After three releases from the last Spiderman series, which went from 2002-2007 starring Tobey Maguire as Spiderman, the franchise was shut down and rebooted with Marc Webb on board as director and Andrew Garfield as the suited superhero. Taking a page from the Batman revamping, in which Christopher Nolan helmed the new series of Batman movies beginning 2005 following an eight year absence from the big screen, Webb and crew goes for a crisper, more serious approach. The new series places more of an emphasis on realism rather than the fantastical expectations that things are the way they are because we know they’re supposed to be that way. Like the Dark Knight series, the new Amazing Spider-Man series attempts to recreate the story with a basis set in a more real, present-day universe where what happens on screen could, in theory, be believable.
In order to achieve a more realistic tone, much of the film is used to set up for what is likely intended to be a franchise that will cover multiple movies. The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t so much a superhero movie about a chemically altered human with spider-like abilities as much as it is about a high school student named Peter Parker who is dealing with the abandonment of his parents along with other teenage troubles. Peter, played by Andrew Garfield, is a withdrawn kid, unpopular at school but with an interest in science and later, in a girl at his high school Gwen (Emma Stone).
Garfield seems like an odd choice for a multi-dimensional character like Spider-Man even though he does fit the persona of a young Peter Parker quite well. He’s nerdy enough, just the right amount of awkward and has the ability to show himself as being suitably troubled although when it comes time to disobey his aunt May (Sally Field) and uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), who have raised him, he doesn’t quite seem as convincing. This is especially so as someone whose initial impression is of a quiet well-mannered kid who suddenly becomes a vigilante. Garfield, like the supporting cast of Sheen, Field and Stone, are all fantastic at playing their strengths but in the case of Spider-Man’s persona, Andrew doesn’t seem the right fit. Martin Sheen, in particular, is a natural for Ben Parker, as he plays a respectable authority to Peter yet not quite intrusive or demanding.
While the film has its strengths in its slick visual effects, there are several aspects of The Amazing Spider-Man that don’t work in its favour, mainly with the story itself. It plays into its role as a superhero movie almost as if by obligation rather than as a naturally executed story. The film’s main antagonist doesn’t present itself in full form until after Spider-Man has emerged and thus seems to be more of a distraction to the film’s progression rather than a villain to be defeated. Overall, the enemy’s presence weakens the first major battle faced by Spider-Man and the overall storyline which no longer feels authentic because it feels out of place.
Ultimately, this film suffers from the same thing many superhero movies do in the conveniences that are created to suit the story line, no matter how unlikely or unrealistic. There are aspects as the film progressed of people and objects suddenly appearing or forcing themselves for the sake of the story to work to Spidey’s advantage in order to solve the task at hand. It was too easy. And now what was set up as a potentially strong introduction to the life of Peter Parker and Spider-Man isn’t strong enough to be taken seriously, resulting in a letdown from expectations that were probably too high to begin with.