Get past the cynicism behind Sony wanting to milk another movie from the “Spider-Man,” franchise and you might notice how much more real the web-slinging effects are. This feels less animated, a problem with the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” pictures of the last decade. And “Amazing Spider-Man” gives us the best Stan “The Creator” Lee cameo ever.
But that’s about all the praise this feeble re-boot deserves. Character by character, scene by scene, actor by actor, this is strictly inferior product, a movie that never answers that one simple question anyone outside of a corporate boardroom will ask.
Why was this movie made?
Andrew Garfield is a manic, mannered and fussy new boy-bitten-by-a-spider in this new version of his creation myth. He looks more and more like the young Tony “Psycho” Perkins, and plays Peter Parker as a bit more of a punk –wired, a collection of acting tics. He works awfully hard to convince us he’s the innocent kid he’s supposed to be.
The screenplay can’t be bothered to give us a decent villain, so they cast Rhys Ifans as a mad scientist who is more troubled and understandably so, than mad. They never call him “The Lizard,” but I suppose that’s who he is.
Emma Stone is all short skirts and boots and big eyes, playing a different character — Gwen Stacy, the cops’ daughter classmate Peter pines for. But there’s nothing like the lifelong love Peter held for Mary Jane in the original films. There’s no romance to this. And since the jokes don’t land and the pathos and sentiment are missing, the whole film feels cold, rigid, corporate.
Peter doesn’t aspire to a photography career, this time. There’s no snappy banter with newspaper people, no newspaper at all. He’s a budding scientist anxious to know the genetic researcher (Ifans) who knew Peter’s late father. Dr Connors (Ifans) is a one-armed genius anxious to mix reptile genes with his own so he can grow a new limb. Guess where that leads?
No, we don’t get to know the dad. The movie introduces him and packs father (Campbell Scott)and mother (Embeth Davidtz) off camera to disappear and/or die.
I like most of the cast of this in other settings, but Sally Field and Martin Sheen are given less to play as Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Denis Leary, playing Gwen’s police captain dad, seems miserable in his tiny, humorless role.
“Do I LOOK like the Mayor of Tokyo to you?” Will anybody GET the “Godzilla” reference?
One joke? That’s it?
Director Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) makes this a film of emotive close-ups, with nobody emoting. He has no feel at all for the material. Zip. He and Adam Shankman (“Rock of Ages”) could have swapped movies and been none the worse for it.
It’s similar to the Raimi films only in ways that invite unflattering comparisons. Re-staged scenes — Uncle Ben’s moment of truth — have no pathos. And the changes in the story add nothing to it but the promise that they’ll solve some of the mysteries they leave hanging in future sequels. Ugh.
The message of the original “Spider-Man,” that there’s nothing noble about revenge, morphs into “Secrets have a cost” dictum here.
It rarely stumbles into “terrible,” but this “Spider-Man” never rises to anything, either. Where’s the charm, the heart, the humor? It’s like they’re starting over with nothing worth starting with.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Rhys Ifans
Credits: Directed by Marc Webb, written by James Vanderbilt, Avin Sargent, Steve Kloves. A Sony release. Running time: 2:06