Three years ago, Marc Webb directed every hipster’s favorite love story, (500) Days of Summer, for around $7.5 million. So, give him around $213 million more to direct another movie, and there’s no way he messes up, right? Well, in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man, right.
Originally, Sam Raimi, the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, was briefly developing a fourth iteration of the series. Shortly after these plans fell through, however, Sony got started on a complete reboot of the series, fresh with a revamped script and lead actor Andrew Garfield (character named Eduardo in Social Network).
In the process, screenwriter James Vanderbilt takes Stan Lee’s original comic and downright mutilates it, combining different characters from entirely different segments of the series while concurrently altering some classic scenes, which the original movie portrayed correctly. The funny thing is that these alterations simply do not matter, because Webb is able to fuse these changes into a well-flowing plot.
Perhaps the greatest example of that ingenuity is an increased emphasis on Peter Parker’s backstory. In a manner akin to Batman Begins, the film opens with Parker as a young boy with his parents. We all know the rest – he grows up to be a lovable nerd living with his aunt and uncle before using his smarts to harness his web-slinging abilities. That introductory sequence with his parents plays a pivotal role in his high school days, when he becomes Spider-Man.
The film humanizes Parker in a manner that Raimi’s films never parallel, with Garfield portraying all of the timidity, defiance, and heroism that Lee intended in the comics. Of course, this would not be complete without a proper love story, one far more complete than the Mary Jane plotline. Gwen Stacey, portrayed by Emma Stone, is on Parker’s intelligence level and falls for him for just that. With the fresh approach, Webb makes the evolution from troubled teenager to burdened superhero far less polarizing – the protagonist relies on others for help far more in the reboot.
Of course, the majority of that help comes with the assistance Spider-Man receives when dealing with his latest villain in Dr. Curtis Connors. Rhys Ifans plays an innocent, but brilliant professor for Oscorp (yes, that of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin). Raimi’s original intention was to introduce the Godzilla-like villain that Connors becomes (known simply as the Lizard) in Spider-Man 4, so this holdover in the new series makes sense. Initiating the new series with the Lizard allows for a smoother storyline, as Connors’ former relationship with Parker’s late father comes to the forefront.
For those of you have yet to see Spidey in action, definitely go out and do so. But save your money on the IMAX 3D experience and buy yourself something nice –it’s simply not worth it with a severe lack of special effects. For those of you that have, did you really line up for the midnight premiere? I wouldn’t blame you, this film on its own will not determine the success of Webb’s reboot. Instead, it will be judged by how well it sets up its succeeding films. We will reserve judgment on the reboot as a whole for now – but at the very least, Garfield and company have competently constructed a foundation for a new series.