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The Amazing Spider-Man - Review

The Amazing Spider-Man

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

ALTHOUGH not quite as amazing as its title suggests, Marc Webb’s reboot of the Spider-Man franchise so soon after Sam Raimi’s departure is a consistently appealing and often hugely enjoyable new beginning.

And to be fair, the film was originally conceived as the fourth film in the Tobey Maguire series. Under the aptly named Webb’s tutelage, however, it’s also a nifty showcase for the increasingly amazing Andrew Garfield to continue to make his bid for Hollywood greatness.

Indeed, a lot of the film’s success owes itself to Garfield, who strips away the nerd, adds greater surliness and positively exudes charisma as Peter Parker, the shy loner destined to become a heroic web-slinger. It’s a performance that quickly endears itself to viewers.

Webb, too, deserves credit for tinkering with the familiar rather than merely re-hashing it, even if a more radical approach might have worked even better.

For while the film does adhere to a lot of comic book conventions (and sometimes feels straight-jacketed by them) it also mixes up what you think you may be able to take as a given from those Raimi films.

The decision to make Gwen Stacy the love interest, thereby excluding girl next door Mary Jane completely, brings a freshness that also plays to the more spikily comedic strengths of the actress playing her (Emma Stone, striking the right kind of sparks).

She’s also much less of a damsel-in-distress, while their relationship this time around wastes no time in cutting to the chase. They both want it and go after it.

Of benefit, too, is the sharper contrast between the darkness and the humour. Webb lands some telling emotional blows but doesn’t overdo the sentimentality that follows. Rather, he also knows when to give audiences a laugh, often mid set piece.

His casting, too, is uniformly excellent, although special nods deserve to go to Martin Sheen’s suitably loveable Uncle Ben, Dennis Leary’s suitably sceptical police chief father of Gwen and Rhys Ifans’ suitably conflicted Dr Connor, aka Spider-Man’s eventual nemesis, The Lizard.

Where the film is less successful is during other aspects of the plotting, which sometimes requires huge leaps of faith or forgets to properly see things through (possibly with one eye on future films).

There are aspects of Rhys Ifans’ character evolution that don’t make sense, while some questions and possibilities are posed that never get answered or see the light of day.

Again, though, Webb compensates by maintaining a brisk pace and delivering the set pieces with gusto, requiring on a parkour-style realism where possible until the CGI inevitably has to kick in. Even then, though, there’s a lot to keep you dazzled.

And if that isn’t enough there’s always the aforementioned Garfield, whose endearing central presence is never too far to steady the ship if things threaten to go awry.

Hence, this is a blockbuster reboot that succeeds in spite of its flaws. It’s spirited, heartfelt and more often than not fun. And while Raimi’s first two films may remain the benchmarks, Webb’s do-over doesn’t trail too far behind.

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Certificate: 12A
Running time: 136mins
UK Release Date: July 4, 2012