Review: ‘Amazing’ Spider-Man? Hmm, not so sure

Marc Webb directs a slick reboot of the Marvel franchise, but Garfield’s superhero fails to get our Spidey sense all tingling

The Marvel film factory returns to the frontline once again, giving a reboot to the ‘Spider-Man’ franchise only five years after it’s last outing with Tobey Maguire.

While ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’s’ ticks all the right boxes in terms of graphics, action and humour, the question that begs to be asked here is: Was this film even necessary?

Andrew Garfield (‘The Social Network’) resonates a dorkier version of Peter Parker, bringing his own elusive charm at intervals, but during others, seems like a poor man’s choice to fill in that webbed wonder suit that Maguire hung up in 2007.

Marc Webb’s ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ will most certainly cause a divide between moviegoers and the purists, with the former set scratching their heads in confusion as the plot unravels in contradiction to the previous trilogy, while the latter lot cheering the return to one of the original threads in the comic book series.

This film finally touches upon the disappearance and corresponding deaths of Richard and Mary Parker, without really unravelling the mystery in this instalment and throwing doors open for a sequel to follow.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ opens with a young and bewildered Peter who is shuttled off to the stable care of Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), where he grows up battling abandonment issues that trace back to his truant father.

But as Peter enters his teen years, things take a spin towards confusion for those fans that are still reminiscing the plot from the previous franchise.

His love interest in this reboot is not the feisty Mary-Jane, but rather the fresh-faced Gwen Stacy (a charming Emma Stone), who made a brief appearance in ‘Spider-Man 3’ after Peter’s engagement to his later love.
 

However, purists will throw up a cheer because Gwen is in fact Peter’s first love in the comic book series, disappearing from his life under tragic circumstances and making way for Mary-Jane to enter.

Eager to unravel the death of his father, Peter fakes his way into an internship at Oscorp Tower to chance an encounter with his parent’s former colleague, Dr Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans).

And as the story goes, he is bitten by a radioactive spider and wakes up with superhuman strength and the ability to scale walls like the pesky bug he names himself after.

Things come to head when Uncle Ben is shot dead in quite a different scenario from the previous films or the comics, yet, in essence, the tragedy still is the instigator to pave the way for Peter to embrace his destiny as a superhero.

Meanwhile, Peter’s association with Dr Conners has given rise to a formula for genetic regeneration, the same one that his father died protecting.

Forced to experiment on himself after being pressured by the unseen CEO Norman Oscorp’s minion Dr Rajit Ratha (Bollywood’s Irfan Khan), Dr Conners transforms into The Lizard and goes on a spree to terrorise New York City, before our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man swings in to save the day and the metropolis from a reptilian army of genetic freaks.

Garfield’s Peter sincerely tries to divorce himself from the Maguire vulnerability, and to a large part, he is successful in cutting the chord. His sincerity shines through in his emotional outbursts, as does his transformation from a geeky science student into the webbed wonder superhero.

Yet, this is also the point where he tends to falter a little.

Unlike other comic book superheroes such as Christian Bale’s Batman avatar, Robert Downey Jr’s Iron-Man or even Maguire’s Spider-Man, Garfield here seems too wet behind the ears to shoulder that superhero personality and body language that makes you want to sit back in awe and cheer his amazing on-screen antics.

What you do end up cheering for is the sizzling chemistry that he shares with Stone’s Gwen.

She’s sassy and shy when required, while effortlessly maturing into Spider-Man’s sidekick to take on The Lizard and save Manhattan from doom.

Stone continues to impress fans and critics with every passing film and one can only hope that her character is even more strongly etched in the sequel.

Ifans also impresses in his Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde transformation between the good doctor and the evil lizard, bringing a sliver of vulnerability to an arch nemesis that has yet to be witnessed in any superhero film.

However, the two-time Oscar winner, Field, is reduced to emotional outbursts on command when the script requires, while Khan is also wasted in his brief, unexplored role of Dr Ratha, which is surprisingly never named during the course of the film and is only discovered after consulting the production notes.

Webb directs a tight ship on the most part, impressing in the slick 3D face-off between Spidey and The Lizard, while leaving viewers intrigued enough to seek out the sequel when it hits cinemas possibly in 2014.

As a summer blockbuster, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ weaves a strong web to swing towards box office glory, but as a fan of the comic book character, I hope the turn in the spotlight isn’t short lived.

PS: If you are Marvel movies fan, then you will know to stay firmly in your seats until the credits roll for a brief snippet of an elusive character who will certainly make his presence felt in this reboot.

 

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