When bitten by a genetically modified spider, a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student gains spider-like abilities that he eventually must use to fight evil as a superhero after tragedy befalls his family.
Peter Parker (Garfield) is an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents' disappearance - leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father's former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors' alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero. Written by
With the success of the first X-Men movie in 2000, Bryan Singer pretty much paved the way for all the comic book movies we see today. That included a certain super hero movie made by Sami Rami in 2002 where a nerdy guy (Tobey Maguire) gets bitten by a radioactive spider and inherits superhuman powers. If Singer had paved the way, then Rami provided the icing on the cake: a faithful, smart, well-acted super hero flick that had as much heart and sincerity packed in as it had all those set pieces. It also lead to a superior sequel and the much maligned, though underrated, third episode.
Which brings us to what we have here: while not a beat for beat remake, you get the same story more or less with a different love interest and villain. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) sneaks into a research facility and gets bitten by a radioactive/genetically enhanced spider. He gets super powers and becomes Spider-Man. Meanwhile, a doctor (Rhys Ifans) working at the same facility, is being forced to close down his research into tissue regeneration. In desperation, he injects himself with an untested self-generating lizard vaccine and becomes a half man/half lizard thing. Spider-Man is then forced into action to stop him from spreading this contagion throughout the city of New York. Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is the damsel in distress/love interest and plays a role in trying to stop the crazed beast.
First things first: this is not a bad film. It's well acted by all the principals, has good effects, a scary and menacing villain, some nice action sequences and web swinging effects that are generally slightly more realistic than the Rami version. Parker is more evidently scientific and intelligent here. Also the police's notion that Spider-Man is a menace to the public is more clearly defined, especially in the scene where he disarms an officer. The new idea is that Parker can hear the movements of spiders and it's a good addition. So where does it all go wrong? The short answer: it's just that it's so pointless.
We had already seen the story before. There was absolutely no reason to tell it again. This movie could easily have been Spider-Man 4 with Andrew Garfield filling in the Spidey spandex instead of Tobey Maguire. But Marvel in their infinite wisdom just chose to tell the same story a second time. Going by that rationale, presumably Andrew Garfield will be cast aside like a disused sock when they inevitably choose to 'reboot' the franchise again in ten years or so. It is a scarily unimaginative tactic and it is one they will continue to do until there is a massive financial failure.
This movie follows the same set up as the 2002 version: Parker being picked on, getting advice from his sage-like uncle (Martin Sheen), being bitten, getting his powers/climbing walls, and turning his back on a situation which unfortunately has tragic consequences for a family member. It's all a case of been there, done that. If you want to compare it to the Rami original, then the short answer is; as good as Andrew Garfield is, Tobey Maguire was better. Maguire filled the suit better; on occasion, Garfield is prone to looking thin and scrawny during several scenes. Even the suit looked better in the Rami movies. And those earlier movies had a heart and sincerity especially in the relationship between Peter and his aunt and uncle that you don't see here. Again we ask: why does this movie exist?
And there are holes: there's a massive lizard running around, wreaking havoc; yet the police are more preoccupied with pointing their guns at Spider-Man despite the fact that he saved a child in a (surprise, surprise) rehashed scene set on a bridge taken from Rami's first movie. In another part, the citizens of the city (once again - in a bit taken from Rami's movie) unite to help Spider-Man cross the city using tower cranes despite the fact that there are buildings all around him. Heck, even the villain is initially a do-gooder like Norman Osborn and Dr. Octavius again from the Rami movies.
It also seems to pull inspiration from another super hero movie: Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) in that it's slightly darker, tells such a large origin story that just like Batman Begins, Spider-Man doesn't actually show up on screen for the first hour. So if you take two parts Batman Begins and add a touch of Rami's Spider-Man, the result is what you have here. Additionally, the introduction of the web shooters, while being faithful to the original comics and emphasizing Parker's intellect, is a bit of a mixed blessing. The notion of the web being an organic material rather than being fired from mechanical devices actually made more sense.
It's not that reboots are a bad idea, they're not. In certain situations they can work well, provided for example, enough time has elapsed. But there is no point in retelling the same story if the initial release is still relatively recent. In addition, it helps if the story wasn't covered well the first time, or it was a bad movie to begin with. Going by this criteria, Marvel's latest cash cow is unnecessary on all three accounts.
In closing, if you haven't already seen the Rami movie from 2002, go watch it instead. If you have seen it, then this probably won't live up to it and you will be left feeling a little underwhelmed. It's fair to say that for anyone over the age of eighteen, this movie will seem rather half-hearted and senseless; for those under eighteen, this movie will probably be the greatest super hero flick ever. Yes, it's a movie that will divide opinions, primarily on the sole reason for its existence. Not a bad, or a badly made flick, by any means just a pointless one.
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