The Webb master respins Spider-Man

This isn't a sequel, it’s a remake! Of a film that was only released in 2002. And director Marc Webb didn’t do himself any favours branding this film ‘amazing’. Talk about setting yourself up for a fall! But in true Spidey style, the elasticated webs are as dependably strong as ever, springing the aptly-named Webb into the Hollywood mainstream with a reinvention every bit as good as Christopher Nolan’s Batman 2.0.

The Amazing Spider-Man was originally intended as the fourth instalment of the Spider-Man series, with original director Sam Raimi still in charge. But when he bailed, Webb –  the director of the brilliant 500 Days of Summer, who even looks a bit like Nolan – decided to take us back to the 2002 original.

The basic storyline is the same: geeky nerd at school develops powers, fights crime and wins over high-school crush, before a showdown with the villain. And, unlike Batman Begins, there is the same degree of humour with Parker (Garfield) trying to deal with his newly-discovered powers after being bitten by a spider. It’s also better thought out: for example, Peter creates his own artificial webs instead of just being able to spout them out like in the original.

The beginning of the movie introduces Peter’s parents, so unlike in the other movies, you are given an insight into his childhood, and it adds more mystery to their death. Being raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field), Peter grows up trying to find out what happened to his parents, and in doing so we meet the villain of the story, Dr Curt Connors (Ifans), his father’s former work colleague. He turns into the Green Lizard (instead of the Green Goblin), an ultimately scarier and more effective adversary.

Peter is a shy, mumbling skateboarding teen, while quirky Gwen Stacy (Stone) replaces the modest girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson. They are cooler – here’s a Spider-Man the girls will actually want to sleep with – and have a much more believable chemistry.

Garfield, already a household name in his home country Britain thanks to standout turns in Boy A and the first of the Red Riding trilogy, underlined his potential with his understated Oscar-nominated role in The Social Network, and this film will launch his career into the stratosphere. He brings heart-felt emotion to all his work, delivering a superhero depiction that many will relate to. Not sure if that would have been a good thing with Batman, but it works for Spider-Man – after all, he’s just a geek who can produce silly string, right?

Webb finds a perfect balance of action and emotion. The frenetic set-pieces will please the comic book purists –  the 3D element particularly enhances the effectiveness of the graphics, especially when Spider-Man is swinging through New York City –  while the female audience will be moved by some surprisingly touching scenes, some of which are enough to make even the most cold-hearted person shed a tear.

The only criticism would be that the end showdown is a bit disappointing. It didn’t seem right for a superhero movie and was incredibly clichéd. Still, the final seconds did yield a tense cliffhanger, which will keep the fans looking forward to the sequel.

Considering it was a remake, Webb has done a good job making it unique, without drifting away from the basic story. Did we need another Spider-Man? Perhaps not, bearing in mind it was only ten years ago that the original one was made. However, Webb has successfully refreshed the original movie, with just the right amount of action, emotion and humour to entertain the masses. Batman had better watch his back.

The Amazing Spider-Man (11)

Dir: Marc Webb; US action, 2012, 136 mins; Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Dennis Leary,
Martin Sheen, Sally Field
Premiered July 3
Playing nationwide