Ten years is clearly a long time in the movie business. The original Spiderman with Tobey Maguire on-board, debuted in 2002 and there followed two sequels, all box office successes.
With Maguire unwilling to continue the franchise, we now have a reboot clearly aimed at an audience who will view the origin story as fresh and original.
Andrew Garfield fills the Spidey suit and Emma Watson is his high-school sweetheart, Martin Sheen and Sally Field bag the Uncle and Auntie roles respectively.
The story must be known to most but in summary, camera wielding Peter Parker is the usual weakling school misfit, who has been left to be brought up by his Uncle and Aunt, following the mysterious disappearance of his mother and father.
Bitten by chance by a genetically modified spider, he develops webslinging and enhanced powers that ultimately he will come to use in the pursuit of bad guys, whilst dressed in a cool, Spiderman outfit. Essentially a coming of age story but writ large with superpowers and the intrinsic responsibilities that come in the same box.
Garfield is a serious actor and here demonstrates just that, handling the initial scenes well, helped of course by veteran actors who remember when acting was actually required in a film. Stone is a great counterpoint, all her usual screen perkiness is on display together with some rather neat sexy socks thrown in for good measure. Unlike some action films, her role gets some good screen time and takes a proactive part in the climactic scenes.
Bad Guy duties fall to Rhys Ifans as Dr Connor, this is hardly a spoiler as he is the obvious candidate and makes a good cold blooded killer, in every sense.
So far so good but this is almost a film of two halves or segments. Whenever there is character interaction and real acting involved, the film works very well. Directer Marc Webb (500 days of summer) knows how to use his actors and there are several touching scenes. Where the film occasionally falters is in the action sequences.
Like all modern blockbuster, action sequences are required and must continue to top the last film with ever more impossible fights and sights. This drives all modern films into the computer to generate the spectacle and increasingly as it becomes more fantastic, it becomes less real and dissipates any real tension or interest for the audience.
Interestingly a couple of scenes are filmed from a first person perspective, resembling a computer game which in some sequences, the film does imitate.
There are are some weak throwaway lines during the action which also jar, which is a shame as the film as a whole works well and these drag you away from caring about the characters. A sequence involving cranes only lacks an American flag to celebrate American “can do” attitude and will give foreign audiences a wry smile, subtle it is not.
Just like comparing tennis stars from different era’s, it is probably pointless making comparisons to previous versions and the film should be treated on it’s own merits and standalone it does. As all origin films must, the remaining story has to be wrapped up fast and this is no exception.
Dennis Leary gets a decent part and plays the character in his usual laconic way, Ifans does well with the limited time he is actually on the screen as himself.
Garfield is a worthy replacement, the requirement for an increasing amount of CGI is not his fault, he does well with the onscreen time he is given, he also gets to keep the mask off for extended periods. This film will clearly move him into the A list of “go to actors”
A mostly worthy and thoroughly modern reboot for the next generation. The film shines when real interaction and acting is allowed, becoming less interesting during each action sequence.
This equation will of course be inverted, the closer your age is to the target audience.