director Marc Webb
veiwed: 07/03/2012 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA
Ten years since the “original” Spider-Man franchise was launched with Spider-Man (2002) and only five years since that franchise crashed and burned in Spider-Man 3 (2007), the marketing, product machine that is Marvel Studios, who successfully built groundswell and franchise paydirt with this year’s The Avengers (2012) has rolled their dice with Spider-Man again before Tobey Maguire’s red and blue clad corpse was even cold. Much has been made of this rather short time between the end of one series of films, stars, directors, what-have-you’s, and the “re-boot.” Spider-Man is too valuable a property for Marvel to have left him to chill and fade from memory, gather dust (or cobwebs) and grow stale enough for the pressure to mount for a return. Even after the death knell that was the atrocious Batman & Robin (1997), it took another 8 years for Batman to begin again in Batman Begins (2005), and that was nearly two decades after that began with Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman. Time is ever shortening. So maybe this all fits within normality.
Like Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man is an origin story. It’s kind of a tired precept, especially in superhero films, but it comes from the comic book world from which it has emanated. It would be a nice thing to see foregone in future superhero franchises and re-boots, in case anyone cares what I think.
Marc Webb was an odd choice for this film, having only (500) Days of Summer (2009) (a middling romantic comedy) to his credits. Marvel has been pretty smart with their directorial hires on the whole and it’s paid off for them on the whole. I don’t know that Webb was a good or bad choice. I don’t know if this film’s success or failure is entirely his or not. Being director, you earn a lot of the good or the bad, so I guess I’m going to have to say that he’s got to shoulder some amount of failure here.
Whatever you hear elsewhere, The Amazing Spider-Man is a pretty bad film.
That said, stars Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Rhys Ifans (Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard), and Denis Leary (Capt. Stacy) are all pretty good. You’ve even got Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, respectively. The cast is pretty good. It’s just the bulk of the film that’s all malarky.
From costuming (Stone’s mini-skirts and leg stockings with her lab coat as she directs interns) to dialogue (sorry, no snippet) to the action, problems abound. The visual effects, which have improved considerably in the decade since Raimi’s first film, still fail hard when through much of the final battle, two digitally-rendered figures battle it out on a digitally designed New York City. There are some intense groaner moments, no worse perhaps than when the World Trade Center workers team together to build a “crane system” to help Spider-Man move uptown more effectively (to a surging emotive score that is quite nauseating). At best a lot of the story is a facile reduction, cramming the villain/hero relationship in to attempt to evoke more drama.
It’s nowhere as bad as Spider-Man 3, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not even as good as Spider-Man 2 (2004), the best of Raimi’s films. It’s awkward and corny, tired, uninspiring, and even somewhat tedious. But okay.
Now I contribute as much as any one person to the problem of the modern superhero deluge in that I’ve gone to see the bulk of them in the theater, quite often the first weekend, adding to the films’ staggering box office and guaranteeing sequels and other off-shoots, more of the same, since that is what box office returns tell those who green-light these big pre-fab blockbusters. So, I can only complain to a certain extent. It’s been an interesting couple of decades for the superhero film and the past ten years has seen it evolve past certain staples into a generally more efficient, potentially more successful process and resultant products. God knows that there is far more to come.
Let’s hope they get better than this.