“But, wait; haven’t there already been three of those?” was one of the common cries heard when Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man was announced for release; with a new cast, a new director and a new love interest for Peter, many were sceptical about the need for yet another ‘Spider-Man’ film. So can The Amazing Spider-Man really match up to Sam Raimi’s successful franchise, or is it just yet another unnecessary remake?
The good news is, first of all, that Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man makes no attempt to be a younger, fitter model on the original Spider-Man film; Webb’s film draws from an entirely different line of Spider-Man canon, highlighted perhaps most starkly by the fact that instead of the redheaded girl-next-door Mary-Jane as Peter’s main love interest, we have the lesser-known Gwen Stacey, played here by Emma Stone (Easy A, Zombieland, The Help).
Though this film still functions as an ‘origin story’ tale, with some events you might recognise from the Sam Raimi films, The Amazing Spider-Man deals with an entirely different breed of villain (literally), in the guise of Dr. Curt Connors, or ‘The Lizard’. In this version of the story, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an exceptionally bright high schooler whose parents mysteriously disappeared when he was young. The point at which we join him in the film finds him living with his aunt and uncle, struggling to fit in at school, and nursing a seemingly hopeless crush on a girl in his science class. As superhero movies go, it’s fairly standard fare to begin with; Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is your typical adorkable hero whose life is completely changed by the bite of a genetically-engineered spider.
However, though The Amazing Spider-Man does have most of the earmarks we’ve come to expect from a superhero film, the ways in which it diverges from those clichés is where it finds its strengths. Though Peter is at first introduced as your proverbial geek- teen-turned-superhero, there is actually a surprising amount of depth to Peter Parker’s character; whereas in the Raimi version of Spider-Man Peter was simply a bit of a geek, Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is perhaps more believable – with his unconventional good looks and surprising wit, this Peter is a whizz kid with a bit of a hero complex, even before he’s bitten by the spider. Another way in which this version of the Spider-Man story is perhaps superior to its predecessor is in its direction; The Amazing Spider-Man is quite a dark film, despite the fact that it’s occasionally very funny, and Peter’s transition into a ‘hero’ feels, for the most part, very much like a descent; possibly the greatest feature of The Amazing Spider-Man compared to the other Spider-Man films is its exploration of what Peter’s newfound ‘great responsibility’ actually means.
Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is your typical adorkable hero whose life is completely changed by the bite of a genetically-engineered spider.
Also, though it is, for the most part, an ‘action film’, the look of the film doesn’t fall by the wayside; many shots of New York are very impressive, properly showing the hugeness of the city by comparison to Peter. The film’s aesthetic appeal is helped, of course, by the fact that it stars the beautiful Emma Stone, who gives a great performance as Gwen Stacey, making Kirsten Dunst’s Mary-Jane seem utterly two dimensional (not to mention rather pathetic) by comparison; also of note is the performance by Rhys Ifans of Dr. Curt Connors/Lizard, who takes on the admittedly difficult task of playing a scientist who’s turned himself into a 10 foot tall lizard, and makes it not only entirely believable, but also surprisingly sympathetic.
Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is perhaps more believable – with his unconventional good looks and surprising wit
On the other hand, though the performances in The Amazing Spider-Man are excellent and the execution of storyline is superb, the soundtrack of the film is, admittedly, sometimes rather jarring. Throughout the film we’re treated to tracks like ‘No Way Down’ from indie band ‘The Shins’, which is an odd choice, perhaps, for a superhero film but fits strangely well – however, the orchestral tracks in the film are often either inappropriate to the tone of the scene, or just plain weird; in one particular scene the track played was so strange that it was almost laughable, which is not exactly what I’d imagine the composer was going for when he was trying to create tension.
However, the sub-par soundtrack aside, The Amazing Spider-Man can more than hold its own against the ‘original’ Spider-Man films, and far from being a pale copy of its predecessor, it’s incredible talent base and engaging storytelling makes for an exciting and enjoyable film, setting itself up for a promising sequel and cutting itself its very own niche, apart from its sister franchise.