The Redundant ‘Spider-Man’
When Columbia Pictures first announced a “Spider-Man” reboot,
my spider sense was tingling.
At the time, it had been only four years since director Sam Raimi’s (“Evil Dead”) last “Spider-Man” film, which, admittedly, was pretty weak.
But weak enough to start from scratch and tell the same story all over again? Hardly. While guaranteed to make millions, this plan also put the new film’s talented crew and cast at a disadvantage – how to retell what’s basically the same story in a fresh way?
Director Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) spins a good tale, and the film’s leads have an undeniable chemistry, but “The Amazing Spider-Man” suffers from an inherent sense of “been there, done that.”
As such, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a bit of an overstatement, but by no fault of the filmmakers’. It’s a solid comic book movie, well-acted, entertaining and loaded with outstanding digital effects. It just seems unnecessary and a little too familiar.
Donning the red spandex this go-around is Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”), whose take on high school outcast Peter Parker is a touch more brooding and troubled than predecessor Tobey Maguire’s.
Webb and screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves attempt a fresh spin on Peter’s backstory, throwing in a mystery surrounding his parents’ disappearance, but it seems superfluous at best, more of an attempt to market the film as Spidey’s “untold story.”
It’s only a fleeting thread of narrative, though, as we’re soon back to the origin story that every Spider-Man fan knows by heart.
Obviously in some sort of danger, Peter’s parents leave him in the care of his kindly Aunt May (Sally Field, “Forrest Gump”) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, TV’s “The West Wing), who raise him as their own.
Fast-forward to Peter as an angstsy teenager, when he discovers a clue to his parents’ disappearance, pointing him toward his father’s employer – corporate sci-tech giant Oscorp and geneticist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans, “The Five-Year Engagement”), his father’s former colleague and best friend.
Peter masquerades as an Oscorp intern to meet Connors, who’s studying cross-species genetics in an attempt to harness regenerative animal traits, e.g. the ability of a lizard to regenerate missing body parts. Needless to say, Connors, who’d lost an arm some time ago, has a rather vested interest in his research.
Peter strays from the beaten path and encounters some radioactive lab spiders, one of which bites him. One thing leads to another, and next thing you know, Spider-Man.
As Peter grows comfortable with his newfound powers – namely the proportionate strength of a spider, heightened senses and the ability to cling to surfaces – he grows more confident as a person, even mustering enough courage to ask crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, “Zombieland”) on a date.
The origin story continues as expected, with a tragic incident prompting Peter into action as a crimefighter, although he’ seen as a vigilante in the eyes of law enforcement, including Gwen’s father, Capt. Stacy (Denis Leary, TV’s “Rescue Me”).
But the police have something else to worry about. Connors has tested his latest serum on himself, successfully regenerating his arm, but turning him into a monstrous anthropomorphic lizard in the process.
Can he be stopped? Can Peter balance life as a teenager with his life as a hero? Can Andrew Garfield fit his abnormally big hair under that Spidey mask?
You probably know the answer, but Webb earnestly shoots the film as if we don’t. Webb’s vision is darker and grittier (the style du jour for comic book movies) than Raimi’s, although it’s still the same story with many of the same character elements, just held under a different light.
The cast, though, helps shake things up a bit. Garfield’s a fitting successor for the role, and Stone is charming as his love interest. The two have a natural chemistry that’s fun to watch, more so than Maguire and Kirsten Dunst from the Raimi series.
Although his character’s underdeveloped, Ifans exudes genuine menace as inadvertent villain Connors. Field makes a decent Aunt May, while Sheen owns the role as Uncle Ben.
And a Marvel Comics movie wouldn’t be a Marvel Comics movie without a cameo from Stan Lee, the co-creator of “Spider-Man” and countless other titles, whose appearance in “Amazing” is one of his funniest to date.
But as well made as it is, “The Amazing Spider-Man” doesn’t break any new ground, even in 3-D, the post-production conversion of which is lackluster at best. Had the Raimi trilogy never existed, “Amazing” would be just that, but Hollywood’s insatiable hunger for remakes trapped it in a web of redundancy from the very get-go. Hopefully, Webb and company will break free for the inevitable sequel.
“The Amazing Spider-Man,” rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 17-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.