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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

James A. George on The Amazing Spider-Man


Bad day at the office?
The Amazing Spider-Man (12A)

Is there anyone who saw the original Spider-Man film at the cinema ten years ago and is now thinking, time for a reboot? Not to forget the two sequels as well. Whether it is necessary or not, at least this time it is more pensive and generally fun. Peter Parker is a school kid who hasn’t had the most fortunate childhood. Our sympathies go to him in a very genuine way, due in part to the fantastic performance from Andrew Garfield.

The wise-cracking hero goes on a journey of discovery in a lovingly created comic book-like world: from the everyday boy overcoming a bully named ‘Flash’, to swinging across New York. We all know how Peter becomes Spider-Man and it is around this part of the film that interest dips with only love interest Gwen Stacey redeeming the plot. We see a lot of Peter Parker without his mask and the confidence he gains from inventing it. This Spider-Man movie is less about the people and the city around him needing a hero and more about what Spider-Man means to our troubled teenager.

Gwen Stacey is one of Peter’s true friends and on a script basis has not a lot going for her. Luckily she’s given a warmth and surprising amount of depth, particularly towards the end, by the always-brilliant Emma Stone. Sally Field and Martin Sheen portray Peter’s aunt and uncle respectively.  Again, prize performances help what is at points a shambles of a plot, and these multi-layered characters really make this a family drama-action film. Unfortunately the villain of the movie portrayed by Rhys Ifans generates neither sympathy or fear. As Dr. Curt Connors we see not nearly enough of him and nor does he really have much affect on the protagonist. When transformed in to a lizard he lacks any real menace until very late on when an ending is hastily constructed.

With fantastical heroes and villains CGI was always going to be a must; here, Marc Webb’s direction is spot on. Webb knows that the action scenes must be carefully composed and special effects just slow enough so that it can be effortlessly followed. It is also important to remember that Webb is responsible on some level for bringing out the performances and thus deserves credit.

The reboot of the Batman franchise may be a tired comparison, but it is a fair one. With the Dark Knight, the heroes and villains both symbolise states of the human psyche and explore contemporary themes and issues of western society without diluting what is essentially an action thriller. It is this submerged layer beneath a twisting and turning plot that has captivated audiences. Spider-Man however is far less engaging. It may be ambitious, and a trilogy is planned, but painful plot holes and an unclear target audience prevent Spider-Man from achieving greatness. But perhaps some of these issues can be addressed by the desire for spectacle and huge scale that one comes to expect with superhero movies these days, and not the film itself.

It is ultimately flawed and may not stick with you once leaving the cinema but as a series it shows potential. The highlight for me was a scene in which Spider-Man must save a child from a falling car. The scene itself was great, but the few children in the screening erupting in to cheer at Spidey’s success, were priceless, and proved there are some that will love this.

James A. George is a born and raised Londoner. As an aspiring film writer and director, James is studying creative writing with film studies at Kingston University
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