The Amazing Spider-Man alights in theaters five years after the final movie in a trio of Spider-Man films directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire. The box office take for the latter three films exceeded $1 billion. Now, in the words of the Beach Boys, Columbia Pictures wants to do it again, from the top.
With new stars and a new director, the studio starts what’s projected to be a profitable new Spider-Man franchise. British actor Andrew Garfield (Never Let Me Go, The Social Network) squeezes into Maguire’s skintight costume and American actress Emma Stone (The Help, Easy A) takes over from Kirsten Dunst as the web-spinning superhero’s love interest. Echoing previous Spider-Man outings, Rhys Ifans co-stars as the film’s mad scientist, Dr. Curt Connors.
The restarted series takes Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, back to school, just before a spider bite transforms him into an aspiring superhero. Peter is already super smart, but his slight physical strength is such that Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka), resident bully at Midtown Science High School, easily brutalizes him.
Characters such as Flash, Connors, Denis Leary’s New York City police captain, the orphaned Peter’s worried guardians (Sally Field and Martin Sheen in the film’s best performances) as well as the situations Peter gets himself into have not an inch of freshness.
The new Spider-Man movie looks good and it’s well-acted but the action and events on screen are too familiar to be thrilling or interesting. It’s a chore to sit through stuff that’s been recycled repeatedly in not just the Raimi-directed Spider-Man movies but the many great, good and bad superhero movies made through the years.
The best of the Raimi-Maguire movies, 2004’s Spider-Man 2, was a precedent-setting superhero movie of thrills and depth. In contrast, The Amazing Spider-Man breeds more indifference than amazement.
Garfield does an earnest job as Peter/Spider-Man but the new film stays mostly on the surface, predictably going through the motions. Mutant lizard man? Check. Bully gets his comeuppance? Check. The police totally miss Spider-Man’s good intentions? Check.
Following precedent again, the restarted Spider-Man series’ debut is both superhero action-adventure movie and love story. Playing Peter’s high school crush, Stone is a pretty face and talented actress but she and Garfield, unlike the sizzling Maguire and Dunst, generate anemic sparks.
The movie’s villain underperforms, too. Ifans’ Connors, in both human and mutant lizard man form, is a muted monster-bad guy. When he goes on the rampage, though, things turn dark as a vast population is seriously threatened (another action-movie cliché), raising some semblance of suspense.
The movie’s expected climactic battle scene is less a rousing, satisfying grand finale than a setup for a sequel. Of course, the studio made The Amazing Spider-Man solely so more Spider-Man movies can follow.
Maybe The Amazing Spider-Man 2, scheduled for release in May 2014, will get Spider-Man back in the swing of things.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved