Contributor: Andy Spencer
Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves
Directed by Marc Webb
Reboots/remakes are very controversial (let alone common) in Hollywood these days. Some of them have been welcomed (“Star Trek”, “Casino Royale”), and others not (“Let Me In”). “The Amazing Spider Man”, a reboot of the franchise begun by Sam Raimi’s 2002 film, is one of the latter. Many critics seem predisposed to disregard this film, given the extremely positive response the original received. A similar thing happened when “Let Me In” first premiered: do we really need this movie, when the original was both great and relatively recent? The answer, of course, is no. But the fact remains that it exists, so critics should leave their grudges behind and concentrate on the film itself.
Sam Raimi’s version made light work of Peter Parker’s transformation. Sure, the general concepts were in place; he gets bitten by a mutant spider, develops superhuman powers (though he cannot generate the webs himself in this version), and sees Uncle Ben get gunned down. And really, that was about it. Marc Webb, known for his well-handled rom-com “500 Days of Summer”, imbues Spidey’s origins with considerable depth and humanity. When Parker discovers his uncle’s killer sports a tattoo, he pins any crook he can find to the wall to check if they’re the right one. The chief of police points out that Spider Man doesn’t seem to have any agenda, and is nothing more than a vigilante. After this, Peter seemingly decides that he can do far more than simply take vengeance, and decides to take on the real menace, The Lizard.
Of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, the best villain was Doc Ock, from “Spider Man 2″. As a character, he was fascinating, and brilliantly acted by Alfred Molina. The Lizard, whose human form is portrayed by Rhys Ifans, is little more than a miniaturized Godzilla with a plan. While Ifans plays his part quite well, The Lizard is simply not as charismatic or terrifying as Ock was. Like Doc Ock, however, The Lizard (aka Curt Connors) is a sympathetic villain, with (initially) benign intentions that are completely understandable, and enough to pity him by the end of the film.
Peter’s love interest is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a smart, pretty, resourceful young woman who also happens to be the daughter of the police chief. She and Parker (Andrew Garfield) share excellent chemistry in their interactions, which director Webb exploits to its fullest potential. Their romance seems many times more genuine than that between Parker and Mary Jane from Raimi’s trilogy. Parker himself is just as likeable, and far more unsure of himself. In this version, he stutters sometimes, and seems like the type of socially awkward nerd stereotype that everyone seems know someone like. It makes him easier to relate to, and thus easier to accept as a character, adding immeasurably to the film’s human side.
The other side of the film, of course, is the CGI-driven action. Sam Raimi employed his signature style to his action, meaning that everything was complete chaos. Entertaining to be sure, but not always easy to keep track of. Webb anchors everything firmly in the realm of possibility (or at least as close as it can get), and there are no crazy gadgets flying through the air this time. Now, it’s only Spider Man, the cops, and The Lizard. It all feels much more efficient and streamlined as a result, and becomes all the more thrilling because of it.
Overall, I would recommend the reboot over the original, but only just. Sam Raimi may not have handled the dialog and story as well, but is much more confident and fluid in the action space. When the inevitable sequel comes around, Webb might be able to take more risks with the web-sliging and baddy-wrangling, but until then, this is a very good film that no Spidey fan, casual or otherwise, should pass up.