In the 1990s there was a story about a 30-year-old man who was discovered pretending to be a secondary school pupil. This ruse apparently lasted for months but didn’t seem to involve anything beyond a slightly strange person mimicking a teenager. Regardless, this tale creeped me right out, and the fact that his motivations remained clouded only served to further accentuate the unease.  If, like me, this story reminds you of Tobey Maguire’s performance in the Spider-Man films then chances are you’re going to be fine with The Amazing Spider-Man.

If, however, you’re wondering what I’m gabbling about then The Amazing Spider-Man’s flaws are going to bug you throughout the film. You’re going to be fascinated by Andrew Garfield’s elongated neck, scoff at the way he manages to cram his enormous hair into his mask and wonder why they bothered to remake a film about the world’s most famous wall crawler when even goldfish are still miffed about Spider-Man 3.

It’s hard not to stack the new iteration of Spider-Man against Sam Raimi’s versions, since he’s arguably the most recognisable comic character, and his origin is essentially the definitive telling of the superhero creation myth. But the weaknesses in The Amazing Spider-Man don’t really come from the re-tooled origin. In some ways they actually improve on what’s gone before: the characters seem more natural and convincing, which makes Uncle Ben’s demise that much more poignant. Sally Field’s Aunt May also becomes more than just a grey-tinged Magic 8-Ball, spouting proverbs at opportune moments to keep the story going.

No. The greatest weaknesses come from their conscious attempts at separating both versions of the character. In the new Spider-Man they insert some mysterious nonsense about his dad’s nefarious science experiments being the reason for his demise. It’s essentially the JJ Abrams patented ‘Mystery Box’ technique of hooking the audience by slowly leaking information as to what the aforementioned mysterious container holds. But in this case they open with the box, then sort of leave it in the background, before using it as a litter tray in the mid-end credits scene.

The Amazing Spider-Man is successful enough in its re-telling to make you want to see the sequel without having to resort to cack-handed attempts at mystery – especially the baffling scene in the end credits, which defies logical explanation and just seems to say “Hey, it’s one of those end scenes that teases a sequel. You like those in your superhero films, right?” When obviously the sole reason for The Amazing Spider-Man’s existence is to create sequels, despite the marketing telling you that it’s an untold telling of the character, and one that the Sony corporation have been anxiously waiting to shit out ever since the ‘cry-off’ that ended Spider-Man 3.

Despite these minor issues I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the new version: Denis Leary has a decent stab at a proto Jonah Jameson, presumably to draw distance between Raimi’s films before the character returns in the sequel. Andrew Garfield too seems more at ease with the character of Peter Parker, portraying his endearing nerdist tendencies without also suggesting that he might like to saw your cat’s head off. Though he does skateboard to Coldplay, so the choice is yours as to which of these two evils is lesser. Also, the main relationship between Parker and Gwen Stacy has a convincing lightness of touch that doesn’t have you grabbing your armrests and wishing he’d dress up in red and blue spandex and start shooting his webbing already.

The fight scenes are good; the 3D is inoffensive; the villain manages to be a both typically tragic and totally dickish without over-playing each scaly/missing hand. There are a few other flaws* and The Amazing Spider-Man may not reach the heady heights that convince you it needs to exist, but I had a really good time with it, and that’s enough for me.

*If I was a blue-collar Batman fan in New York City I’d be a little peeved about my occupation’s portrayal as Spider-Man’s de facto defenders.


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