The Amazing Spider-man

I’M SURE a lot of us have had a similar first thought when it comes to the newly released The Amazing Spider-man, that thought being- ‘Didn’t we just have a Spiderman film?’

The illustriously awful Spiderman 3, starring Tobey Maguire as said spandex-clad hero, came out in 2007, only five years ago. It was 2002, however, that saw the release of the initial instalment in the franchise, and it was a big deal. Spiderman was the first comic-book adaptation to rake in serious money at the box office, something its production company Marvel has been cashing in on ever since. In fact, Spiderman was so sought after that the British Board of Film Classification created the 12A certificate in order for a younger audience to be able to view it.

So yes, it’s been ten years since the original Spiderman paved the way for its superhero descendants, allowing for The Avengers (/Avengers Assemble, sigh) to smash box office opening weekend records in the way that it did earlier this year. Why the reboot then- and is it any good?

Released Tuesday this week- to coincide with American Independence Day on Wednesday, if that otherwise strikes you as an obscure choice for an opening day- The Amazing Spider-man starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is on its way to setting its own records. The main plot of the film revolves around a retelling of the Spiderman origin story. If Maguire’s Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, then Garfield’s is attacked by a more contemporary hot ethical topic, a spider created as a result of genetic manipulation. Let’s not get too tied down in analogies though.

[pullshow id=1]Andrew Garfield brings a played down naturalism to his role as Peter. He mumbles and avoids eye contact, but is quietly confident. As a result, his awkward social quirks don’t prevent him from standing up to the clichéd high school bully character, Flash, or from getting the girl. Peter here is smart and snarky, a welcome change from Maguire’s simpering portrayal (I mean, seriously, he was a bit of a pansy). His inner confidence really shines through into something far more extroversive when he becomes Spider-man; he puts on the mask and becomes something of a cheeky little sod. [pullthis id=1]Spider-man becomes who he was meant to be, the hero was already there.[/pullthis]

Peter’s motivations throughout the film are all tied into finding out more about what his father was working on prior to having to go on the run, leaving a young Peter to be raised by his aunt and uncle. And this is where the villain comes in. Doctor Curt Connors, played mostly effectively by Rhys Ifans (cue a game of waiting for his Welsh accent to betray his American impersonation when he stumbles across a word with too many vowels) was the man with whom Peter’s father had worked most closely, developing an idea which led to them being titled ‘mad scientists’ by others in their field- I know, those crazy scientists right? Always so witty with the nicknames.

As a man devoid of half his right arm, Connors’ quest has always been to find a way, using genetics, in which to grow his missing limb. Early on in the film, he states that he is a leading experts in all things lizard, which only leads to him, in a desperate bid to stop his enigmatic (and poorly explained) superior from testing a trial drug on humans, to test it on himself. Safe to say, it doesn’t work, and Connors becomes The Lizard.

[pullshow id=2]I had a lot of issues with this villain. I’ve heard that he’s something of a big deal in the Spiderman comic mythology, but I feel like this film let him down. The CGI left more than a little something to be desired, particularly with reference to whenever Connors as The Lizard spoke, it almost looked as if the work was unfinished. [pullthis id=2]He didn’t feel threatening, just laughable as he thundered around with his skin shedding, shouting ‘GRAAH’ at apparently random moments.[/pullthis] There was a particularly poorly-timed moment in the soundtrack in which it sounded much like the demented creature had fallen over a small piano, and this really did not help matters.

One of my other concerns with regards to the villain is the way in which Spider-man attempted to deal with him. In this adaptation, Parker is gifted with amazing strength and grip which enables him to climb and throw himself about, but it is super-smart Peter who develops his own web technology. I quite liked this aspect. However, and as this film demonstrated, Spider-man simply isn’t a great enough superhero to dispatch with any major threats. It must be a realisation the screenwriters also made, which would establish why the lizard army of equality Connors begins to form becomes completely redundant. Some police officers are seen to painfully transform only to look relieved a few sequences later when they have been cured, all without having destroyed anything or come anywhere near Spiderman. And, despite how silly I found The Lizard to be, I think that if Spider-man hadn’t had help at the right moments, he should probably have lost the climactic towertop showdown.

I suppose that’s more of a niggle than anything else, nobody exactly goes out watching these films for realism.

Amongst the rapid stunt work, genuinely funny beats and the great turns by Garfield and Stone in their balancing out of a high school romance, there are some lovely little messages in the subtext of this film. It’s something of a tradition in most narratives for the protagonist to end up alone against the world. Maguire’s Spiderman was that lone hero, the first major protagonist for the post-9/11 world (as media types are always in favour of thinking of things) who were looking for heroes and escapism as a fantastic solution. Superheroes have always filled this niche nicely, there to save the day.

In The Amazing Spider-man though, Spiderman is not alone. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when he is allowed to be free of the police who had sought him out and swing amongst the cranes of the city that the people had set up to help, a police helicopter lighting his way. The soundtrack swells at this moment, when we realise that we don’t need heroes but are capable of working together to help one another triumph. It’s a cheesy moment admittedly, but it signals a change in the way things are going to be done now.

The Amazing Spider-man is a comic-book film that focuses a lot on the aspects that are not quite so… comic-y. Despite a few plot holes (like, how/ why was Gwen Stacy interning at a major science firm whilst still in high school? How does that even happen these days?), it is a fast and fun exploration of a familiar character and it does what it can to stay fresh, even though some moments are inevitable and can be seen coming waving banners and flags from a mile off. It is definitely worth a look, especially with all of these rainy days around.