The Amazing Spider-man: Redundant, Too Much Teen Romance, Little Humor

by Sandra Olmsted

Spidey swinging back into theaters should be exciting and fun, but director Marc Webb re-imagines Spider-man’s origin story with a none too healthy dose of the Twilight franchise’s absurdly serious teen angst.

Of course, all the special effects are reengineered using the latest 3D and computer technologies, but the heart of the story, the coming of age of a young man with a terrible gift, is redefined as little more than the typical teen romance full of rebounds, rebuffs, and false starts.  However, the most disturbing aspect of this Spidey is that Webb recasts the hero not as young man struggling with honor, but as a cad too ready to break a promise to a dying father.

Given the nearly two and half hour running time of this film, one would think that a little suspense about how Spidey makes this decision could have been squeezed into the plot.  But no, Webb repeats the well-known origin story with little variation from the previous tellings on film and in comic books and refashions Peter Parker into a knock off of the vampires in Twilight.

Raised by his loving Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), orphaned teenager, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), is bitten by the requisite radioactive spider and transforms into a superhero.  Meanwhile, he falls in love with Gwen (Emma Stone) the daughter of the police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) before battling The Lizard aka Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).

While the movie has a good cast, the best actors are underused and under directed.  Leary’s stern father could have been more a caricature; Sheen’s Uncle Ben could have been a little less saintly, Field’s Aunt May could have opened a little less bedraggled so that a noticeable redecoration in her character’s appearance would indicate her grief.  The talents of the young stars, Garfield and Stone, are re-clothed as moody expressions of quasi-rebellious teens, who are never convincingly likely to react in truly unredeemable ways.

Garfield, who plays Peter like a cut-rate version of  Robert Pattinson’s vampiric Edward Cullen, right down to the gaunt face and pouffy hairdo, lacks the quirkiness and humor of Tobey Maguire, who was a superior Spidey.  Ifans spends more time as a CGI character than a real one, but his deep desire to regenerate limbs, especially his own arm, is moving, but why doesn’t he use a prosthetic arm given the advances in that science?  Webb may have considered added, but realized it would have taken time to develop the character of the villain or any character for that matter.

Although the film is overly long and lacks humor and although casting a few big name stars hardly appeases the older audience, the film does have some exciting action scenes and some cute moments.  The 3D works well and isn’t obtrusive, but this retelling of Spider-man’s origin story doesn’t warrant spending 136 minutes of one’s life seeing it.  However, by re-capitalizing on this Spider-man franchise, Columbia Pictures and Marvel Enterprises will easily recoup their estimated $215M production budget plus promotion costs with what promises to be a record box office.

But as one learns from this recycle of the franchise, promises are made to be broken.  Because Webb has reduced the story to little more than an overwrought teen romance, this installment doesn’t recapture the humor and the excitement of Sam Raimi’s versions and can’t reawaken a love for Spidey.  If a viewer cares to remain seated for the credits, there’s a brief additional scene near the end which sets up, God help us, the  sequel.  Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, The Amazing Spider-man is in theaters now.

 

 

 



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