It’s been only five years since Spider-Man 3 spun its disappointing web over cinemas with its poor acting, silly directing and more villains than there are deadly sins.
And despite taking in over $890 million worldwide, Sony decided it was time for a reboot. At first this prospect was blasphemy, but after Andrew Garfield was cast as the new web-slinger in town there were murmurs that a redesign and new makeover was not such a bad idea. Garfield was a surprise choice, but an interesting one after his terrific performance in The Social Network, but what was more of a surprise was the hiring of Marc Webb as director, the man who brought us the surprisingly good (500) Days of Summer.
It seemed an odd move to appoint someone with so little experience in big movie making, but it paid off with Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon with The Dark Knight Trilogy and Avengers Assemble . However, these guys did have more experience with action and a big cast before they took their jobs. The question is, has it paid off again? The answer: kind of. A bit of yes and no, actually.
The film looks visually impressive, with some particularly stunning shots of New York at night, producing a beautiful palette of green, blue and red against a pitch black sky. There are some creative sequences with Spider-Man using his web to weave in and out of sticky (get it?) situations. But, overall, the action is a bit bland and doesn’t improve upon the 2002 version’s enthralling sequences. And whilst the effects of the city are spectacular, on other occasions they are rather suspect, such as The Lizard’s face. It does look like Rhys Ifans thanks to motion capture, however it does look comical in closer shots.
Ifans gives a good performance as Dr. Curt Connors, a one-armed genetics scientist working at Oscorp alongside Peter’s father. A troubled character conflicted with his need for the greater good and his obligations to Oscorp, his role feels cut short by the minor inconvenience of the ending. Also supporting is Denis Leary as grouchy police Captain Stacy, on the hunt for Spidey. The dilemma created by Parker dating his daughter Gwen has great potential but, once again, a good thing is cut short. Sally Field and Martin Sheen are good as Aunt May and Uncle Ben but aren’t on the same level as Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson who previously encompassed the characters. Here, it feels like Peter is slightly distanced from his aunt and uncle and hence Uncle Ben’s death doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as in the original.
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are fantastic, their chemistry begins at a gentle bubble before growing into a pleasant boil. Garfield’s Parker is less total science geek and more just odd loner. He is much funnier and has witty one-liners up his skin tight red and blue sleeve, cracking jokes to criminals and cops like in the comics. To say Garfield is a better Parker than Tobey Maguire is harsh to the latter; he is just a different Parker and plays it superbly, especially during his argument with Uncle Ben. Stone is quirky and just as quick with the jokes as Garfield. Again, rather than declare her superior to Kirsten Dunst’s Mary-Jane, it is more fitting to describe her as different. However, Gwen as a character is more likeable; her intelligence and strong will gives her strength, juxtaposed to Mary-Jane’s lack of smarts and whining.
Other than that the film feels a bit odd, jumping around romantic comedy scenes and action scenes with the grace of a baby’s first swim. It’s as if the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. The shots of Spidey in and around the city were done with wires for added realism but instead feel cheap. For every cool looking moment there are two goofy looking moments, with Spidey’s jumps more akin to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The overall plot is good with the set-up for a sequel nicely done but the more intricate moments, such as Parker’s transformation, could have used a bit more care. This version is more humorous than the previous encounters but doesn’t improve upon them, save for the mandatory Stan Lee cameo, which is the best so far. However, it is enjoyable nonetheless and worth a look in normal 2D – don’t bother with IMAX or 3D.
3 out of 5
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