July 7, 2012

There’s been a bit of clamour in the comic-book fan community about the decision to ‘reboot’ the Spider-Man film franchise with all-new talent on both sides of the camera only five short years after the web-slinging superhero’s last screen appearance.

Now there are undoubtedly all manner of reasons why star Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi were given their walking papers, but really it seems like this kind of thing is par for the creative course.

In comics, after all, new writers and artists are introduced all the time to reinvigorate titles.

So The Amazing Spider-Man, this fresh take on Spidey, shouldn’t really be seen as a trespass or a travesty. Rather it should be viewed on its own merits.

Okay, now give me a few minutes to figure out just what they are.

I’m kidding, sort of. Amazing isn’t a disaster by any stretch of the imagination. It’s got a sleek, stylish look to it. Its accomplished supporting cast delivers strong performances. And it has a fair few moments that genuinely do right by the character and his world.

And it benefits from two excellent central performances from The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield as nerdy Peter Parker and his arachnid-like alter ego and The Help’s Emma Stone as his smart, spunky girlfriend Gwen Stacy.

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The first act of this reboot, directed by (500) Days of Summer’s Marc Webb (appropriate name!), replays Spidey’s origin story – science geek is bitten by genetically-altered spider, gains super powers – but adds a few new twists.

This time around, Peter’s long-absent parents may have some connection to the events leading up to the acquisition of his new abilities.

What’s more, they certainly have a connection to Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a one-armed scientist who becomes Peter’s mentor, then his arch-enemy after an experiment to restore his missing limb transforms him into a huge, hostile reptile known as The Lizard.

Webb handles the larger-than-life action ably but he’s really more confident in the calmer moments, especially those between the mutually-infatuated Peter and Gwen. They’re a very likeable couple, Garfield and Stone, and they give Amazing a sweetness and soul sometimes absent in the Raimi trilogy.

But while we’re making comparisons, it must be pointed out that Webb’s not an energetic storyteller or inventive technician of Raimi’s calibre.

He can stage a scene well but he’s less adept at stringing them all together to make a compelling yarn, which means The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t really live up to its title.