The Amazing Spider-Man

Flawed, but a good old-fashioned blockbuster romp with a great cast.

The Amazing Spider-Man

A reboot that was conceived long before it was needed, The Amazing Spider-Man is nonetheless a good old-fashioned blockbuster romp, featuring a great cast and enough excitement in its action sequences to soften the glare of its flaws.

Taking on the origin story of Spider-Man once again, we are given the same old story – Peter Parker is a geeky teen and talented photographer, who is bitten by a radioactive spider. This bestows him with superhuman strength and agility, and thanks to his already accomplished technical skills he is soon swinging through New York on his (home-made) webslingers, fighting crime and battling evil adversaries.

The first thing to say about this incarnation is that Andrew Garfield is an absolutely perfect fit for Peter Parker. A shifted perception of geek culture ten years later positions the character very differently to Tobey Maguire’s interpretation, and as a result Garfield is able to make the role his own. We are introduced to Peter, skateboard under arm, as he is shown being gangly and awkward around his school friends, and with his shock of hair and facebook-generation hoodie, this is very much a superhero for 2012. It is in his scenes with Emma Stone (playing Gwen Stacy) that the pair are able to feed off each other’s energy, with a sassy verve to their exchanges that makes this something just a little more interesting than a standard romance – something director Marc Webb is no stranger to after landing a hit with (500) Days of Summer.

Establishing the feel of Spidey straight off the bat, the plot doesn’t waste time getting to the spider-bite, but once Peter starts to develop his powers, the story takes on a strange pace. Racing through some important plot points, particularly with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, on excellent form) and Aunt May (Sally Field, underused), we are shuttled between set pieces in fits and starts. The unfortunate victim of this strangely paced story is Rhy Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/ The Lizard, whose character is tonally all over the place. We are introduced to him as a noble if gruff scientist, with a dash of pathos as he seeks to further his genetic research for the good of mankind. He then takes an unexplained about face into evil super-villain, out to destroy Spider-Man for absolutely no explained reason at all. It’s a real shame, as Ifans is fine both as the pre-transformation Connors, and in the hubris-laden middle of the film, but in flip-flopping between evil and misguided scientific endeavour so often, it is hard to get a handle on the character late on.

It is bizarre that the plot should skimp on areas of characterisation, when it is given 140 minutes in which to do so. The script is a strange beast, with fizzing dialogue, and a few nice nods for fans, but hollow characterisation and far too many loose ends. Entire plot strands are introduced, then forgotten about in practically the next scene, with one early event (integral to the Spider-Man origin story, but we’ll keep spoiler free just in case) not resounding at all, furthering the plot rather than being the vital character moment it could, and should, have been.

When looked at as an action-packed blockbuster, The Amazing Spider-Man does fall somewhat short of its title, but has enough in the tank to keep the audience interested. There is a nicely visceral feel to the fight sequences, with the fast-paced Spidey a fun superhero to watch at work. The set-pieces themselves are of a consistently decent standard, although the feeling is that none really stands out above the rest. A school corridor fight and suspension bridge rescue mission are good fun, but neither has to work particularly hard to overshadow the disappointingly clichéd finale. The use of 3D in these scenes is strangely muted, and despite one or two flashes of the technology, it has to be said that the extra dimension brings very little to the film.

The plot clearly aims to set up sequels, but does so by leaving perhaps too much unresolved. This has the curious effect of being at once unsatisfying, but also piquing the interest in a second helping. A far more accomplished blockbuster than expected, The Amazing Spider-Man is a solid prospect in what is already a competitive and crowded superhero market.