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The Amazing Spider-Man (12A)
Review rating ***
Does anyone still care about Spider-Man? It’s the question that first came to my mind when I saw the trailer for Columbia Pictures’ latest reboot; ostensibly the fourth film in a series memorably begun by Sam Raimi, but in fact a sort of remake-cum-reinvention of the comic book’s beginnings. I was concerned that my experience of the film would be coloured by a pervasive sense of déjà vu, but I’m pleased to say that despite retreading some familiar territory, The Amazing Spider-Man works as an entertaining drama in its own right.
The shrewdest move made by director Marc “I-dare-you-to-pun-on-my-surname” Webb is to distance his story from Sam Raimi’s excellent effort. In so doing, Webb jettisons the (frankly rather soppy) Mary Jane Watson as Peter Parker’s love interest, replacing her with the far more engaging and gutsy Gwen Stacy (admirably played by Emma Stone). There are also some interesting alterations to the mechanics of Spiderman’s superpowers; Parker retains an innate ability to climb up walls, and catch bits of crockery in the nick of time, but the eponymous “web-slinging” is now done technologically. We lose the tittersome puberty allegory, but we gain a better sense of Parker’s physical limitations.
The film’s second saving grace is Andrew Garfield’s performance in the lead role. I’ve been a great admirer of Garfield’s for some time (his performance in Channel Four’s Red Riding numbering among the best things I’ve seen on television in recent years), and he brings his characteristically effortless charm to this latest part. The most pleasing aspect of the depiction is his character’s social and physical awkwardness; in contract to Toby Maguire’s relative self-confidence, Garfield is every inch the embarrassed teenager. I especially enjoyed one of the films early scenes in which Garfield, having just acquired superpowers, decimates the unfriendly passengers on a New York subway train, constantly apologising as he elegantly knocks them for six.
Nonetheless, the film isn’t without flaws. It’s much too long, and although some scenes are very well written, there remains some patchiness in the script. The Amazing Spider-Man is also one of the worst examples I’ve seen recently of ‘selective’ 3D. The film is billed as a 3D picture, but only a few dozen scenes actively use the technology. For the majority of the film, the 3D is utterly irrelevant, and I started taking my glasses off during non-action and dialogue scenes. The film clearly had a number of action sequences designed with 3D in mind, but for the rest of the running time the glasses just make the picture darker, and the experience less enjoyable.
Still, in spite of these faults, The Amazing Spider-Man far exceeded my expectations, with a strong lead performance and some interesting changes to the original format.
Recommended.



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