Superhero reboot is entertaining but less than ‘Amazing’
PETER Parker’s cinematic tale has been told thrice in the past decade. Does it need to be retold this soon? Not really. In fact, the superhero franchise’s entertaining reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man”—with Andrew Garfield in Spidey’s tight red-and-blue spandex—makes it look like Hollywood has run out of fresh ideas and is merely rehashing tired-but-box-office-tested stories to make a quick buck.
Director Marc Webb’s noirish adaptation struggles to give the franchise a different tone and a fresh identity by way of an inventive spin—and a darker perspective—on the webslinger’s back story. But, it’s hard not to notice the forced parallelism between Peter’s “untold” tale and Bruce Wayne’s dark past. Moreover, if you go by how superheroes are “created” on celluloid these days, you’d think that most of them are inadvertently pushed into their crime-busting chores by their distant, secretive fathers!
This time, Spider-Man (Garfield) isn’t the “friendly neighborhood webslinger” many fanboys grew up idolizing, but a brooding teenager with parental-abandonment issues. Before they “vanish into thin air,” young Peter’s parents leave him in the care of his loving Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). His self-esteem suffers even more at school, where he is bullied by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka). Worse, he gets tongue-tied every time pretty Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) pays him some attention.
When Parker stumbles onto mysterious documents that partly explain his parents’ puzzling flight, the nerdy shutterbug pursues clues that lead him to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who’s on the verge of a scientific breakthrough that could “enhance” the human species on a revolutionary—and evolutionary—scale, through cross-species genetics.
Then, just as he uncovers the scientist’s dark plans, a freak laboratory accident turns the 19-year-old protagonist into Spider-Man, who’s got his work cut out for him when The Lizard begins wreaking havoc in Manhattan!
Webb uses ingenious innovations to tell the oft-repeated details of Peter’s date with his superhero destiny—from the moment he finds out about his enhanced strength and wall-crawling skills to the time he discovers his sensitive spider-sense. Technology and the wonders of cinema work their magic further as the web-slinging teenager gets a handle on his emerging powers at school and when he begins chasing after New York’s baddies.
The first half of Webb’s visual spectacle is a riveting and moving introduction to Spidey’s metahuman mythology. But, the thrill of its swinging action sequences is diluted by the production’s protracted running time, which slows down when the run-up to its slam-bang finale should be accelerating.
Stone finds the right balance between playing the tortured superhero’s romantic paramour and an independent young woman with a mind of her own. She displays her maturing dramatic chops when the distraught Gwen asks Peter where he was when she needed him the most.
The likable Garfield captures the brooding sensibility with which his Peter Parker is written—but, he sometimes plays the role too seriously, and forgets that one of the inherent traits that has endeared Spider-Man to his avid fans and followers is—his sense of humor!
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