Reviews

The Amazing Spider-Man

4

Up in the air...

“The untold story,” gushed the hype. There’s only one story, shrugs someone in the film, accompanied by what sounds like back-pedalling: “Who am I?” So what is it? New story, or same-old repackaged? Both and neither, as it happens.

Swinging from fresh to faithful-to-source, Marc Webb’s reboot is a sparky, well-cast, often punchy Spidey spin... but it’s also Spider-Man Begins Again, struggling in places to assert its own identity.

Sure, context cuts Webb’s work out. In 2002, the only decent superheroes around were X-Men. Batman had been Schumacher’d, Superman was grounded, the Avengers were unassembled: Sam Raimi’s Spidey had an open runway. Nowadays, you can barely swing a lizard without hitting some spandex lug.

With great power has come great terror (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight), suits (Iron Man), mischief (Chronicle), gags-per-minute counts (Avengers Assemble) and sweary brats (Kick-Ass). It isn’t easy to stand out among that lot, or against Raimi’s run: his threequel over-stretched the web but the first two were pulp marvels, making a Spidey reboot harder to justify in 2012 than Batman’s 2005 franchise-fixer.

The shadow of Batman Begins looms as Amazing opens, the gold standard of origin-skewed reboots riskily invoked. Parker as a child plays games at home, stumbles on some destiny-sealing revelations, loses his parents on a stormy night... A dark roots movie steeped in tragedy? Some “untold story”, that.

Webb finds much surer footing as Parker hits high school, helped by crack casting. More confident than the last, this Parker is slick on a skateboard and not shy about standing up to Flash Thompson. The geek just got chic: who better to play him than the guy with the algorithms and rhythm from The Social Network?

A young buck made testy by grief, a rebel without a comb, Garfield nails all bases here, star DNA aglow. Stare-y eyes melting, he’s winningly earnest; lithe of physique, he delivers in the dust-ups; blithely gatecrashing Gwen Stacy’s bedroom, he gives good dreamboat.

And like any story worth telling, this one’s still “all about a girl”... Enter Emma Stone, weapon of sassy destruction as arch and direct, confident yet relatable first Spidey-love Stacy. Sure, there’s less puppy-eyed playfulness here than in Tobey’n’Kirsten’s geek love. Coy? Garfield and Stone look like they’d jump each other faster than you can say, “Easy, bug boy.” But the equation works: they charm, we root.

Also likeable – before he grows a tail - is Rhys Ifans’ one-armed OsCorp geneticist Dr. Curtis Connors. Like Doc Ock, Ifans brings soul to his suffering and warmth to his bond with Peter, who tracks down the Dr from a photo found in his dad’s briefcase and gets spider-nipped while nosy-Parkering in OsCorp’s labs.

As Connors’ scales tip to “green meanie” mode, Ifans goes OTT with relish, quivering like Dr Jekyll battling the world’s worst hangover.

But plot and tone aren’t always so sure. “Untold story” claims hinge on Parker’s pursuit of the truth about his dad, but it diverts into turf better covered by Raimi, despite the wrestling den being deserted this time.

Sally Field’s Aunt May makes scant impression and over-familiarity haunts the “I know I’m not your dad” exchanges between Peter and Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben, although the repetition is deepened by Garfield’s bubbling emotions and leavened by Sheen at his warm, witty best as Ben embarrasses Peter at school.

Elsewhere, the wit hits and misses. Spidey’s sarcasm (“Hey, watch out, I’m swinging here!”) sparks. Stone gets a cheeky gag about cramps.

But Denis Leary’s stalwart Captain Stacy isn’t quite as feisty or funny a foil for Parker as J.K. Simmons and the tone toggles uncertainly between comedy/tragedy after one key turning point.

Awkward cornball lapses extend that tonal uncertainty. Webb aims for hipster cachet: spot the hoodie, Ramones t-shirt and The Shins song (see also Garden State).

But Webb scores on action, surprisingly so given the lack of cross-species smackdowns in his rom-drama (500) Days Of Summer. True, Connors’ swing from good guy to grotesque is fudged a beat too fast for the Lizard to be a true tragic villain. Raimi might have made more of that and of the Lizard’s misdeeds: one bio-terror emission goes nowhere.

But even though the generic CGI monster sits awkwardly with a more “grounded” rethink, and even though Spidey’s homemade web-shooters won’t thrill anyone but the comic-book faithful, there’s a satisfyingly visceral thwack to the set-pieces.

Parker’s practise flights bruise; a sewer scrap with the Lizard scars; a lab encounter with another mutation shocks. Webb muscles up well: Spidey’s rescue of a kid on a bridge stirs, a school tussle (spot the cameo) totals the joint and the high-flying end battle is vertiginous.

The wall-to-wall ruckuses leave the “untold story” of Peter’s parents largely untold, its threads left loose in a fashion that frustrates given how many story strands here were unthreaded in 2002.

Maybe Webb should have avoided the origin story and started with Spidey established. But he gets enough right to sign us up for a sequel, not least a thrilling climactic blast-off. The route there? Bit bumpy. Finally, though, Spider-Man re-begins in style.

Verdict:

It isn’t perfect but this reboot’s wins outweigh its wobbles. The leads charm, the action crackles and the grooves are well-laid for part two. Untold story? Next time, then.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • MillerCrosses

      Jun 19th 2012, 11:14

      Seems like a 3 star movie.

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    • jayski

      Jun 19th 2012, 11:31

      Sorry but that was a terrible review. It barely made sense at points. OK fair enough perhaps it made sense but it flowed really really badly. To many micro comparisons/comments. Plus after reading the review you'd be expecting a 3 star rating, not a four! Sorry, I don't want to be b***hy but that was a painful read

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    • CaptainCrazy

      Jun 19th 2012, 11:34

      @MillerCrossess - you've taken the words out of my mouth. This has been the most apologetic 4 star review I have seen in a while. Contains too many "buts" for my liking.

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    • 2Dglasses

      Jun 19th 2012, 11:43

      gave up hope when you confirmed there was a pointless scene with someone as a child, pathetically trying to explain something that doesnt need it. Origins stories are best left as 2 minute openings, something even Wolverine did RIGHT.

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    • RaveyDaveyGravy

      Jun 19th 2012, 11:45

      That review had more puns than a Carter USM album!

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    • sowasred2012

      Jun 19th 2012, 12:03

      Pun - "but" - pun - "but" - pun - "but" - pun - "but" - pun It's really hard to read a review as bitty as this one, felt like I was constantly stopping and starting.

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    • thedanieljson

      Jun 19th 2012, 12:06

      It was a good review in my opinion... You can guarentee if this had been given a three star people will have been on here saying 'Total Film you always give three stars!' so they can't win really. I would normally criticise a review for referring back to the original/an earlier form of the film, but in this case it seems just, seeing as the Raimi version wasn't long ago - I would be thinking the exact same things sat in the cinema. To me, I find it unlikely that anything will hold up to Spiderman 2, which is still my favourite superhero film... I'm just not that fussed about this.

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    • MillerCrosses

      Jun 19th 2012, 12:23

      @thedanieljson People do complain a lot about 3 star reviews here, but never me.

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    • ChrisWootton

      Jun 19th 2012, 13:41

      I feel like I've already seen it what with all the trailers and TV spots.. genuinely can't be arsed to see it

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    • charolastra22

      Jun 19th 2012, 13:51

      I wouldn't mind it being a 3 star review if it hadn't been painful to read... Also, no mention of the 3D? I've heard rumours of the 3D being good, but nothing here.

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    • RaveyDaveyGravy

      Jun 19th 2012, 16:15

      @ChrisWootton I felt that about Prometheus. Too much given away in previews, so Im undertaking 6 months of therapy before seeing it on DVD

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    • FBDSouthwould

      Jun 19th 2012, 17:32

      Just tell me he doesn't use that god awful f*****g line for the umpteenth time and I'm in.

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    • Ali1748

      Jun 19th 2012, 17:51

      I was expecting a three star movie which is what Empire gave it.

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    • SuperAlexMan

      Jun 19th 2012, 19:53

      Total Film gave The Avengers a 4 Star review so I still have high hope for this film! As a massive spidey fan, i'm guessing this will probably be a 5 star movie in my mind! Nuff Said.

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    • BrickFace

      Jun 19th 2012, 20:28

      Interesting review. Really anxious to see it. I hope it isn't a 3/5 movie.

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    • harmansandy

      Jun 21st 2012, 8:28

      So many great actors in this wonderful list, really had to decide what movie wins to be on the first position. http://www.moviezadda.com/movies/upcoming-movies

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    • EdDeRs1

      Jun 21st 2012, 11:33

      i just hope that the haters will finaly lay off Raimi's SM fims, they were good films and only the third one sucked

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    • DadandBuried

      Jun 21st 2012, 18:46

      Glad Garfield and Stone are good. Looks like solid casting, at the very least. But I still don't get why we can't avoid these origin stories. Treat superheroes the way we treat Bond! Like this: http://goo.gl/F1Plq

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    • peterparker3d

      Jul 3rd 2012, 5:08

      5

      The Amazing Spider-man was really amazing. The stunt scenes and other 3D sequences was so exciting scenes. The almost review said that the Amazing Spider-man is good film to watch. when I searched in the internet I got a good review from a website. You can also check this nice review. http://www.toyarena.com/the-amazing-spider-man-review.html

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    • Heisenberg

      Jul 4th 2012, 10:24

      This doesnt seem so much a review but more a chance to use as many puns as possible. I usually wait until ive seen a movie before i read the TF and E reviews. And i would say this is 4 star. The acting of Garfeld, Stone, Sheen at al is far far superior to the Sam Raimi movies, and this adds the emotion that was lost in those movies. Garfield is a sarcastic s**te where as maguire was a just an emo in non-emo clothes with his whining. I much much prefer this movie, i think it was better executed, with better actors and told a better story, bring in the sequel

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    • Indianabones

      Jul 4th 2012, 18:12

      4

      Saw it today! Loved it! Cast were amazing! story fantastic! I will be seeing this a fair few times! I think I actually enjoyed this more than Avengers! but Spiderman is my all time favourite and very biased!

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    • Lampost

      Jul 4th 2012, 19:31

      3

      WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS! My rating is somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, I really enjoyed it but there were definately some consistancy issues. I felt like the movie moved between multiple different tones quite a few times, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I found it to be a bit messy. The high school scenes, the home scenes and the wise-cracking Spider-Man scenes are awesome. But the villain, the action set pieces and the inevitable death of Uncle Ben are too generic and unimaginative. I liked how they attempted to tie the Lizard's story into Peter's, but the villain really felt out of place in a film that tried so hard to portray a sense of reality. The whole villain scheme was tiresome and shortlived as well, we didn't even see the effects of those SWAT guys turning into lizards. I loved pretty much all of the actors, especially the main two loverbirds of course. Oh, and remember to stay during the credits! There's a scene midway through!

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    • portland6

      Jul 5th 2012, 11:20

      3

      I felt that this film had the glimmerings of a good Spider-Man 4. Spidey was portrayed in a more interesting way, his movement more kinetic and his dialogue more the smart-alec wordplay from the comics. The Lizard was exciting, if a little rushed in terms of a character arc. Gwen and her dad were very well played - and had been introduced in Spidey 3, so could have just been Peter's next girlfriend and her father. But... I really resented having to sit all the way through the origin story again, especially as it brought nothing new. We could have spent more time getting to know Curt Connors and milking tension out of his gradual transformation. Just recast, like Bond and Doctor Who. Rebooting is retreading!

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    • barryc

      Jul 8th 2012, 1:34

      5

      Jesus,, why don't people try actually leaving their own opinion or review of the the actually movie instead of reviewing the f*****g review.

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    • glenf

      Jul 8th 2012, 16:31

      3

      Absolutely no improvement on the Sam Raimi movies, had the same faults (the cranes?? seriously?) and although Garfield and Stones acting deserved a better script, I thought overall Raimi's first movie was truer to the essence of Spiderman. The death of Uncle Ben was dealt very poorly in this version, unlike his poignant death in the original. Although Garfields geek is very different to the Tobey Maguire geek, Maguires' Parker for me was more likeable. The villian was a standard as the Green Goblin. By the numbers in the mould of Doctor Octopus and Sandman. The back story to what happened to Peter Parker's parents really seemed just to be included as a justification for re-doing the origin story. The spider bite is dealt differently here and again not as well as the Raimi original. I missed the comedy in particular J Jonah Jameson. If this had been the first Spiderman movie I would say hit, but for me, it didn't improve on Raimi original.

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    • jaykays hat

      Jul 9th 2012, 9:14

      I preferred Garfield to Maguire, he added a bit more emotion, humour and was altogether a much better actor.

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    • lucamish

      Jul 12th 2012, 17:07

      4

      This review is very stop/start and does seem like it's leading to a 3 star rating. I do agree that it is a 4 star. Check out this review http://www.welovemoviesmorethanyou.com/2012/07/07/the-amazing-spiderman-review/ it is much more concise.

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    • SaveFerris

      Jul 16th 2012, 12:50

      2

      Not amazing. So SICK of comic-book geeks moaning about how it's more similar to the comics, movie fans DON'T care, we want good films, that is all. Sam Raimi's films actually improved on the source material! Spider-Man seems more of an impressive hero when he can spin the webs himself, rather than relying on a little device that can easily be squashed when grabbed by a super-villain. What's left after that? A guy who can stick to walls, big deal. Also, Aunt May and Uncle Ben aren't lovable at all, they're miserable buzzkills and it isn't upsetting at all when he dies, so you're left wondering why Peter is that bothered, let alone becoming a vigilante trying to track down his murderer. They should've just let Sam Raimi make the Spider-Man 4 film that he wanted.

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    • totellefilm

      Aug 1st 2012, 15:34

      I admit from the start that my reasons for preferring the new Spider-Man incarnation (aka Peter Parker) have everything to do with the actor filling his shoes. Andrew Garfield nails it in his portrayal of a troubled teen unwilling to participate in the stupidity that surrounds him at what shouldn't be an altogether typical American high school. Parker is attending "Midtown Science High School," presumably populated by students hand-picked for their scientific potential; yet, the bullying culture persists. Head bowed on his desk during most classroom scenes, his reluctant presence defines a character willing to hop through hoops more out of respect for his stand-in parents, Uncle Ben and Aunt May, than for personal enrichment. He's obviously honed his scientific acumen mostly through extra-curricular activities, as evidenced by the homegrown technologies that lace his bedroom. I don't get the feeling that Garfield's Parker is an outcast in the least; he separates himself from the herd by choice. In contrast, Maguire's rendition seemed that of a bona fide misfit, deemed worthy only after he gains his super powers. Having come forward to defend Garfield's embodiment of Spider-Man on a blog hosted by another site, I won't reiterate all of my compliments here. Suffice it to say, his enthusiasm for landing the part is apparent in his studied command of the role, not to mention the emotion he evokes without a hint of melodrama. Moving on to commentary about the scientific context of the film, I should identify myself as a research specialist in genetics. Though I chuckled through the scenes wherein characters stand aghast at the notion of "Cross Species Genetics," I couldn't help but think this was intended as a tongue-in-cheek treatment of the topic. After all, this is the stuff of GMOs in the here and now, something actively incorporated in much of the food we eat, whether we know it and like it, or not. The resuscitation of gene therapy as a viable means of replacing "broken" genes with functional sequence reinstates the possibility that GMO technologies might be safely reintroduced in humans. I had no problem suspending my disbelief at the cast's "wonder of it all" reaction to scientists who take the selected genes of one species and, mostly via viral vectors, incorporate these genetic sequences into the somatic cells of other species. Spider-Man can be considered modern-day myth, and like all good mythologies, combines fantastical elements with aspects of everyday life. In this case, it weaves a good dose of what is the real science of the day into a fable replete with a humanolizard monster (and progeny) bent on modeling the human race on his megalomaniacal notion of perfection.

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    • FBSHeldberg

      Nov 9th 2012, 4:08

      5

      Fantastic review! Spider-man is my favorite comic, so I’ve been paying attention to how the movie series has been going. I was not as impressed with the previous movies, so I stopped after the first one. I felt like there was something lacking and I loved my comics. I have seen Andrew Garfield in a couple films, but nothing took my breath away more so than his performance in Never Let Me Go. My friend and coworker from DISH also admirers the talents of Andrew Garfield, especially in this role. She’s having a girl’s night tomorrow night to see The Amazing Spider-man, which I don’t want to miss, but I’m out of town helping my Mom right now who has some health problems. I have my laptop with me for work so I can easily access DISH Online and rent The Amazing Spider-man to my Mom’s Hopper from DISH and still enjoy the movie with the gals even though I’m away from home. I’m looking forward to the discussion that will take place when I return home.

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    • GODMARKLUTHER1

      Feb 10th 2013, 21:40

      5

      GOD MARK LUTHER DIMAANO ROSAL NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMNISTRATION OWNER FOREVER! SONY OWNER GOD MARK LUTHER DIMAANO ROSAL!

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