Spider-Man returns, a mere five years after the last film, with not only a new actor in the spandex but a total restart of the story. Peter Parker is now played by Social Network star Andrew Garfield and has reverted back to high school, where he rides a skateboard and mopes like a real teenager.
So is this what it takes to sell Spidey in the age of Twilight? Or is the new movie not amazing at all?
The Amazing Spider-Cast?
When this was first announced, I was excited by the casting, and seeing the finished film has vindicated those feelings. Andrew Garfield definitely has the fresh-faced Parker look, and Emma Stone as love interest Gwen Stacy is great (I wish she had more scenes though). Martin Sheen (West Wing’s President Bartlet) dispensing wisdom as Uncle Ben was never going to go far wrong.
The tone here is a more introverted, angsty take on the character, in contrast to the broad, colourful look of the last trilogy, and that’s a fair approach to Spider-Man: the young everyman superhero. Garfield is playing him quite sulky and rude, even after he becomes a proper do-gooder, which is a strange adjustment after Tobey Maguire’s lovable wide-eyed underdog, but at least it makes this version stand out.
And is this good-looking, brooding Peter a grab for the Twilight audience?
Seems possible, he’s definitely played as a moody outsider rather than the flat-out nerd of other incarnations. But on the other hand, it does make for a less jarring shift when he gets his powers and starts acting like a proper jerk.
Should Rhys Ifans Have Played A Giant Lizard Without CGI?
So I enjoy the style here, although there are issues. Most of them centre around the villain, Rhys Ifans as The Lizard, who brings a trail of obvious CGI and wildly fluctuating motivations. I get that this film is about doing the origin, Lizard is just here so Parker has someone to punch and we’ll get a more charismatic baddie in the sequel, but still, his decisions at times are… baffling. As are the huge dangling plot threads we’re given about his mysterious past with Peter’s parents, but I’ll be kind and assume they’re saving that for a sequel too.
A lot of the teen angst works, but oddly some parts set at school feel off, too ripped from the generic book of Power Rangers high school scenes. Luckily, there aren’t that many of them. And for some reason, 28 year old Andrew Garfield makes an unconvincing teenager to me, even in his hoodie. Yes, I know mid-to-late-twenties actors pretending to be school age is par for the course.
Unfortunately, Spidey is competing with Avengers and Dark Knight Rises for the Summer 2012 superhero audience. Both those films have the advantage of concluding a long-running series, as well as big name directors. So Amazing Spider-Man may not achieve the crossover greatness of those two, especially as it also has more obvious flaws, but it’s still a decent, enjoyable Spider-Man film. I’d be interested in seeing that sequel where he fights someone properly scary.
(Yes, the previous paragraph makes the assumption that Dark Knight Rises will be well made at the very least. I apologise unreservedly if it turns out to be an incompetent mess.)