There are no surprises in the new Marvel/Sony reboot of our favorite wall-crawler when he returns to the big screen this summer in The Amazing Spider-Man.
What Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), the director does do is craft a solid summer blockbuster that will reinvigorate Sony’s tent pole franchise, and keep this little slice of the Marvel Universe separate from the remainder of the Marvel world as seen over by Marvel/Disney. Unfortunately, for me, it felt more like a paint-by-numbers or a check-list of things that have to happen. Like I said, no surprises.
Despite the fact that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man came out in 2002, the filmmakers felt it was necessary to reboot the whole story (I mean they recast James Bond all the time, but since 1963 we’ve only really had one reboot – Casino Royale), and once again show us young Peter Parker (affably played by Andrew Garfield) getting bitten by a genetically altered spider, as well as giving us a little bit more back story on Peter’s parents, and the work his father (Campbell Scott) was involved in, alongside the film’s nemesis Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).
To my way of thinking, we could have had the flashback and then leapt forward to an already established Spider-Man, and while it was fun seeing Parker coming to grips with his new powers, we’d already seen takes on that.
One of the things I did like was the introduction of Gwen Stacy, previously seen in Spider-Man 3 when Bryce Dallas Howard played her. In this incarnation, big-eyed Emma Stone brings her to life, and watching the two leads circle one another like the goofy teenagers they are portraying was endearing.
It also leads to the question, as one familiar with the comics know… Is Sony gonna have the gumption to kill Gwen Stacy?
In the classic story arc “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” from Amazing Spider-Man 121 & 122 (1973), Spidey and Green Goblin (an acceptable reason for a reboot, if they are bringing back this character – though they’ve hinted that Norman Osborn in this film is old and dying) face off, and Gobby tosses Gwen from the George Washington Bridge. And it may be our Web-Head’s on webbing that kills her, snapping her neck when she comes to a sudden stop (this was later confirmed in the letters’ column of #125).
Talk about adding darkness and grief to your characters!
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Parker is not so much a geeky nerd in this incarnation as he is clever, social outsider, skirting the edges, being bullied, but always getting on his feet again and harboring a crush on Gwen (who’s best friend – Mary Jane Watson, is missing from this film in any incarnation, so hopefully they can introduce her in the next, and maybe get a triangle going which would add more guilt to Peter when Gwen dies. There I just wrote the sequel.)
Sally Field and Martin Sheen take over the caretaking roles of Aunt May and the ill-fated Uncle Ben, the two of them have a great chemistry together, and I’m sorry we won’t get to see more of Sheen’s Uncle Ben in future films. He’s a likeable, hard-working guy, who is just trying to do right by his family, and raise Peter as best he and May can. And of course, his fate sets Peter’s who is at first only concerned with revenge, even the police see the connections in his suspects/victims, until of course he takes his uncle’s words to heart, and though the line isn’t said exactly as it has been for many years, it’s still there… with great power comes great responsibility.
Rhys Ifans brings his presence to Curt Connors, a scientist at Oscorp who is specializing in cross-species genetics to help generate cell and tissue regeneration, in the hopes that one day, not only will it help the world, but will also give him his right arm back. Pressured by the suits of the company to push the formula to human testing when it initially tests positive on a three-legged mouse (that later suffers dire consequences) Connors injects himself… and takes his place in Spidey’s Rogues Gallery as The Lizard, endangering Peter, and those he cares about, including Gwen and her father, Police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary).
The CG work on both the Lizard, and Spidey in some sequences (most notably the web-slinging through New York streets) is great, though Spidey ends up looking a little more believable than the Lizard, which sometimes pushed me out of the film cause he wasn’t always a believable creation for me, though I do like how they got him into the white lab coat for a moment, just like his comic book, and cartoon alter-ego (though it also pointed out a goof? Spidey is fighting with Lizard in a school, and then Lizard escapes down a large hole, leaving the tattered remains of his lab coat behind, yet in the next shot, when he’s gassing some SWAT he’s wearing it again (and what happened to those cops in the moments between their exposure and transformation to the release f the cure? They completely disappear from the film til the cure’s release! I thought perhaps they may be running rampant through the streets… but nothing. Did they just curl up and sleep? I get that enough of the man remains to think, speak and act, as Connors demonstrates… but what did they do? Bask in the sun?).
The cityscapes, as Peter is swinging and traveling through New York, are fantastic, and if possible, I highly recommend the IMAX experience for your screening. When Spidey starts swinging and scaling walls, it’s a dizzying, exhilarating ride, and it fills your vision, plunging you up, down, along the busy streets and above them.
The film also has, as far as I’m concerned, the best Stan Lee cameo yet, which had the entire audience clapping and laughing out loud.
In terms of design of the film, there were a number of moments, that looked like they could be lifted right from their source material, a compliment of the highest order for that, and I loved the look of the film. The fact that Peter is actually using web-shooters, as opposed to being altered enough by the bite to generate his own, as in the previous trilogy, was cool, and hints at the clever mind behind the mask.
I loved the design of the Osorp smart building, the interactive keypads, the circular windows, and the layout of the various labs and work areas. It looked hip, cool, cutting edge tech, and makes science look cool (which it is!). And I love the fact that the Peter had a poster of Rear Window on his walls, fitting consider his love of photography, and its ability to get him into trouble, and that Gwen had a copy of Seabiscuit (with the movie poster cover) on her pile of books (the previous Spidey, Tobey Maguire starred in it). I love little things like that!
And as much as I like Danny Elfman, he’s work on Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) is some of my favorite pieces he’s written, I was delighted to hear a James Horner score accentuating the moments, and I can see that somewhere in the near future I will be whistling the motifs and themes from the score. Nice work as always sir.
In the end, Marvel, Sony, Marc Webb and his talented cast and crew have made a safe, sure-fire summer blockbuster. It still felt a little too by-the-numbers for me, but I still walked out of the theater satisfied with the big screen return of my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
What did you think?