After the bright light that was the Sam Raimi series of Spider-films flickered and died with it’s third bumpy instalment, Sony Pictures was left with a compelling quandary: re-enlist Raimi for a try for a forth shot at the title, or restart from scratch? Contrary to what this review is called, they actually chose door number one and had a choice of villains all ready to go, yet the creative difficulties that plagued the production of the third movie persisted and the reboot angle was perused instead.
If the scenario above sounds like the recipe for a big steaming bowl of compromised final product with a pinch of damage control for garnish, you’d be right on the money but thankfully there’s just enough here to be a fun, big Spider-Man movie albeit with it’s fair share of flaws.
To describe the first half of the plot would be an exercise in pure pointlessness as the whole world and his dog knows Peter Parker’s origin story by now, but that doesn’t stop the movie diligently telling it again whether you want to hear it or not.
The beauty of the original movie was how economic it was with it’s storytelling, TAS-M, however, takes great pride in over compensating EVERYTHING. From the initial spider bite that eventually kicks everything off to the faintly ridiculous lengths the script goes through to avoid having Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben actually say the words “with great power, comes great responsibility”, it’s all unnecessarily “extra”.
Spidey’s villain this time round is a fairly dull version of The Lizard, yet another tragic scientist father figure in a rogues gallery rotten with them, who is warped by a misguided experiment and becomes a rampaging supervillain. Rhys Ifans does what he can with a generic role but his final form, that of a oddly rendered man-reptile, looks like someone took one of the Goombas from the Super Mario Bros. movie and stripped him naked – would it really have been so hard to simply put a man-shaped Velociraptor in a lab coat?
Thankfully once the film has dispensed with the second hand origin telling, the film shifts gears (although Peter seems to forget his search for his uncle’s killer pretty sharpish) and both he, and the audience, start having more fun. A emotional rescue mission on a bridge and a Lizard attack on Peter’s high school (featuring one of the greatest Stan Lee cameos in history, fight me bitches) perk the runtime up considerably and it’s here you really get a feel for the film’s twin strengths. The first is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey who gives a natural and funny performance in a genre usually know for giving girlfriend characters a short shrift. Her chemistry with the majority of the cast and new Spidey actor Andrew Garfield injects much needed heart into the film, regardless of whether is the usual superhero shenanigans or chatting to her father about cramps.
The other is Garfield’s performance in the Spidey-suit. Where Tobey Maguire was a loveable Peter Parker but a somewhat static Spider-Man, Garfield is oddly the reverse. His Parker is an insular weirdo with a skateboard and curiously vertical hair, however, when the suit goes on he comes to life, cracking wise and bringing a costume to life that can be sometimes troublesome to film due to a lack of facial features.
To round things off, what we have is a compromised story that seems unsure where or how to tread and for a film that was heavily advertised as a “untold story”, a hell of a lot of it is common knowledge. And yet there’s still enough good here to call it a modest success although that’s hardly an impressive selling point.
I guess calling it The Acceptable Spider-Man was too on the nose…