The Amazing Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man is a dependable revisitation of the superhero series that debuted just a decade ago. The last entry only came out 5 years back and we have already been blessed with a reboot. The current version trods much of the same territory that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man did in 2002. Oh there are some variations this time around. The webs Peter Parker shoots are mechanical devices that he invents instead of a genetic mutation that springs biologically from his body. He’s initially perceived as a menace, not a help, by the police. He’s got a different girlfriend and the villain has changed too. If you feel those are refreshing changes, you will enjoy this a lot more. It’s really a film that should rightfully be deemed a remake over a reboot – like a reheated leftovers with a few savory tidbits for variety.
One area where the movie excels is in the casting. Andrew Garfield has a sarcastic nerd sensibility that is keenly appealing. He nails the excitement of a adolescent coming to grips with his newfound powers, perfectly. It’s hard to explain how he can come off as insecure and confident at the same time, but he does. A good example occurs when Peter humiliates the school bully in front of his friends at basketball practice. There’s glimpses of genuine wit throughout the script. After Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider, he fights back against a group of thugs who are harassing him on a subway. At one point, he casually rests his hand on the shirt of the hoodlum’s girlfriend and he accidentally takes it off with his sticky hands, The scene has a quirky sense of humor. Later when confronted by a car thief with a knife, he drops to his knees in agony and cries “You’ve found my weakness…it’s small knives” right before bombarding the criminal with so many webs he cannot move.
Where the movie falters is in the details. Following the murder of Peter’s Uncle Ben, the direction of the narrative appears to be Spider-Man‘s search for the man who killed his Uncle. He becomes a vigilante of sorts apprehending various suspects that match the description of the killer. But once his father’s old colleague, Dr. Curt Connors, injects test serum into regenerating his absent arm, the story shifts focus. Dr. Connors metamorphosizes into The Lizard, a creature that kind of looks like Louis Gossett Jr. in Enemy Mine. Now all of Spider-Man’s efforts are concentrated on stopping this sociopath. His original mission is dropped and forgotten. The Lizard is a rather perfunctory attempt at fashioning an exciting antagonist right down to his moniker. He’s not particularly memorable. I couldn’t even understand if The Lizard was supposed to be an evil mastermind or some tragic antihero. First he’s a noble scientist helping people with missing limbs, but then he evolves into a malevolent lizard man and he’s out to infect humanity by turning everyone into lizard monsters like himself. Then yet again he returns to being good trying to safely pull our hero up out of harm’s way. I suppose the schizophrenic nature of the villain is something akin to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but it renders his personality confusing and he’s difficult to get excited about.
The Amazing Spider-Man is merely an acceptable update. Fittingly named director Marc Webb doesn’t put a unique stamp on the production to make the web-slinger his own. There isn’t enough inspiration to explain why another interpretation of the same movie needed to be made. It’s just all so familiar. However there are enough flashes of ingenuity to label this an entertaining diversion. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone inhabit their roles beautifully. The romance is stronger in this installment making their relationship the plot’s emotional center. While they’re charismatic characters, the villain is a complete bore. Given 136 minutes of action to fill, he’s not sufficiently compelling to maintain interest. I was constantly checking my watch during the final third. Let’s call this The Adequate Spider Man.
If I may paraphrase the Blocko-Land Announcer’s query in The Simpson’s episode “Hungry Hungry Homer”: So! How much did you LOVE The Amazing Spider-Man!?
It was alright I guess.