If you've heard this story before, let me know.
A young, socially awkward, but terribly bright, student, who lives with his aunt and uncle, is one day bitten by an irradiated spider and through a series of trial and tribulations becomes a masked-crusader swinging from the skyscrapers of New York City protecting the innocent.
Those last 45 words serve as the summary for not just one movie, but two. Because with the new film "The Amazing Spider-Man," no viewer can leave the theater without the sinking suspicion that they've heard that story before. And they wouldn't be wrong.
In 2002, Sony Pictures made headlines with not only one of the best critically received superheroes movies of recent times, but also with one of the most financially successful ones as well. That "Spider-Man," helmed by Sam Raimi and staring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco, spawned two sequels and a failed third. And it is out of the ashes of
the planned "Spider-Man 4" that "The Amazing Spider-Man" emerged.
Sony's plan was simple: reboot the franchise completely with a new director, new faces, new characters and a new villain. Starring the rising talents of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, who team up as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy respectively (one of a few alterations made to return Spider-Man back to his Stan Lee roots), and Rhys Ifans as their antagonist, "The Amazing Spider-Man" at its core hopes to distance itself from its predecessor.
Unlike Tobey Maguire, Garfield wears the role of Peter Parker with a more deft ease. While Maguire's Parker was overly shy, overly nerdy and at times a little creepy, Garfield portrays the troubled teen as the affable, intelligent, yet socially distant young man that has recently become en vogue in all post-Christopher Nolan superhero movies. Garfield's Parker is still nerdy, but in a more accessible way. He has his own eccentricities like everyone else, but at his core he seems to be a normal 17 year-old. As for Stone's Stacy, her talent seems to stay flat in her poorly written role. Unlike Dunst's Mary Jane, a character who was written in a way that made her not only interesting but also desirable, Stone's character seems too shy and too awkward around everyone to make any real lasting impression (though there has to be something poetic about Dunst having to dye her hair from blonde to red for her role in her "Spider-Man," while Stone had to do the opposite). And as for the villain, well it was slightly laughable to try and conceive the slight and wiry Ifans as anything close to sinister. Unlike Dafoe, who almost seems like he is always one bad day away from a complete sociopathic breakdown, Ifans is flat, unintimidating and at times just weird. He literally plays a giant CGI lizard. Not really more that needs to be said besides that.
The look of the film is one of its most redeeming sides. Director Marc Webb and cinematographer John Schwartzman did an incredible job at making this film look as good as it can. While their tendency to overly rely on the point-of-view-swinging-through-the-city shot can at times be visually nauseating, the duo do an incredible job at making the movie as realistic and accessible as possible. With 3-D audiences obviously in mind, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is meant to put its viewers in with Peter Parker as he becomes Spider-Man, as opposed to watching him from the sidelines.
Overall, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is doomed by its timing. The movie itself isn't bad. Sure, some characters are static and trite, but there are truly redeemable qualities about this film. Garfield is a better version of the web-slinger, the look of the film is good and the story is surprisingly enjoyable. But this appreciation can only come if the movie is viewed in its own context and not in the context of its predecessors. With that in mind, is it even possible for the film to be viewed that way?
Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no. The 2002 "Spider-Man" made over 800 million dollars in theaters alone and is replayed constantly on television, so who hasn't seen it? "The Amazing Spider-Man" is simply a retelling of a story we all know too well.