The Amazing Spider-Man swings its way into a corpulent yet semi-realistic reboot. Unpopular opinion, but that’s the beauty of art in all its forms, Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy are not top-tier comic book adaptations in my view. The acting, story-lines, character dynamics, visual effects and disregard of general physics are not to my personal taste when experiencing blockbusters. Essentially, they were clean exercises in exploiting popular fiction with no cinematic edge. Then comes Webb’s (coincidental surname!) reboot a few years later, after the travesty that was ‘Spider-Man 3’, to give the eponymous superhero a fresh lick of red and blue paint. Whilst technically not a remake, it does follow a similar origin path for the web-swinging “vigilante”.
Parker is bitten by a genetically modified arachnid, granting him “spidey senses”, to which he must save New York City from a deranged scientist who can transform into a reptilian beast. The Amazing Spider-Man is in its own universe, separate to the previous iterations. A consequence of this, is that Parker’s genesis into Spider-Man is retold. Beat for beat. Offering a monotonous familiarity that plagues the initial half of this reboot. Parker’s parents abandon him, Uncle Ben is murdered and Spider-Man is born through the ashes of anger. However, what Webb’s interpretation contains that sets it apart from others is the grounded realism to the superhero shenanigans. For every sprinkle of webbing shot at Lizard’s nightmarish CG face, is an equally gritty surplus of drama to balance the tone. Aunt May and Uncle Ben being the strict parental figures to stabilise Parker’s angst and spontaneity, creating a shield of relatability around himself.
For the majority of the film, the focus is on Parker’s own personal adversity against his inner turmoil. The action and spectacle commonly found within the genre is a product of Parker’s conquered turbulence. The character physically becomes everything that Spider-Man, as an icon, symbolises through his own hardship. Something that Raimi’s trilogy failed to portray convincingly. The added grit of realism assists in enhancing the moral conflict between vengeance and justice, with the infamous line (“with great power comes great responsibility”) from Uncle Ben, constructed ever so differently in this adaptation, highlighting that.
The flip-side to the dramatic endeavour of the first half, is the subdued and almost forced blockbusting exhibition of the second half. The surrealistic plan that the Lizard hatched in the sewers of New York City juxtaposed the realism that polluted the streets and alleyways. Therefore, during the last thirty minutes, the lack of engagement is noticeable. The overtly clean visual style failed to regenerate any fresh limbs during the action sequences. All style, no substance. Except the POV shots of Spider-Man crawling up walls and swinging through downtown traffic. Exhilarating! Similarly the less visualised set pieces, such as Parker training in the shipyard, are accompanied by unusual song choices including Coldplay’s “Til Kingdom Come”. Sure it harks to the coming-of-age aesthetic that Webb directed, but starkly contrasts against Horner’s spectacular musical score.
The quintessential element that makes this reboot work so well, is the natural chemistry between Garfield and Stone. It is palpable. It is steamy. And it makes me sweat. Their onscreen romance was the perfect web of personality needed to elevate all eight legs off the ground. Garfield as the titular role was, and still is to this day, my favourite iteration. Quick-witted, sharp tongued and emotionally vulnerable. The Lizard had questionable motives to say the least, with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona. Good intentions, yet not fully developed as the primary antagonist. Ifans however did give a credible performance as a deluded scientist.
Several characters were underused and/or utilised primarily for foreshadowing. Gwen’s father, Oscorp executive Ratha and school bully Flash to name a few. Various plot conveniences were littered throughout, most notably the saving a child in a burning car leading to an array of cranes positioning themselves to assist an injured Spider-Man into efficiently swinging his way to Oscorp tower. Some additional polish was required to smooth these glaring kinks out.
However, I will state that The Amazing Spider-Man was a much required reboot. It upheld the essence of the titular superhero with a grounded approach that made him far more relatable as a character. Too many sub-plots and underdeveloped characters were thrown into the chemical mix, yet Webb’s direction just about salvages itself from mediocrity. And, thankfully, no emo Parker dancing. Phew!