The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) dir. Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, C. Thomas Howell and Stan Lee
Review By Greg Klymkiw
There's really no reason for The Amazing Spider-Man to exist save for greed.
Sam Raimi delivered the greatest motion picture comic book trilogy of all time with his magnificent Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Macguire as the webslinger in 2002, 2004 and 2007 respectively.
What made Raimi's work special (aside from his DNA-hardwired filmmaking genius) is that he adhered to the spirit of Spidey prime-time from the 60s and 70s era of Marvel Comics (which I devoured and collected ravenously as a kid). His use of CGI came closer to the spirit of Harryhausen stop-motion magic in that it all had a delicious other-worldly quality to it, he was not afraid of sentimentality, he balanced a straight-faced approach with over-the-top comic book elements and in the masterpiece of the trilogy, he went for broke with his trademark sense of humour that veered from darkly vicious to looney-tunes-insanity in S-M-2 and brilliantly juggled a multitude of villains throughout the series, but most notably in S-M-3.
The Amazing Spider-Man is reasonably well-made. This, however, doesn't mean it's all that good.
Its bland, tasteful hack-manship slides down one's gullet not unlike the ease with which sewage spills into water treatment tanks. With by-the-numbers direction that delivers the all-too-familiar Spidey origin story (which Raimi already did with so much force and panache), we basically get a slight reworking served by little more than semi-competence to render the movie barely watchable.
As a kid, Peter Parker is delivered secretly in the night by his Mom and Dad (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) to his Uncle Ben, played by Martin Sheen - a reasonable, though not entirely successful facsimile of the late Cliff Robertson and Aunt May, etched by the, uh, "likeable" Sally Field instead of the wonderful Rosemary Harris (imagine Marjorie Main in place of Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire and you'll get some idea of how dreadful Field is). Yes, Miss Field, we do NOT really, really like you this time.
Mom and Dad are then "accidentally" killed while Dad's best friend and former research partner Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans) continues their cutting edge work while Peter is raised in relative obscurity by Captain Willard and The Flying Nun.
Scott and Davidtz as Peter's Mom and Dad are such great actors with clear chemistry that I kept longing for some cool flashbacks to delve into life before the events of the movie to visually enhance a lot of the information deposited upon us like so many verbal turds. These actors and characters are so sadly, unimaginatively underused I'd like to think they'll be seen as more than cameos (in flashback) in the inevitable sequels. Better yet, a prequel with Scott, Davidtz and Ifans - directed by Sam Raimi, who felt he'd gone about as far as he could with Spidey in the trilogy, would frankly be amazing.
But, I digress.
Peter grows up into a plucky teenage science nerd, rendered rather annoyingly by Andrew Garfield, an actor saddled with an almost perpetual sneer and lacking Macguire's fresh-faced, sensitive, teen-heartthrob quality. Pete's got an erection for the gorgeous, sexy, leggy Gwen Stacy. As played by the genuinely brilliant Emma Stone, what young (or old) lad wouldn't be trying to hide the bulge in his pants? Stone is so good, one wishes this was a better movie.
I also have a special request to Lars von Trier to cast Stone - mostly naked - in a new movie, not unlike Melancholia that starred Kirsten Dunst, Peter's love interest Mary-Jane Watson from the Raimi films. In fact, every time the Spidey series is rebooted, von Trier can provide us with an art film featuring mega-nudity from whatever ingenue happens to be boinking and/or holding a torch for the webslinger.
But, I digress.
When Pete gets bitten by a radioactive spider he develops mega-super-powers, inadvertently causes the death of his beloved Uncle Ben, then seeks Ben's killer, while Aunt May shrewishly worries about Pete's mysterious nighttime sojourns. Our webslinger goes on to collaborate with Dr. Connors on some experiments a la his Dad in better times, locks horns with Gwen's anti-vigilante, Spidey-hating cop Captain Stacy (well played by Denis Leary) and after some perfunctory derring-do he does battle with the film's primary villain, The Lizard.
Allow me now to make another request to Lars von Trier. Just as you did with Willem DeFoe, perhaps you could cast a Spidey villain or two in an absolutely horrific, stomach-turning horror art-fest as you did with Anti Christ. Both Leary and Ifans are perfectly poised to appear in such a potentially great motion picture.
But, as per usual, I digress.
While Peter is a photographer, he does NOT work for The Daily Planet newspaper and the movie is bereft of the crusty Spidey-hating editor J. Jonah Jameson.
No J. Jonah Jameson? "The horror, the horror."
The only new addition, save for the casting of Stone, Leary and Ifans, is a supporting character who plays a pivotal role in two genuinely welcome moments and is played really nicely by 80s heartthrob C. Thomas Howell.
The bottom line is that The Amazing Spider-Man is strictly a case of been-there-done-that which is especially frustrating since Raimi's final film in the original trilogy is only 5 years old and that for the past decade his take on the franchise has been so indelibly etched upon the psyches of moviegoers - almost iconic, really - that this barely competent lame-duck seems like an unfortunate cash-grab.
Are contemporary audiences so stupid that they require these endless reboots? Are they so bereft of attention spans that they need a pallid re-telling of Spidey's origin so soon? Have they become such lambs-to-the-slaughter suckers they'll contribute readily to putting money in the pockets of the unimaginative business school graduates pretending to be studio moguls?
The answer it would seem is a resounding "Yes!"
One of the more annoying things about this reboot are the ridiculous montage sequences set to a raft of pathetic pop tunes in a music video style. This, I suppose has more to do with the fact that Marc Webb's canon, as it were, includes one loathsomely quirky feature (500) Days of Summer and about 100 music videos mostly by groups I've happily never bothered listening to (nor, frankly, have even heard of) and only a handful of musical artistes that vaguely register on my oh-so cultured palate (the intolerable Green Day and P. Diddy, etc.).
That said, Webb HAS directed music videos for Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus - a ringing endorsement to be sure.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" is currently in mega-wide theatrical release all over the world. It's also in 3-D and IMAX 3-D. I've seen the IMAX 3-D version which is no doubt superior to the Real-D and other regular 3-D formats and can safely say you should save some money and only watch the 2-D version as seeing it in 3-D makes absolutely no difference.
Please consider supporting the maintenance of this site by ordering direct from the links below in case you are planning to buy the spectacular Blu-Ray box set of the Sam Raimi "Spider-Man" trilogy or the individual titles on Blu-Ray that include an Ultra-Violet Digital Copy (though best to buy from Amazon.com than the stupid Amazon.ca that seems to have its links mixed up as per usual) or the DVD box set of the phenomenal and very strange animated Spiderman cartoon TV series from 1967: