It’s been a mere five years since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy came to a close, but Columbia Pictures and Marvel have teamed up to reboot the franchise, this time with Mark Webb (500 Days of Summer) at the helm. The Amazing Spider-Man is a darker take on the franchise; while it’s still very good, it suffers from an inconsistent tone and a plot that lacks proper focus.
This reboot begins with the same teenage high school student, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), whom we all know and love. A visit to Oscorp Labs causes Peter to be bitten by a genetically altered spider, which leaves him with super powers and a new Spider-Man alter ego.
Yes, it’s the same origin story you’ve heard before, and the changes to the formula really don’t switch things up all that much. Peter has trouble with his newfound strength, and constantly finds himself breaking doors, computers, and basketball hoops as he attempts to balance all the aspects of his new life.
I guess these scenes are provided as comic relief, but none of them work very well at all. These over-the-top comical moments don’t mesh well with the darker plot, which otherwise succeeds at bringing out a more human side to the character.
The death of Peter’s uncle, Ben Parker (Martin Sheen), may not have the same impact it had in the 2002 Sam Raimi film, but it does effectively serve to send Peter on a quest for revenge. The new vigilante known as Spider-Man finds an enemy in the NYPD’s police commissioner, George Stacy (Denis Leary), who also happens to be the father of Peter’s crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
The relationship between Garfield and Stone is one of the more compelling aspects of the film, made all the better by Leary taking the role of over-protective father. The dynamic among these three characters serves to give The Amazing Spider-Man that grounding in reality it so desperately wanted to achieve.
I think it’s in the love story angle that director Mark Webb, who is no stranger to romantic comedies, really shines. The teenage love of Gwen Stacey and Peter Parker is one of the most effective romances seen in any superhero movie, and Webb’s steady hand is largely responsible for making it work so very well.
The Amazing Spider-Man is very well-directed, with some clever photography that switches up the action from time to time. Most notable are scenes shot in a first-person perspective. These are incredibly well done, and give a whole new feel to the Spider-Man action we’ve seen on the big screen multiple times before.
It’s true that Amazing Spider-Man is taking a page from The Dark Knight with its realistic, dark look and feel; however, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s a big change from what we’re used to seeing with the Sam Raimi movies – but I think that’s the point. This is an entirely new take on the character, and it feels like the beginning of a completely new trilogy.
Sadly, The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t able to reach the same heights as Dark Knight. This is at least in part due to having the Lizard as a villain. The storyline surrounding the Lizard raises grand expectations involving the secret behind the disappearance of Peter’s father, but it seems it’s all just a ploy to set up for a sequel; the Lizard just isn’t a well developed character.
Most of the scenes with the Lizard and Spider-Man devolve into elaborate fights with too much CGI to be interesting. Most of the special effects in this movie look great, but the Lizard, especially when speaking, looks rather silly. This took me out of my suspension of disbelief, and really hurt the film experience as a whole.
Thankfully the Lizard storyline isn’t even that significant to the plot. The storyline between Stone and Garfield, along with the excellent character transformation of George Stacy, are enough to keep the story moving smoothly.
The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t a perfect movie, but the creative direction of Mark Webb is enough to give the franchise new life. If you can look past the inconsistencies in the plot and tone, you’ll likely enjoy the experience. Marvel has set the stage for a new Spider-Man trilogy, and I’m excited to see what comes next.