Directed by: Marc Webb || Produced by: Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach
Screenplay by: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves || Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field
Music by: James Horner || Cinematography: John Schwartzman || Editing by: Alan Edward Bell, Pietro Scalia || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 136 minutes
The Amazing Spider-Man is the reboot that almost nobody wanted, but we all got anyway. From an emotional standpoint, Sam Raimi’s version towers above its 2012 rival with superior performances, a more effective script, and a stronger emotional connection to its title character. This “Amazing” Spider-Man (TASM) is tonally a mess, emotionally detached, terribly paced, and poorly acted. Where as the original series’ entries were well paced and took their time to develop each plot point, this “Amazing” one rushes to check off each obligatory subplot in the Spidey cannon, most which were covered in greater detail in the 2002 original. The comparison between the emotional impact of Uncle Ben’s death in the 2002 version and this one a decade later, is staggering. All things considered, the pacing in TASM is terrible. We’re either being rushed from one set-piece to the next, or we’re spending five minutes on some Tony Hawk-esque skateboarding sequence that adds nothing to the story.
Aside from the film’s lackluster editing, the main problem with TASM is its awkward tone. Spider-Man is an inherently goofy property that works best when it focuses on Peter Parker’s coming-of-age story, as well as the soap-opera antics that ensue when an adolescent is forced to mature while also balancing the responsibility of being a superhero. Regardless of your thoughts on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who I thought captured the soap opera-spirit of Spider-Man perfectly, Sam Raimi’s vision embraced the lighthearted yet melodramatic mood of a teenage superhero-story. Conversely, the hack-job by TASM’s three different screenwriters (which I assume also included numerous rewrites given the project’s complicated production) is a tonal mess of dark, wannabe gritty filmmaking that echoes the crime drama-ancestry of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012), while also sporting a cartoonish lizard-villain and a convoluted doomsday plot to turn all of New York City into mutant lizard-people. I’m not advocating that Spider-Man could never work with a darker tone, because stranger thing have happened, but Webb does not nail this tone, nor does he stick to it.
In one sequence, the film tries to emphasize Andrew Garfield’s teenage-angst and social isolation; in the next, Garfield is shooting web at criminals and making awkward quips; in another, he tries to explain to Denis Leary that Rhys Ifans has transformed himself into a giant lizard, and in another, Garfield makes a cringe-worthy attempt to taunt a high-school bully in basketball. On and on, the film cycles from one genre to the next like a bad Hindi-movie, satisfying none of them. Garfield alternates between a brooding teenager and a hammy soap-opera caricature, much like Ifans’ mustache-twirling villain, Doctor Connors, Emma Stone’s forgettable Gwen Stacey, and Sally Field’s irritating Aunt May.
The long and short of this is that the new Spidey reboot was about as sloppy and unnecessary as we all thought it would be. The screenplay and story are lazy, and Webb’s execution of it is just as bad. It has its pleasing web-slinging moments, but they are far and few between. A sloppy script, poor direction, and bland acting from a veteran cast are not good ingredients for a successful franchise re-imagining. Or any movie for that matter.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: The Amazing Spider-Man’s script sets the film up for failure right from the start. Sometimes the action moves too fast, sometimes it feels like it doesn’t move at all. The availability of a much better version of each plot-point is amusing, adding insult to injury. The bizarre mishmash of a cartoony villain hellbent on turning New York City into lizard-men and the cast’s ominous brooding does not work. Andrew Garfield is wooden and stilted as the new boy-wonder, Peter Park/Spider-Man.
— However… a few action sequences are well shot and intense. The camerawork on the web-slinging shots are improved from the previous series.
—> NOT RECOMMENDED
? At least Sam Raimi got the last laugh on Sony with Drag Me to Hell (2009). That’s something, I guess.