Friday, 6 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-man (2012) - Marc Webb

It's easy to forget that behind the superpowers and the high expectations, the man beneath the red and blue mask is in fact just a misunderstood teenage boy.

It's this aspect of the comic book origin story that Marc Webb (ha!) seeks to emphasise.  The Amazing Spider-man is less superhero movie and more coming-of-age movie, like his previous 500 Days of Summer.  A large proportion of the exposition is spent depicting family life in the Parker household, introducing us to Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker who, abandoned by his parents, lives with his Uncle and Aunt.  Bespectacled, bullied and hunched, Peter is a typically geeky science-nerd struggling to find his identity and learning to cope with the demands of manhood.  That said, as well as riding a skateboard he has no trouble wooing his classmate crush, Emma Stone's sassy Gwen Stacy who is far removed from the typical damsel in distress.  It's down to Peter's moody petulance that his Uncle is killed in the film's early stages - a sharp warning that many will empathise with, if not the tragic consequences.

Even in the suit, his teenage mannerisms are apparent.  Garfield's Spider-man is less amazing than the title suggests and more of a klutz - a hero who spends as much time making funny quips, schoolboy errors and playing games on his mobile as he does saving the day.  Threatened by the crippling demands of responsibility, Peter learns to cope not just with his new-found powers but with becoming a man.  And all this on top of defeating Rhys Ifans's nefarious, one-limbed Dr Connors, who's research and experimentation into cross-species genetic splicing has turned him into a menacing lizard.
Ifans makes a convincing villain, torn between his obligation to science and his morality, but the real hurdle is Peter himself. Garfield is excellent in the role, swinging between troubled teen to jokey hero with ease, whilst blending together the opposing sides of boy-hero into one complete character.

The trouble with this angle is the juvenile, corny script that, at many points, is laughable.  This may be a boyhood fantasy, but that doesn't excuse the numerous plot holes and unbelievable narrative turns.  What happened to Peter's hunt for his Uncle's killer?  What actually happened to his parents?  And where did the spandex suit come from?  Watching The Amazing Spider-man, you can't help but feel this is just the precursor to a more exciting story to come in the future sequels.  In the meantime, Webb's film just about asserts its own personality to justify the reboot.

With this emphasis on characterisation, the action takes a backseat.  Though there's large use of CGI, the actual swinging was done using ropes which does lend a certain sense of realism.  Still, Avengers Assemble raised the benchmark for movie action sequences to a spectacular level The Amazing Spider-man cannot reach.

Webb's Spider-man is a comic book film with heart, but the heart of an adolescent.  The story is, after all, aimed at teenagers who will undoubtedly enjoy this film, but for a more adult take on superhero mythology, Christopher Nolan's
The Dark Knight Rises will surely be a more dependable offering.