This Spidey stops just short of soaring
If the first hour of The Amazing Spider-Man seems familiar to you, well, you’re not alone — it’s been just a decade since the last version came out. But too soon or not, director Marc Webb and star Andrew Garfield present a Spider-Man that diverges from what Tobey McGuire brought us in 2002.
Vulnerability is the watchword of this summer’s Spidey. He’s daring, yes, but we never forget that he’s just a screwed up teenager. And he has both the literal and metaphorical scars to prove it. Abandoned mysteriously by his parents, Peter spends the entire movie trying to find himself as he attempts all the while to find them. The Amazing Spider-Man is a coming-of-age story where Spider-Man went a little more superhero; this is the tale of the Amazing Peter Parker
But it is in these adaptations that the film is flawed, too. The plot strays too far. Webb is trying too hard. Batman Begins taught us the validity of the superhero redefined, but The Amazing Spiderman might veer too far down this road road, wading through back-story for more than an hour before the real action begins.
Still, the film manages to embrace its large and talented cast. On screen with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, Garfield is never more appealing. Their chemistry is undeniable. Stone’s portrayal of Gwen is heavy on the sass (which is, afterall, the actress’ forte), but also is stronger than your average super-girlfriend. She’s not a damsel in distress, and that’s refreshing. Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Rhys Ifans, and Denis Leary all shine in supporting roles. Sheen is particularly strong, bringing much more to Uncle Ben than we got in the 2002 film.
Webb is most famous for directing (500) Days of Summer, another coming-of-age narrative disguised as a romantic comedy. Now, he’s taken his plot incognito again — shrouding superhero with bildungsroman. As Peter’s English teacher mentions, far too casually, “There is only one story and it is: who am I?” Is such uncertainty what we want from our superheroes? If so, we hope for resolution, which Webb neglects to provide. At the end of the film, we still do not know who Peter Parker is.
The movie is visually stunning, something Webb proved he could do in the brilliantly filmed musical sequence in Summer. He excels at wide shots, using them liberally without over indulging. He also has a great eye for color, whether it is the warm autumnal shades that make up the Parker home or the red and blue Spidey-suit swinging against a night sky not black but a deep blue. The film is shot in 3D which I normally find excessive but works well with certain shots of Spidey swinging through Manhattan directly at the audience.
How soon is too soon? Eh, who cares? The Amazing Spider-Man probably could have benefited from a little more breathing room from the Tobey McGuire films and a little more time spent on the script. But that isn’t the way Hollywood works. I’m hopeful for the sequel, if it happens. Stick around after the credits to find out why.