There’s nothing inherently wrong with The Amazing Spider-Man, but in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it’s déjà vu all over again. By retelling the origin story of Peter Parker so soon after Sam Raimi’s 2002 smash hit, starring Tobey Maguire, the new filmmaking team, led by director Marc Webb, not only invites direct comparison with the earlier picture and its sequels but makes it impossible to avoid.
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are perfectly adequate, but the film doesn’t give them the same opportunities that Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst had to forge a heartfelt relationship as star-crossed sweethearts. Stone’s role is particularly colorless, and thankless. The ingredients for a richer dynamic seem to be there: she’s the daughter of police captain Denis Leary, who has no use for Spider-Man, and happens to work for mad scientist Rhys Ifans. The possibilities this unique setup presents are barely explored.
Martin Sheen gets the “most valuable player” award for bringing heart, and depth, to his performance as Uncle Ben, but Sally Field as Aunt May has little to do but wring her hands, and she’s made to look haggard and unkempt (unlike Rosemary Harris in the last three films). What a waste of talent.
Even that wonderful actor Rhys Ifans—whose character of Dr. Curt Connors echoes the story arc of Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2—doesn’t get to let loose until he morphs into a giant lizard. Spidey’s battle with that rampaging beast is the action highlight of the picture—and may be enough to satisfy some fans.
But Spider-Man’s first attempts to leap through the canyons of New York City had more pizzazz in the first Raimi film, and better visualization in the second. Peter Parker’s transformation is told in shorthand this time around.
The new screenplay has an impressive pedigree: it’s credited to James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Oscar-winning writer Alvin Sargent, who worked wonders in Spider-Man 2, and Steve Kloves, who wrote all but one of the Harry Potter adaptations. (Story credit goes solely to Vanderbilt). One would think that this combination of high-powered talent would have yielded a film with far more emotional depth and resonance.
If, in spite of all this, the movie makes a fortune, it will be a tribute to corporate greed and lack of respect for the audience. That will be another nail in the coffin of originality in modern-day mainstream Hollywood.