While North American fans have a few more days to wait (July 3rd) across the pond some of the U.K.’s finest film critics have taken a crack at The Amazing Spider-Man. In a word, the early reviews for Marc Webb’s Spider-Man reboot are mixed. Mainly praising the focus on Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy’s (Emma Stone) relationship has the high point of the film.
… Process that for a moment. The highlight of a movie about a high school kid that gets bit by a radioactive spider that gives him the ability to do whatever a spider can is his relationship with his high school sweetheart. Most critics seem to actually credit the actors themselves for this even rather than the actual story. Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I would expect a little more about webslinging to grab the attention of the viewer.
I find the lack of it disturbing.
Check out the (mostly spoiler free) highlights from the reviews after the jump:
Graced with great performances from Garfield and Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man is a rare comic-book flick that is better at examining relationships than superheroism. If it doesn’t approach the current benchmark of Avengers Assemble, it still delivers a different enough, enjoyable origin story to live comfortably alongside the Raimi era.
“The untold story,” gushed the hype. There’s only one story, shrugs someone in the film, accompanied by what sounds like back-pedalling: “Who am I?” So what is it? New story, or same-old repackaged? Both and neither, as it happens.
Swinging from fresh to faithful-to-source, Marc Webb’s reboot is a sparky, well-cast, often punchy Spidey spin… but it’s also Spider-Man Begins Again, struggling in places to assert its own identity.
“Untold story” claims hinge on Parker’s pursuit of the truth about his dad, but it diverts into turf better covered by Raimi, despite the wrestling den being deserted this time.
But Webb scores on action, surprisingly so given the lack of cross-species smackdowns in his rom-drama (500) Days Of Summer. True, Connors’ swing from good guy to grotesque is fudged a beat too fast for the Lizard to be a true tragic villain. Raimi might have made more of that and of the Lizard’s misdeeds: one bio-terror emission goes nowhere.
But even though the generic CGI monster sits awkwardly with a more “grounded” rethink, and even though Spidey’s homemade web-shooters won’t thrill anyone but the comic-book faithful, there’s a satisfyingly visceral thwack to the set-pieces.
Be that as it may, Webb successfully treads a fine line between keeping the hardcore superhero-movie fans happy and injecting a dose of meaningful affect. Parker is generally reckoned to be the most “relatable” figure in the superhero canon, but the pastel-bright synthetics of the earlier movies did little to dispel the sense that the comic-book world could only construct its characters out of clunking great blocks of melodrama.
In re-engineering Parker into the introspective, uncertain male more typical of his previous film, Webb is aided by a terrific performance from Andrew Garfield, who brings a genial unflappability that allows him to negotiate the often-ludicrous demands of the superhero plotline. At the same time, Webb also shows an unarguable facility for the more traditional action elements of the story, and the 3D certainly helps: he pulls off some properly nauseating shots as Parker dives off skyscrapers, rescues kids from falling, and the like.
Ever since Twilight tipped off Hollywood to the spending power of girls and their mothers, a range of increasingly expensive films aimed at that audience has materialised. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before a superhero suited up with them in mind, although it remains to be seen how die-hard Spider-fans will react to their hero courting a different – some would say rival – demographic.
That’s not to say The Amazing Spider-Man is short on blockbuster testosterone, and the film’s second half offers more than enough bungee-swinging through Manhattan’s concrete canyons, immaculately rendered in vertiginous, silky-smooth 3D, to satisfy thrill-seekers of either sex. What’s refreshing is how Webb makes those action sequences count: with a plot that rests almost entirely on the romance between his two leads.
Twilight in spandex? Well, perhaps, although it’s this radically different approach to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s crimefighter, who celebrates his 50th birthday this year, that makes Sony Pictures’ reboot worthwhile. The Avengers fans have enough heroes already. What a thrill to see one fighting for another cause.
Shame. We finally get a British superhero, and he’s a bit boring. London-born Andrew Garfield has stepped into the spandex Spidey-suit for this premature reboot of the Marvel franchise.
Director Marc Webb aims for a new realism, stripping away the brio of Sam Raimi’s 2002 version with Tobey Maguire.
He also dispenses with much of the character and sass that always made this character fun. It’s not Garfield’s fault: he is a convincingly troubled, inarticulate Peter Parker, a springily athletic Spider-Man, and has awesome hair. His greatest enemy is the script. That, and the rather wearisome 3D.