Web-slinger revamp falls short of originals

Web-slinger revamp falls short of originals
Andrew Garfield stars as Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures' "The Amazing Spider-man." Photo by Jaimie Trueblood © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

After a tumultuous development history that lasted for more than a decade, “Spider-Man” managed to finally introduce the eponymous web-slinging superhero to the big screen in 2002, with Sam Raimi in the director’s chair and Tobey Maguire in the lead role. 

The film’s commercial success and critical acclaim resulted in the creation of “Spider-Man 2” a few years later, which garnered even more praise and accolades than its predecessor did. However, what eventually became known as Raimi’s trilogy fell from grace as quickly as it ascended due to the negative response to “Spider-Man 3;” both audiences and critics alike decried the third installment for biting off more than it could chew.

One might even say the last chapter was so stigmatized to the point in which the iconic Marvel character had no choice but to enter a period of self-imposed exile.

And while there were attempts to rectify the damage by having Raimi direct a fourth film, none of them made it past the development stage, thereby leaving the blockbuster franchise to face an uncertain future.

With such a tarnished reputation, the only way for Marvel Comics to have Spider-Man regain what he had lost was to devise a new comeback strategy. Of course, nobody was interested in picking up where Raimi left off; his third time around inflicted so much damage that there was virtually no chance of restoring his film series to its former glory.

What needed to be done was a re-examining of the elements that made Spider-Man resonate with moviegoers in the first place, a deeper look at how he became this distinctive presence since his comic book inception back in the 1960s. After five years of silence, he gets his second chance to prove himself in a reboot. For the most part, he succeeds in his endeavor, although he still has a long way to go.

On the one hand, “The Amazing Spider-Man” proves to be a satisfying thrill ride.

Director Marc Webb delivers a solid film that demonstrates a good balance between the action-packed moments and the character-driven moments. This may be only his second film after “(500) Days of Summer,” but he clearly has what it takes to make a summer blockbuster without sacrificing its soul for style.

Webb’s emphasis on Peter searching for the answers about why his parents did not return home is an interesting change of pace, considering that we rarely, if ever, get to see Peter’s parents having much importance in his life other than leaving him in the care of Uncle Ben and Aunt May.

This new twist on the protagonist’s story arc ties into the director’s chosen theme of loss, which, throughout the film, is felt by virtually every major character we are introduced to and get to know. Whether it is Peter or Gwen or Dr. Connors or anybody else, there is no moment in which someone does not feel as if he/she has lost something important.

On the other hand, some might feel the reboot moves too fast and does not explain certain important details.

The brisk pace may benefit the action sequences, but it certainly does not help the impact of certain important story events made on the characters. Some of the key players die, yet their deaths are only touched upon and not fully absorbed into one’s psyche. To have someone die and not devote the time needed to feel its effects is not only insulting, but apathetic.

In addition, we never get to see what happens to several pivotal characters after they make big decisions that affect the central characters. If you are going to have somebody make a choice that brings about significant consequences, you have to show what happens to him or her as a result of following the chosen course of action. Otherwise, you might as well not include that character in the story.

Andrew Garfield replaces Tobey Maguire as the titular superhero, and although there is room for improvement, he still manages to capture the essence of Peter Parker’s teenage angst and loneliness.

Emma Stone is probably the best casting choice for Gwen Stacy, and one can actually feel a genuine relationship forming between her character and Peter during their scenes together. Denis Leary brings more depth and relevance to Captain George Stacy than James Cromwell did in “Spider-Man 3,” and he has a much tighter relationship with his daughter.

Martin Sheen and Sally Field have their fair share of moments as Uncle Ben and Aunt May Parker, and they are definitely more than willing to scold Peter if he gets out of line. Rhys Ifans hits all the right notes as Dr. Connors, but as the Lizard, he does not exude the same believable threat level that Alfred Molina did as Doc Ock in “Spider-Man 2.”

All in all, “The Amazing Spider-Man” satisfies those looking for a reinvigoration of the eponymous superhero, but it falls short of reaching the high caliber established by Sam Raimi in his first two films.

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