By Carl Kozlowski
There are few people more annoying than drunken storytellers who feel they have to top the story of the guy who talked before them. You know, the ones who say: “But wait! When I saw it happen, it was even more incredible!”
Or should I say, more amazing? For it’s exactly that annoying form of storytelling on display this week with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man, which tells the origin story of the popular superhero a mere 10 years after director Sam Raimi started a smash-hit trilogy with Spider-Man. Only this time, we’re supposed to believe it’s amazing, and not just Spider-Man.
The reason for this movie even being made is beyond comprehension. It’s not like Sony Pictures is introducing the story of Spider-Man to a new generation, because 10 years is only half a generational time span, and because the prior film Spider-Man 3 was released just five years ago. They must think that Americans have collective amnesia, or had their memories neutralized by the Men in Black.
Rather than ending Spider-Man’s adventures with the disappointing yet insanely lucrative Spider-Man 3, or having prior Spider-Man Tobey Maguire suit up again for Raimi, Sony is opting for the reboot approach that has suckered moviegoers out of their money countless times in the past decade. Reboots normally occur with films that were flawed, however, and the first two Raimi/Maguire films were damn near impeccable examples of superhero films at their finest.
Right off the bat that fact left me feeling that this new venture is nothing but a naked cash grab. Hell, even Maguire and Raimi said “enough” and moved on with their lives. So now we have to accept our same beloved characters of super-teen Peter Parker and the relatives who raise him, only played by new faces.
Uncle Ben is fine as played by Martin Sheen, and Sally Field is definitely welcome as Aunt May, but Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) as Spidey himself is both an asset and a distraction in the role. He plays Peter and Spidey with more noticeable zing than Maguire’s approach, and it’s genuinely fun to watch the devilish gleam in his eye as he discovers his newfound powers. But the script has forced him into too many jokes told while zapping the bad guys, and sneering at police who are pursuing the very same criminals he is. Truth is, Peter Parker is obnoxiously arrogant in the role when he’s zapping his victims and police with cheesy one-liners, and that fact makes him much harder to root for than when Maguire filled his shoes.
The story is, to no one’s surprise, highly familiar. Peter Parker is an average teen who gets zapped by a spider with powers and winds up developing spider traits that inspire him to become a noble vigilante. Here, the setup is different but the basic flow of the plot—in which the newly empowered Peter has to save New York from a mad scientist or industrialist—stays the same, with the new film’s Rhys Ifans providing a much, much weaker and less compelling villain than Willem Dafoe’s standout turn as the Green Goblin in the 2002 film.
Ifans plays a scientist named Chris Connors who was a former colleague of Parker’s father, who mysteriously disappeared with Peter’s mother when he was a young boy amid a frenzied panic concerning a science experiment. When Peter goes searching for answers about his father’s whereabouts or demise from Connors, he at first is able to help the doctor solve the final code in an experiment that can genetically give him a new, working arm to replace the stump he was born with.
Desperate not to lose his project and its funding, Connors uses himself as the human trial for his own new idea: combining the DNA of humans and other species in order to see if cures for human diseases and problems can be found. But after injecting himself with the new wonder drug, Connors quickly learns that he gets more than an arm—he’s also turning rapidly into a giant monster that’s half creature half human. And of course, Peter Parker has to find the guts to stop him.
There are some fun moments in Amazing, particularly when Peter is testing his newfound powers and has a montage or two of him using his special abilities. But overall, it feels like an overwrought case of “been there, done that” and, to some degree, even feels like a serious slap in the face to a director who brought them billions with the prior trilogy.
Don’t encourage Sony to rob their vaults so quickly in the future. Skip this one and pop the originals in the DVD player instead.