Release date (UK): November 26th, 2012
Certificate (UK): 12
Running time: 136 minutes
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, James Vanderbilt
Composer: James Horner
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, Dennis Leary
Soundtrack review: coming soon
What do the following things all have in common? A child who’s lost in a supermarket, an elderly woman who’s struggling with her bags, and a young man being robbed on the street? Three seemingly unrelated events, but they’re all tied to one thing – our moral responsibility to help others when we see they’re in trouble – but we seldom do this. More often than not we keep our heads down, pretending not to notice because it’s not our job, it’s someone else’s. Yet help rarely comes when we need it the most and this is something that becomes apparent when we’re the ones suddenly in trouble.
Unlike many of the superheroes we’ve seen on screen in the past decades, Spider Man isn’t one bound by just his desire to protect a planet like Super Man, or stirred to vigilante justice in the way Batman is. Instead he dons his crime-fighting outfit out of his need to put right something he neglected to do in the first place, which resulted in a tragedy he feels responsible for. In short, Peter Parker’s disregard toward his moral responsibilities is part of what gives birth to his alter-ego.
In this latest re-imaging, Andrew Garfield takes on the role of teenage Peter. He’s still the photography enthusiast; he continues to stay of the way of bullies like Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) who likes to pick on smaller guys, and he’s still madly crushing on the prettiest girl in his class – this time round it’s Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
Despite being much easier to relate to, there’s also a seriousness to him we haven’t before. Peter’s very much haunted by being abandoned by both of his parents, even though he’s cared very well for by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). When he finds an old leather satchel that belonged to his father containing some secret files, he becomes curious to find out once and for all why they left. It leads him to OsCorp Industries, where research on cross-species genetic engineering is being carried out by Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Connors once worked with Peter’s father and now hopes to create a regeneration serum using lizard DNA to re-grow the arm which he lost.
It’s on his first day there that Peter gets bitten by one of these genetically engineered spiders, and it’s a scene that truly made my skin crawl. Entering where he’s not supposed to be, Peter comes across a giant rotating machine where hundreds, if not thousands, of blue glowing fluorescent spider are at work spinning their webs. Something goes wrong and the machine stops, at which point the spiders start to fall everywhere, with a few of them landing on him, leaving one to deliver that fateful bite once he’s outside.
Meanwhile, Connor’s boss, Dr. Rajit Ratha (Irrfan Khan), is keen to start human trials on the serum that’s so far only been tested on mice. Although worried that it might not be ready, Connor goes ahead and tests it on himself. Once injected, his arm starts to re-grow, but his DNA struggles against the lizard’s, resulting in his eventual transformation to a 9-foot tall creature that rampages through the city.
Although so far Peter has only been keen to catch the perpetrator of a crime which has affected his family, he steps up to the challenge of battling the Lizard, not because he’s a suitable opponent to match his new-found physical strength, or because he’ll impress the girl, but because he comes to recognise what his moral responsibilities are. This, after all, is how real heroes are made.
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are well cast as Peter and Gwen and their time on screen together add much warmth to the film, as well as the scenes with Martin Sheen and Sally Field. When we see Peter exploring the benefits that come with his spider bite, the effects do really stand out, showing how far CGI has come since Sam Raimi’s Spider Man (2002).
The scene toward the climax where he’s helped by cranes to reach OsCorp Industries is very impressive and James Horner’s score ups the ante, delivering both a dramatic and exciting flair. However, my personal favourite is where Peter uses his artificial web to catch and spin Gwen back toward him as she’s walking away, revealing he’s the man her policeman father, George Stacy (Denis Leary) is keen to catch. It’s both beautifully acted and interrupted by her mother.
The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t without its flaws though. There are moments when the pacing seems a little bit off and narrative makes jumps without filling us in on what’s supposed to have taken place. This happens with Connor who isn’t really given a back story to help us understand what kind of person he is, and also Dr. Rajit Ratha who enters the story, acting as the catalyst for Connor’s transformation, and then leaves.
Despite what I see as oversights in the film’s narrative, The Amazing Spider-Man is an exciting adventure that spins together a great cast and amazing special effects. It doesn’t repeat too much of what we’ve seen before, but adds enough of its own to make it distinguishable and memorable. It’ll be interesting to see where the story and its characters lead us to next, and from what’s hinted at in the post-credits sequence, some of the questions I was left with might be answered in a follow-up.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .