Now that The Amazing Spider-Man is in our face, I think it’s fair to say that Marc Webb was not a good choice to helm a big budget summer blockbuster. His sole previous feature credit is the sweet (500) Days of Summer, a film that, to the best of my memory, had nothing like a big CGI lizard man in it.
This is a “reboot” of the Spidey franchise, with director Sam Raimi parting ways with producers after his outrageously bad Spider-Man 3 and an aborted attempt at a Spider-Man 4 that would’ve seen John Malkovich as a vulture dude. After sitting through this reboot, I found myself missing the over-the-top Raimi approach from his first two efforts, and yearning for a winged Malkovich.
Webb gets it all wrong, from his casting of Spider-Man and Gwen Stacey, to the terrible operatic soundtrack, and, most disappointingly, a truly bad screen rendition of The Lizard (played drably by Rhys Ifans). Dr. Curt Connors was played by Dylan Baker in the Raimi films, and it would’ve been cool to see him finally get green in this film. Why they cast the wholly uninteresting Ifans is anybody’s guess.
Garfield, so good in The Social Network, takes an “Oh-gosh-golly-gee-willickers-please-like-my-nerd-ass!” approach to the role of Peter Parker. It’s cute for about five minutes, and then it gets pretty painful to watch. Emma Stone, cast as Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacey, delivers a performance that could best be described as obvious. They both feel like they are “acting” with every line delivery. They never seem to inhabit the world they’ve been given by the screenplay.
Much of that screenplay is just a rehash of the same story put on the screen by Raimi in his 2002 Spider-Man. Now, I’m all for rebooting, and I don’t care that only 10 years have passed. I want to see a new Spider-Man movie every couple of years, and I know the Raimi-Tobey Maguire combo couldn’t do it forever.
That said, The Amazing Spider-Man is a task to watch, and I could’ve waited a couple of more years for something better.
The action is minimal, unexciting and messy. There’s also a layer of melodrama here that just got under my skin early. It doesn’t help that the score by the normally reliable James Horner is repetitive and distracting. And although the strains of the main theme were repeated often, I would be hard pressed to hum them for you right now. It lacks distinction.
The supporting cast includes Martin Sheen with perhaps the film’s best performance as Uncle Ben. Not nearly as good would be Sally Field as Aunt May, who just seems out of place. Denis Leary is given the task of playing Gwen’s grumpy dad, the screenplay doing nothing to take advantage of Leary’s comedic talents.
If you want me to cite an example of how bad this movie really can be, I need go no further than C. Thomas Howell’s appearance as a construction worker who comes to Spidey’s rescue with large cranes in an inexplicable, moronic sequence. It makes no sense, and felt like something straight out of a Michael Bay movie.
I’m hoping that the further adventures of Spidey, which will happen, include a different director. I think Garfield and Stone could be decent in the hands of a director who isn’t trying to make them so adorable it’s puke-worthy.
I would like to nominate The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow. She could bring dramatic levity and pow to the franchise. Let Marc Webb go back to making dreamy romances with Zooey Deschanel.
The Amazing Spider-Man is one of the year’s biggest disappointments, a true misfire after the entertainment extravaganza that was The Avengers. Let’s hope Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises gets things back on track.