It’s hard to write objectively of a film, when deep down, you were against the production from the start. This isn’t a swipe at the ridiculous argument that Hollywood has run out of ideas and and has turned to remakes bla bla bla, instead my problem hinges on the semantics with which this new Spider-Man filmed has been promoted, specifically, this isn’t a Spider-Man remake, it’s a reboot.
Thus far, the term reboot has been attached to projects like Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which makes a concerted effort to distance itself from its predecessors in style. It’s brooding and gritty, and a modern film through and through but interestingly, that was how Burton’s Batman was received at the time; a deliciously dark realisation of the campy TV show and ‘childish’ graphic novels. For the Batman franchise, enough time has passed, and the social zeitgeist has shifted so dramatically that Nolan’s offering is an entirely original production. It truly is a reboot, resetting the expectations left by the earlier films and offering up something new entirely.
The Amazing Spider-Man in my opinion, does not, and simply, cannot. The duration between iterations is too short to discern any shift in social mood, and aside from the 3D technology, there’s very little extra that can be added by way of visual effects. The fact that the studios have decided to re-tell the whole origins story too, is the final nail in the coffin for any sort of justifiable reboot. It seems to me an entirely pointless venture, artistically speaking.
The Amazing Spider-Man essentially retreads the same story as Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, attempting to reinvigorate the origins tale but with almost no discernible deviations. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) remains the nerdy loner but re-imagined as slightly rough around the edges; bed-head hair styles, and a skateboard strapped to his bag. Parker’s love interest is little more faithful to the source story, swapping out Mary-Jane for Gwen Stacy, played by a criminally underused Emma Stone and stepping up as the big bad is Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Still plucked from the roster at Oscorp, Connors is the part-time scientist and part-time badass Lizard Man.
Aside from the name changes, the story follows the familiar arc. Peter loses his Uncle and father figure (Martin Sheen) and at the same time must grapple with his new found superpowers, the idea of personal responsibility and of course, girls in a fantastical coming-of-age story. For me, this is the sticking point in creating a new, mature reboot of the franchise. As long as the origins story remains, it’s essentially aimed at a young, teen audience. The parallels between the progression of puberty and Peter’s powers are far too acute, and the boastful showboating that follows is just annoying. What would it be like to see a Spider-Man five years down the line? Battle weary, emotionally scarred and pushed to the raggedy edge? I admit, we’re straying too close to Dark Knight territory here but at least it would be a fresh realisation of the ‘teenage’ Superhero.
Perhaps in an attempt to tread a darker path, the film packs in an abundance of night time scenes, angry skies and subterranean locations. It seems a stylistic pre-requisite for the action scenes and at least stands apart from the bright and airy conditions used in the previous films. The exact nature of the action too is a welcome change. Even though the sky-high swinging may be Spider-Man’s most impressive, and visually interesting feature, the casting of Lizard man as the antagonist demands that the action remains fairly grounded, a clash of speed versus brute strength. It may sound less interesting, had it not been for the artistic way in which the fights were choreographed and at times, reflected the natural biology and physiology of spiders.
It seems such a cop out to consistently refer to a previous film in order to review a current one, however, I cannot help shake the feeling of being cheated. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that my fears were correct and this new Spider-Man reboot brings very, very little originality to the franchise. Yes, it is better than Raimi’s 2002 rendition and yes, it is an entertaining enough production to wile away a couple of hours but it remains the same film in spirit, not to mention story, characters, tropes and visual effects.