The term ‘Reboot’ is one that comes with a certain cynical weight attached to it for anyone with any hint of enthusiasm for cinema. It epitomises the fear of Hollywood’s lack of creativity, the unwillingness to take risks and the usual rehash of the ‘sure thing’ (something that John Carter proves, doesn’t exist, making a $200 million loss for Disney). In fact, you would be forgiven for thinking that a reboot of Spider-Man just 5 years after Tobey Maguire donned the red and blue spandex for the last (and frankly most excruciatingly forgettable) time is just another cash cow for the Hollywood machine. Well, you’d actually be completely right, but that’s not to say that this is a bad film. By all means, it’s probable success will come from the fact that this is pure popcorn pleasure.
This is first and foremost an origin story, so we get all the usual major plot points: a science lab, a spider bite, uncle Ben’s death, and a scraping of the bottom of the word barrel for a new way to say “with great power comes great responsibility”. But The Amazing Spider-Man introduces Peter’s parents into the mix with a story I hope they continue in the (inevitable) subsequent films as it introduces an extra dimension to the character that wasn’t seen the last time around, one that plays nicely alongside the themes of responsibility.
But with the origin story alongside the mandatory battle with a villain, the introduction of the love interest and the legal ramifications of becoming a masked vigilante, there is quite a lot to cram into the 2 hours and 10 minute running time and a leaves a couple of narrative loose ends that just dissolve into nothing, making it feel a little incomplete. Add to that the obligatory saving of a child, some stock characters (otherwise known as obvious plot devices) that come to Spidey’s aid for the final battle and a cringe inducing skateboarding (yes, skateboarding!) montage and you have a film that has the perfect formula for a bland box office success with no real worth behind it.
But The Amazing Spider-Man does what all good blockbusters do - manages to make you forget about the plot holes and the inherent cheese that comes with all Marvel characters. This is largely due to some fantastic central performances: Andrew Garfield lends his British awkwardness and sarcastic wit to create a Peter Parker that embodies Spiderman’s central allegory of the transformation from boyhood to manhood that makes him instantly relatable (there’s a scene on the subway that ONLY a British person’s awkwardness could pull off), Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is a little sharper than the usual damsel in distress and Rhys Ifans gives Dr. Connors that slightly mad streak that transforms him into The Lizard.
Where it’s not going to reach the blockbuster heights of The Avengers (to the tune of $1.37 billion), nor will it gain the credible applause that The Dark Knight Rises will, The Amazing Spider-Man is on the whole, a very enjoyable and solid blockbuster that stands out above the average schtick by balancing good characters, enjoyable (but not mind blowing) action, comedy, romance and all of Spiderman’s core themes. Where Sam Raimi’s 2002 incarnation realised Spidey for all his geeky campness, Marc Webb’s (seriously, that’s his name) version finds an emotional core of the character that adds an air of believability to him despite the fact he’s a cross genetic mutation. And isn’t that suspension of disbelief what cinema is about in the first place?