CATEGORY: WORDS: Vince Christiaans

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is a peculiar project, so before I begin my review I’d like to take a gander at its troubled history. A few years ago director Sam Raimi was gearing up for a fourth ‘Spider-Man’ film. Tobey Maguire was returning as the titular hero and the movie was already well into pre-production. However because of issues between Sony and the director the studio opted for a reboot instead. Subsequently Raimi and Maguire left the franchise to Sony’s mercy.

Meanwhile the appropriately named director Marc Webb came off his directorial-debut ‘(500) Days of Summer’. Sony saw something in this newcomer and handed the reigns of the would-be blockbuster to Webb. Filling the way too tight spandex suit this time is Andrew Garfield from ‘The Social Network’, also an up-and-comer.

I’m not a superhero kind a guy, really. My interests don’t reach much further than the Batman movies so I wasn’t bugged by the liberties this film takes with the original story. From the start I genuinely liked what I was seeing in the trailers for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. Garfield seemed way more likeable than goody two-shoes Maguire and the tone of the film appeared to be slightly less goofy than Raimi’s films. But still I was curious if audiences would take to a different version of the same story.

Now that I’ve seen it can I say that I liked this version a lot more. Sam Raimi’s films, especially ‘Spider-Man 2′, are good but this is better. Supported  by a sympathetic cast, Marc Webb succeeds in bringing us one of the most entertaining summer blockbusters yet. Even though Spider-Man’s origins have already been well-explored this latest incarnation manages to make it feel fresh and involving. It also scores points by aiming at the emotional core of the characters.

I was especially surprised by the touching scenes involving Garfield’s Peter Parker and his aunt and uncle, played by Sally Field and Martin Sheen. It’s been a while since we’ve seen such heartfelt moments in an action flick like this. It’s apparent that Webb’s focus lay on this element of the film and the action scenes suffer visibly. The editing in these adrenaline-fueled sequences is often too quick making it hard to follow exactly what’s going on.

Of course, every superhero needs a baddie. In ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ we get the one-armed scientist Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a former collegue of Peter’s lost father. When an experiment to regenerate his arm goes awry Connors turns into a huge humanoid lizard. This rather fantastic element clashes with the quite down-to-earth tone of the movie’s first half. Luckily, it never seriously derails the movie and the confrontations between Spidey and the Lizard, especially the one taking place in Peter’s high school, are very entertaining.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ also benefits from its score. Veteran film composer James Horner creates a memorable musical identity for our hero. It’s great to hear some good thematic music in a major blockbuster instead of the bland industrial works of Hans Zimmer and his cronies.

So did Marc Webb succesfully reboot a series which didn’t really need to be rebooted? Yes, he did. Here’s to hoping Webb’s new series won’t be cut short like Sam Raimi’s.

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