Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irffan Khan and Rhys Ifans
While many will rightfully be talking about Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, Marc Webb is one of the unsung heroes of this film. In only his second feature film and first blockbuster Hollywood production, he has managed to seemingly effortlessly make that transition from the smaller to the larger scale, without losing his personal touch. A 500 Days of Summer vibe is clearly evident in this film, yet it does not come at the expense of the film’s summer blockbuster duties. What is arguably most impressive about Webb’s direction however, is the way in which he handles the action sequences. This is the first time Webb has directed feature film action and while admittedly in a film of this scale he had all the financial and technical support one could hope for, it is still an impressive achievement how coherent, exciting and well staged the action is for such a relatively inexperienced director. The POV shots displayed in the trailer are much less frequent than you may expect, with the film not making quite the use of 3D that I would have hoped, having yet to see it in 2D, I have a feeling that Spider-Man swinging through New York will be just as exhilarating and immersive with the glasses off.
What Webb also does superbly in this film, is balance the tone. Some critics, will be keen to claim that this film is an attempt to copy the Nolan Batman darkness, however while this film does have its dark moments, it is much lighter in tone and anybody who makes that claim with seriousness is either forgetting just how dark recent Batman is, what a dark tone even is, or what film they are reviewing. This film, like the original Raimi Spider-Man films, has dark and light moments however they never seem jarring in relation to one another as the tone is so clearly set and followed throughout. This is a film which never gets overly comedic yet never overly serious and seems to have carved a nice middle ground for itself, in relation to the more comedic Avengers and the upcoming, supposedly more serious, Dark Knight Rises.
Andrew Garfield, is Peter Parker. As soon as he arrives on screen, Garfield owns every second of this film. He has been a rising star up until now, this film will make him a star and deservedly so. He pulls of every aspect of Peter Parker’s personality and appears completely natural when doing so. Despite the fact that the actor is near thirty, he looks, sounds and acts exactly like a high school student, I should know, I am one. Whether it is his relatable, cute awkwardness around Gwen Stacy, his infectious enthusiasm when Spider-Man or his heart string tugging emotion with Uncle Ben and Aunt May, he spins a powerful web of emotion that will be hard for any actor playing the character in the future to break. In another actor’s hands some of the scenes he pulled off could have come across as embarrassing or empty, however he always seemed to make the best out of every moment. This film has shown he can lead from beginning to end a large scale Hollywood production and I cannot wait to see what roles he will get offered in the wake of this. What will win even more people over however, is his chemistry with Emma Stone. Emma Stone is a perfect choice for Gwen Stacy and she brings the expected Emma Stone charm and intelligence to this role. The scenes where her and Garfield share the screen are always believable and never strays into romantic cliche due in part to the direction of Webb but also through the expression of genuine emotion between the two of them, evidenced by the fact that they are now said to be dating in real life. Martin Sheen is a perfect Uncle Ben, Sally Field does a good job as Aunt May although many (Including myself) may find it hard to move on from Rosemary Harris’ portrayal of the character. Regarding Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors and the film’s principal antagonist, the Lizard, here is where the film’s flaws reside.
Rhys Ifans gives a good performance as Dr. Curt Connors however the script (Written by Steve Kloves, James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent) does not give him the screen-time or development he deserves. Curt Connors is a really interesting character, however I never felt as if the film truly explored him or made him interesting enough. The film would have benefited from a few more scenes developing his relationship with Peter, Peter’s father and his desire for another arm. Everything regarding his character, his transformation and Peter’s realization, all seem incredibly rushed. We see the point A of his character and the CGI heavy point C, however the film seems to skim across that all important point B. The character remains elusive for most of the second act and the film makes no real attempt to make the audience care or take interest in his hastily revealed and poorly developed plan. It doesn’t help that Rhys’ performance is hijacked by the special effects team, who despite doing an impressive job bringing the Lizard to life, he didn’t appear physical or real enough to not constantly subconsciously remind the audience that it was fake. Given the performance of Rhys and the character’s motivation, they could have done something a lot more special with this character, however without spoiling anything, there is the possibility they still could.
It is this all important aspect and side to The Amazing Spider-Man which stops it from achieving greatness and living up to its title. The film is fun, with a scene between Spider-Man and a carjacker demonstrating how this film is not a Raimi retread or Batman wannabe. It has well shot, engaging action, the best Stan Lee cameo in the Spider-Man series and one of the best Stan Lee cameos to date, charming romance, palpable emotion, great performances and a scene involving the alignment of cranes that some will call cheesy and coincidental, yet I found chilling and inspiring, in that cheesy yet cool Spider-Man way. The film also has one of my favourite shots of the year and in any Spider-Man film, a shot which for me epitomizes the character and a shot which to describe, would be the perfect way to conclude this Movie Parliament Spider-Man week. Dressed in his Spider-Man costume, Peter Parker stands on New York’s rooftops, the Empire State building behind him, the sun shining and a backpack on his back.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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Check out my reviews for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 in Movie Parliament’s Spider-Man week.