STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys
Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen
2012, 136 Minutes, Directed by:
there a need for a
Spider-Man reboot just ten years after the first Sam Raimi film starring
Tobey Maguire and just five years after that series concluded?
No, not really, except for the
fact that if Columbia Pictures didn’t make another one they risked having their
license for the character revert to Marvel Comics which had set up its own
production company in the interim. Thus we get
The Amazing Spider-Man.
While the story is familiar
even to those who did not grow up reading the comic books, it takes a different
tack than the previous series, spending much more time on character development.
It takes quite a long time in this two and a quarter hour film for Peter Parker
(Andrew Garfield) to become Spider-Man.
For those who thought the
earlier series was great because it spend so much time on special effects action
scenes this will be excruciating. For those who actually like getting involved
with the characters it’s an improvement.
"Who wants a Spider-man reboot besides Columbia Pictures'
Case in point is the character
of Uncle Ben, played by the late Cliff Robertson in the original and by Martin
Sheen here. Ben’s purpose is to teach Peter that with great power comes great
responsibility, and then to die, serving as both a cautionary guilt trip and
inspiration to the new superhero. Robertson was a fine actor who provided
sufficient weight to a largely symbolic role.
Sheen, on the other hand, gets
to create a character so that you actually get a sense of the relationship he’s
had with the nephew he’s had to raise after Peter’s parents die. (On the other
hand Sally Field is utterly lost in the role of Aunt May.)
For those new to the franchise,
Peter is bitten by a spider which has been manipulated in scientific experiments
conducted by Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), and is transformed from wimpy high
school kid to someone with great strength. Further, he’s able to climb walls and
swing from web strands that this film does a much better job of explaining.
Adopting the masked identity of Spider-Man, he fights bad guys although the
police – particularly Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary) – think he’s a menace.
The romance is provided by Gwen
(Emma Stone), a smart classmate of Peter’s who provides the link to a couple of
other characters. While there’s no upside down kiss – easily the most memorable
moment in the original film – there’s a nice rapport between Garfield and Stone.
Where the film falls short, as
did the original and too many other superhero movies, is in the big set piece
battles. Dr. Connors injects himself with an experimental serum and becomes the
Lizard, whom Spider-Man must defeat if all of New York City is not going to be
similarly transformed. It’s all CGI and it’s a safe bet that Garfield and Ifans
weren’t even present when the big fights were taking place. It undercuts the
characterization the film has expended so much effort on.
The Amazing Spider-Man is an entertaining superhero film with solid
performances from Garfield, Sheen, Stone and Ifans, a serviceable one from Leary
and a painful one from Field. Whether the public needs and wants a Spider-Man
reboot – as opposed to what the lawyers required – remains to be seen.