From 2002 to 2007, Sam Raimi delivered us one of the more famous superhero trilogies with his take on Spider-Man. Raimi’s trilogy was pretty lightweight, but the director was able to utilize camp very effectively. However, the trilogy was far from perfect and the third film (Spider-Man 3) left a stain on what was undeniably a good series before then. So there is definitely room for another take on the Marvel superhero. In comes Marc Webb (director of breakout indie hit 500 Days of Summer) with The Amazing Spider-Man.
The Amazing Spider-Man is another “interpretation” of the origin story of Spider-Man. Interpretation is in quotations because there are a lot of (and possibly too many) similarities to the Sam Raimi version portrayed in 2002’s Spider-Man. It is quite clear that screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves (and of course the studio heads) wanted to imitate the success of Raimi’s blockbusters. So they went about doing so by trying to write the film with the same exact atmosphere of the previous trilogy. The odd thing is that they then hired Marc Webb to direct the film. Webb would seem to be an odd fit for trying to capture the camp of the previous trilogy and the final product kind of proves that he was the wrong choice. Many of the campy elements of the film come off in a really negative manner to the film. They just don’t fit. This is probably the weakest component of the film.
However, what Marc Webb does bring to the film is probably its strongest component. Webb brings a very visually pleasing but realistic atmosphere that is definitely something we haven’t seen in a Spider-Man film yet. We are quickly introduced to a Peter Parker that comes face-to-face with school bullies that actually have personalities. We are introduced to a Peter Parker-Gwen Stacy relationship that actually feels real, and Webb still has enough visual power to give us some crazy first-person action sequences.
While the directing of the film is a mixed bad and the screenwriting a mess, the cast that appears this film really sets a solid foundation for the inevitable sequels. It’s too early to tell if Andrew Garfield will be the definitive Spider-Man, but he delivers a solid lead performance (albeit one that never reaches far). However, in a genre that rarely sees strong performances from the love interest character, Emma Stone is great. It helps that the writing makes her character strong willed and independent, but you can equally chalk it up to Stone’s strong work. Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Sally Field do great work in support, and even Rhys Ifans (who has by far the worst written character in the film) shines enough to make you wish he had a stronger role.
Ultimately, The Amazing Spider-Man is a mess. It has some incredible highs: the portrayal of high school life, the portrayal of the main romance, the first-person action scenes. Yet it also has some major lows: the large disconnect between script and director, the writing for the main villain, that ridiculous mid-credits scene.