It was just 5 years ago that Spider-Man swung through the multiplex, weaving a web that caught plenty of cash. Now, in 2012, the wall crawler is getting a new big screen incarnation, inspired by the successes of the Batman and Avengers franchises. Ironically-named filmmaker Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) puts a whole new cast to work in this franchise reboot that is light on action as it builds an epic plot, but has enough nice character moments to validate its existence.
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) stars as Peter Parker, a brilliant high school student who lost his parents to an accident early in life. A social outcast who was raised to be respectful and studious by his aunt and uncle, Peter is a shy, smart nerd who does what’s right even when it results in him getting beaten down. That continues until (SURPRISE!) he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and turns into a super-powered crime-fighter.
The first 45 minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man feel redundant because it was just a decade ago that we had a movie that told Spider-Man’s origin. While Marc Webb fills the story out with great character moments and elicits solid performances from its stars--including Emma Stone as Peter’s love Gwen Stacy and Dennis Leary as her Spider-Man-hating police captain father--the movie feels like it’s marking time while waiting for the origin to conclude so the story can really get started.
There is a surprising lack of action in this summer tent pole and the movie suffers for it. The filmmakers were looking to build on the successes of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and it’s evident in every aspect of this flick from Spider-Man’s angst-filled origin to the slow-built reveal of the hero to the public.
The villain—The Lizard—is an over-the-top addition to the mythology and a villain with good promise that just goes too far. Rhys Ifans plays the one-armed Dr. Curtis Conners, a herpetologist who also runs the Oscorp lab looking for a way to make people perfect. He experiments on himself with a formula that is designed to regrow a limb but instead turns him into a monster that wants to turn other people into a similar monster, essentially ripping off the plot of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Spider-Man, partially responsible for creating the monster, takes it upon himself to stop Conners’ dastardly plot.
Slick though the presentation may be, Spider-Man is not Batman and the movie’s tone doesn’t feel right. It’s not bad, per se, but The Amazing Spider-Man lacks the sense of adventure and fun that marked the first trilogy. While Webb does craft a movie that gives the audience hope for a solid trilogy, this movie doesn’t stand on its own (be that the director’s decision or a studio mandate) and feels like all setup and no payoff—too many ideas and not enough execution.
Great performances and characters don’t overcome the structural limitations of the movie. Not bad but barely above average, The Amazing Spider-Man fails to dazzle though shows promise for the future.
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