By Bob Garver
Much has been made of the decision to restart the “Spider-Man” franchise at this point. It has, after all, been only ten years since the original Tobey Maguire version, and only five years since its most recent sequel. But Tobey wasn’t up for a fourth movie, and rather than cast someone new to play a grownup Spidey, the people behind “The Amazing Spider-Man” decided to reset everything and make him a teenager again. The problem is that Spider-Man’s 2002 origin is still relatively fresh in people’s minds and many feel that there’s no need to revisit it so soon. As a great admirer of the 2002 “Spider-Man”, I have to say that I agree. Back then it was enjoyable to see Peter Parker discover and develop his superpowers. That doesn’t mean I need to see him discover and develop his powers all over again.
Peter Parker is now played by Andrew Garfield, who at age 28 should be playing an adult instead of a high-schooler anyway. His parents are taken away early in the film, and he grows up living with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). Peter is a sullen underachiever, an unwelcome departure from Maguire’s affable nerd. He has a crush on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, again much too old for her role), who works for the scientific conglomerate Oscorp. Peter suspect that someone at Oscorp may have been responsible for his parents’ death. He goes snooping and gets bitten by a genetically-altered – say it with me… spider.
From here we get the obligatory sequences where Peter starts feeling funny, starts behaving weirdly, and realizes he can do things he couldn’t before like make things stick to his hands and discharge webs. He learns to control them enough to do irresponsible things like humiliate bullies and perform basketball tricks. I liked these scenes earlier this year in the superior “Chronicle” because the film wasn’t trying my patience while I waited for the characters to become Spider-Man. Peter makes one very selfish decision when he decides not to stop a convenience store robber after the clerk is rude to him. In what I must admit is an interesting touch, the robber uses positive reinforcement to get Peter to keep his mouth shut. This proves to be a fatal decision in a twist that anybody who saw the original knows is coming. Peter realizes that he can’t take his powers lightly anymore. Like Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Or at least he would have said that if this were the better Spider-Man movie.
Peter develops his costume and gadgets and becomes Spider-Man. He roughs up some small-time criminals, which earns him the ire of the local police captain (Denis Leary), who happens to be Gwen’s well-meaning but overprotective father. Gwen invites Peter over for a family dinner, where Captain Stacy proves to be even more intimidating to potential boyfriends than he is to criminals. He labels Spider-Man a vigilante and vows to take him down once he discovers who he is. This is a problem that Peter doesn’t need, especially since the city is under attack by the destructive force that is Lizard (Rhys Ifans). Lizard is really Dr. Curt Connors, an Oscorp scientist who made the unwise decision to experiment on himself. Don’t they all?
“The Amazing Spider-Man” isn’t so much a “bad” movie as it is an unnecessary one. The dialogue isn’t as memorable as it was in the 2002 version and the characters aren’t as endearing. I will say that the special effects are better this time around and there’s a kiss scene that’s a worthy successor to the legendary one from the original. This film would have been so much better if we could just enjoy Spider-Man as a realized superhero and not have to sit through the overly-familiar origin story.
Two Stars out of Five.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence. Its running time is 136 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at [email protected].