With great power comes great responsibility. That has been the motto of Spider-Man for decades, it is too bad Hollywood doesn’t have the same integrity.
Which brings us to The Amazing Spider-Man, a reboot of Sam Raimi’s game-changing Spider-Man trilogy first released in 2002. Whatever you may think of the original movie today, it stands as one of the highest grossing movies of all-time and paved the way for a new decade of superhero films.
Fast forward a few years and after a decidedly embarrassing Spider-Man 3, Sony hopped on the reboot bandwagon and decided it was time for a fresh take on the witty web slinger. The result has its moments of genius but tends to feel forced and unnecessary.
The new Peter Parker (played perfectly by Andrew Garfield) is still a teenager and full of angst over having his parents disappear at a young age. Now living with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt Mae (Sally Field), Parker is a science geek and a bit of an outsider at school. Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker was played like the absolute bottom of the food chain in the 2002 version, here at least Garfield gives us a believable and relatable character.
After stumbling upon some old files left behind by his father, Parker sneaks into the science labs at Oscorp for more answers. What he finds is not only his father’s old colleague Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) but also a room full of radioactive spiders. This chance encounter with the spiders, created as an experiment in cross-species genetics, turns Parker from an angst-ridden loner into something truly special.
Director Marc Webb seems to take a lot from the Christopher Nolan school of filmmaking. Instead of a wisecracking superhero with cartoon-like enemies, we get characters very grounded in reality. Other than a few awkward moments, most of the interaction between the characters feels genuine and real, something seriously lacking from Raimi’s version.
The problem with Raimi’s was that during the entire trilogy you never really felt like anyone was in any legitimate danger. In Webb’s version there is a much stronger emotional connection to the characters and more than once Parker comes back from a night of crime fighting covered in scrapes and bruises and obviously in serious pain. Webb has successfully made a Peter Parker the audience truly sympathizes with, rather than simply looks on in awe.
Which brings us to his counterpart, Curt Connors. After striking a friendship with Connors, the two continue the work of Parker’s father in an effort to re-grow the doctor’s arm. After his boss blackmails him into trying a potentially successful but dangerous serum on himself Connors turns into the legendary villain, The Lizard.
While major points should be given to the producers for even attempting The Lizard on screen, it ends up being the most lackluster villain Spidey has had to face yet. The character is given surprisingly minimal screen time and really camps it up during those moments. His master plan, which will not be given away here, is honestly the kind of plot point you would expect from a mid-90’s superhero film, not a modern day one.
The superhero genre has matured so much since the 90’s that it is almost a little disheartening to see the film take more steps back than forward. While the cast really does shine with the material they are given, the story could have used a lot more development.
The truth is that rebooting a franchise while the previous one is still fresh in the minds of the audience is a bad idea. Spider-Man is an iconic enough hero that he can be left alone for a few years without having to be in the spotlight constantly.
This an era where movie studios are finally taking risks and giving some lesser known characters their time to shine. No one thought Iron Man, usually a second-tier hero, would be able to carry his own film and look how that turned out. Iron Man is now the poster boy for the Marvel cinematic universe. Studios need to have more faith in the intelligence of the audience and not deliver the old and reliable again and again.
While Webb’s version is not only admirable and a universe well worth exploring, the fact remains that it is unneeded. Studios must learn that with their power they have to accept responsibility for what they produce. They have to answer to the audience and the audience deserves better.