'Spider-Man' Remake 25 Years Too Early
I really wanted to like The Amazing Spider-Man. It promised to be a revitalizing remake of a series which, as anyone who has seen Spider-Man 3 can tell you, was in desperate need of some new energy. And along came Andrew Garfield, a much better looking, more appealing Spidey than Tobey McGuire ever was, and also the lovely Emma Stone, an actress from whom we’ve come to expect wonderful things (this was not one of those). Now, the two of them, as well as much of the rest of the cast, do give good performances don’t get me wrong; but the film is just so, well, bland. Released only a brief ten years after Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, this film is doomed to draw comparison with its predecessor. And, in many ways, director Marc Webb surpasses Raimi, though not quite enough to get past the fact that we’re being treated to virtually the same story. A story heard a second time is often less enjoyable.
The film is successful in creating a fuller portrait of Peter Parker (Garfield). We see him lose his parents and begin living with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). We see him as an outcast in school, obvious target for bullying. Much of the early drama in the film is driven by Parker’s attempt to uncover information about his parents, giving the film a psychological authenticity absent from Raimi’s version. And then Parker hears about Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a scientist researching cross species interbreeding, who was a colleague and friend of his father, visits him at the lab, eventually gets bit, and well, you know.
In many ways, the exposition is finely paced. It shouldn’t, but it still feels tedious, however. Things are a bit different from the original, better even, but just not quite different enough. The film is placed under an unnecessary burden. It doesn’t just have to be good on its own terms, it has to be significantly different from a pretty decent movie that came out only 10 years ago.
The villain is different at least. Dr. Curt Connors, who hopes his cross species interbreeding will produce an end to “human weakness” and find a way to regrow his lost arm, develops a serum that doesn’t quite have the desired effect. It turns him into a crazy, giant lizard and he begins to wreak havoc on the city. As a villain, the giant Lizard is disappointing. Dr. Connors is too much of the mad scientist cliché to be truly sinister. And Connor’s master plan of turning everyone in Manhattan into lizards is just kind of silly.
For better or worse, The Amazing Spider-Man, suffers from most of your comic book movie pitfalls. It has a few cases of embarrassingly bad dialogue and overly simple moralizing. It feels a bit too much like the wish fulfillment of a high school nerd—you bullied me; now I have super powers and can bully you back. We love comic book movies despite these things (or perhaps because of them). Comic book movies allow us feel like kids again, but that illusion is ruined with too frequent repetition. As I watched the climatic finale, in which Spiderman swings in right in the nick of time to stop Connors’ evil plan, I found myself tired, hoping the damn thing would just end already.
Now there are shining moments in the film. The action was simply spectacular. It was the first time wearing 3-D glasses was worth the inevitable headache those things produce. It’s fun to fly around lower Manhattan with Spiderman. And the relationship between Gwen (Stone) and Parker is convincing. Their relationship finds that great balance between awkward and charming. Also, Gwen’s dad happens to be the police commissioner, in a twist reminiscent of the also Emma Stone-starring Crazy, Stupid, Love.
The movie is by no means bad. If you haven’t seen the 2002 original, you might even really enjoy it. But one has to wonder, why couldn’t they just have put all this effort and energy into something original? I mean it’s not like there aren’t enough comic books. Was this movie really necessary?
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