In a year where reboots are all the rage, I wasn’t really looking forward to Spider-man starting all over again and not picking up where Sam Raimi had left off. It felt unnecessary. It felt cheap.
Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man (who really is quite amazing) takes a different tact to Raimi, spending more time explaining Peter Parker’s history before launching into how his transformation happens. This is a nice start and I appreciated the time put into it. It definitely set the tone for the more gentle approach Webb has taken with his version.
The villain this time is not the Green Goblin but the Lizard/Dr. Curtis Connors, played by an always-good-to-watch Rhys Ifans. Similarly to Raimi’s version, the villain works at Oscorp and feels the pressure to test a not-yet-ready sample on himself in order to save his job and life’s work. As a scientist with only one arm, Dr. Connors is desperate to replicate the lizard gene of being able to heal its own limbs within himself. The results, though impressive, are not expected or desired.
I first saw Andrew Garfield in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, although didn’t really take notice of him until his very impressive turn as Tommy in the heartbreaking Never Let Me Go. I am definitely a fan, loving him in The Social Network and again here. Without taking anything away from Tobey Maguire, I found Garfield’s Peter Parker (and his amazingly bouffant hair even having had his spidey hat on) more likable, more charming and much easier to root for. Gwen Stacy on the other hand, played by girl of the moment Emma Stone, was likeable but not memorable and didn’t bring to the screen as much in the way of emotional connection as Kirsten Dunst did as the tragic Mary-Jane Watson (but this admittedly really has more to do with the characters themselves than the actresses’ portrayal of them). Having said that, the on-screen chemistry speaks volumes for the off-screen relationship that blossomed between the pair, with the more intimate moments between the two definitely being the heart and soul of this film as opposed to the big fight scenes, as was the case with Raimi’s version (not altogether unexpected when you think that Webb was behind the wonderfully tender (500) Days of Summer). The swinging scenes (and I don’t mean anything sexual here) are still wonderfully freeing and addictive to watch, arguably just as much in 2D as 3D.
What the film does miss is the Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jameson (played by J.K. Simmons) who was so wonderfully entertaining a character in Raimi’s Spider-man, I think he deserves his own film. The character that I assume was meant to fill that hole is Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy, played by Denis Leary, who is the police officer on Spider-man’s trail. Whilst providing us with a good turn, there’s just not quite enough material here for Leary to get his hands on to really make a mark and it’s a shame his comedic chops weren’t allowed room to shine.
All in all, the two films are really quite different beasts and I would gladly give them both 4 stars (with Webb’s version perhaps slightly edging out in front for me, thanks entirely to Garfield). Go see it!