So…they rebooted the Spiderman movies, guys. This is the bit where the tumbleweed rolls past and the sound of millions of people not giving a shit echoes in your ears. Which is fair enough. Just 5 years after the last of the original films came out, they’ve done the whole shebang again with The Amazing Spiderman. They haven’t really revamped the plotlines at all, but they have done a whole shiny new cast. Which is nice.
In fact, the cast change is probably the only thing I can talk about with this reboot because plot-wise, it’s pretty average. It’s the origin story…again. Probably because they couldn’t think of a way to reintroduce Spiderman with a new actor without having him get bitten by something. This time, instead of battling the Green Goblin, we have Lizard AKA Curt Connors, yet another mad scientist who wants to make humans evolve into better, more efficient beings (mainly lizards) by exploding some kind of green smoke over Manhattan. (On a side note, do you think New Yorkers ever get sick of seeing their city get ripped to shreds?) Also, there’s some unresolved daddy issues regarding Peter Parker’s absent father, which are never really properly dealt with anyway. Basically, there’s nothing in the story that you haven’t seen before, either in the other Spiderman films or in every other origin story ever.
Well then… what’s new? Why bother remaking the damn thing? Good question. Like I said, the main difference with this film has been the cast change and the character shift that comes with it. Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker was the archetypal nerd: he was shy, he was awkward, he stuttered a bunch. Basically, he just looked and acted like the guy destined to get the shit kicked out of him in films set in American high schools. Over 3 films, his character develops a bit – enough to have some weird (awkward) dance sequence in the last film – but not a lot. By contrast, Andrew Garfield’s Parker is a smartass. He’s still somewhere near the bottom of the high school social food chain (you have to be an underdog to be that kind of hero, I think), but he has a certain something. He’s a bit of rebel whilst still being likeable and a bit jumpy. He’s also vengeful. Uncle Ben’s “with great power” speech is skipped in this film (although, don’t worry: we still get the joy of Uncle Ben being brutally murdered) so Spidey is kind of left to nut out what crime-fighting means for him through a series of misguided crime-fighting pursuits.Which makes sense. Because Spidey is a teenager. Teenagers don’t immediately grasp the intricacies of justice and moral grey areas so much.
Speaking of teenagers: Andrew Garfield is THE PERFECT teenager. A lot of the time, when you get a 27 year old man playing a high school student (which happens a silly amount in these films) you have this weird thing where, despite playing the awkward teenager, the actor is way too in control of their body. They’re too comfortable in their own skin and it just doesn’t work. Andrew Garfield is just all limbs. Like everywhere. He just looks like he never grew into them. You’ve seen the Bambi comparison yeah?
He’s kind of delicate and clumsy looking. So when he’s waving these absurdly long limbs around, you get the distinct impression that he might actually be the sulky teenager he’s portraying. He has the best introduction to his powers I’ve seen in a superhero film in a while, because it’s so accurate for the part of Peter Parker that is still just a teenager. And when he finally starts to become the superhero he’s supposed to be, he starts to move with actual spider-like grace. Which is perfect.
Gwen Stacy, Parker’s love interest, played by Emma Stone, is a bit of a change-up from Kirsten Dunst’s Mary-Jane Watson. Mary-Jane always spent a bit too much time screaming and waiting to be saved for my liking. Gwen does her best to actually participate in the action – as much as the role of “love interest” will ever be allowed to participate in the actual plot of the film, anyway. She’s an intelligent science intern who does have some ridiculous “IT’S SCIENCE!” moments that propel the plot along nicely. (By nicely, I of course mean “in a really obvious fashion”, but hey! She’s involved. It’s cool.) She’s likeable too. Not in the way that Mary-Jane is. Mary-Jane is the “nice girl” – that girl-next-door that we’re all supposed to fall in love with. Gwen, like Peter, is a teenager. She’s awkward too. There’s a lot of nodding and smiling and silences in this film. Which is a pretty accurate depiction of two teenagers who want to have sex trying to have a conversation. Also, it’s bleedingly obvious that Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are boning in real life. Chemistry up to the eyeballs, people.
Basically, I felt much the same way about The Amazing Spiderman as film, as I did with Spiderman 1, 2 and 3. It was OK. I watched it. There were parts I really enjoyed. My mind wandered a bit, but it was worth seeing. It’s kind of suffering from the same problem that Hulk and The Incredible Hulk had. Having been released so close to each other, everyone remembers Spiderman. Had The Amazing Spiderman been the film that was released in 2002, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more. Unfortunately, because I have a reference point and an origin story already committed to memory from a film that came out when I was old enough to actually appreciate it, it just seems like more of the same. Which is a shame because I’m not kidding when I say that I think Andrew Garfield is the PERFECT Peter Parker. He really, truly is excellent. Oh well. Maybe they’ll make a second one… and it’ll be…better? Trailer here, in case you missed it.
Random bonus opinion: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone make a much hotter couple than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Because I am shallow this immediately ups my opinion of this film. Shuttup.