the voices in his head, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as thoughts of Lizard, Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus all started to merge together.
Despite the overall darker atmosphere to the film, Webb does a great job of managing to inject a lot of humour to provide some lighthearted relief. He revels in the opportunities of Peter learning to cope with his powers leading to some of the film’s best scenes. Fans will be happy to know the film captures Spidey’s more sarcastic side and really plays with it. One thing this version accomplishes in spades over the others is a seemless transition between Peter Parker and Spiderman. It’s clear that Andrew Garfield spent a lot of time in the suit instead of the stunt man, and his mannerisms and characteristics shine through never letting you forget that beneath the mask Spiderman is just a teenager. The supporting cast does an excellent job as well, Martin Sheen is endearing as Uncle Ben and Denis Leary has some fun with the role of Captain Stacy and Gwen’s father.
While the set pieces never reach such heights as the train scene in Spiderman 2, there are some good moments that are well constructed and highlight the differences between this and the original. The film is beautifully shot, and the CGI and POV shots look fantastic. The soundtrack from James Horner lends an air of gravitas to the film, knowing when to go big and bombastic but also when to stay reserved.
If you can look beyond a couple of plot holes, one or two action pieces that fall flat and some sections that stray too close to the original trilogy you will find an emotional, personal, funny and above all, entertaining film. The strength of the characters and their relationships carry the film through it’s weaker sections and allows it to reach new heights in it’s strongest. If you go in expecting just a superhero flick, you may be disappointed. Though there’s less action than the Raimi trilogy, it’s a small enough price for a Spiderman I actually care about.