(8) THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans. Directed by Marc Webb. (Walmer Park, Boardwalk, Bridge):
Reviewed by Robbie Collin
FIVE years in Hollywood is an age at the best of times. But if your studio is sitting on one of the most popular comic book franchises while lesser superheroes break box office records, it must feel like forever.
So for Spider-Man to register in today’s superhero-saturated market, he has to do something more than pull on a candy-wrapper costume, swing from the same skyscrapers and pander to the geeks in the cheap seats.
Fortunately, Sony and director Marc Webb have come up with a creditable, marketable alternative, and it owes more to the recent success of Twilight than anyone in a costume and cape.
Simply put, The Amazing Spider-Man is the first superhero movie aimed primarily at women. The new Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is no goofy teenage geek in the Tobey Maguire mould. He is a bright, introverted young man with a furrowed brow and a Tintin quiff. Garfield seems to be playing Parker as a half-gangly, half-graceful riff on Eduardo Saverin, his character from David Fincher’s Facebook chronicle, The Social Network.
Then there is his needle-sharp young girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who wants to get under Parker’s skin even more than that radioactive arachnid did and find out what it is that makes his Spidey senses tingle.
Stacy’s father is a police captain who is out to stop both Spider-Man and his arch-foe, the Lizard (Rhys Ifans), a scientist whose genes get spliced with reptilian DNA. For this costumed crime fighter, the girlfriend’s father is as much of a threat as the supervillain. In fact, if Webb’s film has a weak suit, it’s the supervillainy – Ifans’s character is underdeveloped and his putative tragic fall is more of a gloomy tumble.
Some comic book purists have also criticised the "unconvincing” special effects employed to bring Ifans’s scaly alter ego to life – although I cannot say I am entirely clear what a convincing rendering of a giant angry lizard in torn purple trousers and a lab coat might look like.
But that is not to say that The Amazing Spider-Man is short on blockbuster testosterone. Indeed, the film’s second half offers more than enough bungee- swinging through Manhattan’s concrete canyons, immaculately rendered in vertiginous, silky-smooth 3D, to satisfy thrill-seekers of either sex.
What is refreshing is the way Webb makes those action sequences count – with a plot that rests almost entirely on the plausibly tingly romance between his two leads.
This makes perfect sense: Webb’s last, and indeed first, film was the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, which was widely praised for the authenticity of its sentiment. The Amazing Spider-Man features plenty of that too, which gives this superhuman drama a human edge.
If anything, it is Spidey, not Stacy, who slots most comfortably into the love interest role: while Sam Raimi got fanboys drooling with Kirsten Dunst in a rain- soaked vest top, Webb’s leading lady remains clothed and dry.
Instead, the camera ogles Garfield, whose glutes are showcased quite magnificently in his skintight bodysuit.
Enough superhero films are produced for teenage boys who used to dress up in Spider-Man pyjamas. At last, here is one for a different audience, whose other halves may soon be dressing up in Spider-Man pyjamas for their benefit. – The Daily Telegraph