Watched Jul 10, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
I am one of the few people in the world that didn’t like the original Raimi trilogy (and yes that includes the second film, officially The Greatest Superhero Film of All Time™) which meant that I was rather looking forward to a new take on the character, even if an origins reboot was a little soon.
I’m pleased to say that for the most part Marc Webb’s take on the iconic hero is the film I have wanted to see since I first read the comics as a kid. What makes this film work for me, where Raimi’s were so flat and off, is in the casting. They aren’t always faithful to the source material (Sally Field as Aunt May in particular) but they just work. Any fears that Andrew Garfield was too old for the role vanished within the first few minutes. He just gets the character whether it is as the slightly awkward but intelligent Parker or the cocky and wisecracking Spider-Man. Ever since his breakout role in Boy A it was clear Garfield was a talented actor but it is good to see he also has comic timing too. Even down to the way he positions his body when dressed as Spider-Man looks right and you do really get a sense that he is invested in the character more than it being just a lucrative day job. Emma Stone also works incredibly well providing her Gwen Stacy with smarts and sass, and it is nice to see her fall for Parker first rather than the allure of Spider-Man. Seeing as they are a real life couple their natural chemistry and spark is very evident on screen and it is in stark contrast to the flat and stilted pairing of Maguire and Dunst.
Despite the film’s marketing focusing on the promise of an untold story it appears much of this USP has been left on the cutting room floor. It is a shame as it was clearly the major differentiating factor and something that hopefully will be reinstated in a director’s cut at a later date. However, there are still enough hints of a new spin on the mythology which will play across all three films. Although a little on the long side I rather enjoyed the slower build-up to becoming Spider-Man. The film is full of nice little character moments, both comedic and dramatic, meaning that it never outstays its welcome. Both Field and Sheen are great in their respective roles and feel more rounded as characters than their usual depiction (which is normally just a way to provide a moral soundbite whenever Peter needs one).
The web-slinging and wall-crawling is a considerable improvement over Raimi’s weightless CGI. Attempting to do as much practical stunt work as possible was a wise move as it provides a greater sense of peril and skill and with stunt legend, Vic Armstrong, on second unit directorial duties you are guaranteed the action looks fantastic. The fleeting use of POV shots also works very well in providing a sense of momentum and vertiginous height.
Although the film gets the fundamentals right it is still not perfect. As with many villains used in an origin story, The Lizard is given short shrift. Although Ifans does a decent enough job with the role he really isn’t used to his full potential. The design of the monster is also a little weak (even if it does reference Ditko’s original designs) and the effects can be a little inconsistent at times. Perhaps the biggest complaint though is in the lacklustre final act. Ignoring the hideous crane scene (it seems no Spider-Man film is immune from a stomach turning ‘Spirit of New York’ sequence) the climax just lacks the drama and scale it needs. It’s not a bad finale by any means but as a film it seemed to work best during the smaller moments rather than when delivering the big blockbuster payoff.
Still, it gets a lot more right than it got wrong with its excellent core cast, great stunt work and a solid direction. Which all bodes well for a sequel if it wasn’t for the fact shit-peddlers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were already signed on to write it. Oh well, at least the first film was good.