Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man, dir. Marc Webb, wr. James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, st. Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field

"Why isn't it Spiderman?" asks Phoebe, pronouncing it "Spidermn". "You know, like Goldman, Silverman." "Because it... it's not his last name." replies Chandler. "It isn't?" "No. It's not like... like Phil Spiderman. He's a Spider-Man." This is ultimately the ace in the sleeve for Marc Webb's reboot of a franchise that began ten years ago with Sam Raimi's 2002 big-screen outing; there's a palpable sense of genuine fragile humanity running though the film. Frankly, it's what one would expect coming from screenwriter Vanderbilt, who wrote the intricate and weighty script for David Fincher's Zodiac, and actor Andrew Garfield who's gone from Film4 TV drama (Boy A) to arty independent (Never Let Me Go) to arty mainstream (The Social Network) to Summer blockbuster in four moves. The difference between his Peter Parker and Toby Maguire's rests squarely in Garfield's superior ability to sell a line, be it verbally, or wordlessly with furrowed brow or bite of lip. His take on the reluctant superhero has Parker as a mumbly, borderline Aspergered loner, far less eloquent than Maguire's nerdy-coolness. It's a perfect match for Stone's sparky charm (although I did wish her Gwen Stacey had a bit more to do) and we go a heck of a long time before any spandex is donned, the film taking its time to establish ties and build a rooted emotional foundation. So good is the build up, with rock-solid supporting performances by Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, that it's almost a shame when the CGI kicks in, although this too is thrilling enough in it's own way. My one gripe would be how easily Spider-Man is flung around through walls and stonework whilst retaining the most minimal and sexy of battle-scarring; it does make you feel that our hero's never in any risk of sustain any real damage. A shame, as great pains are taken in the film's first act to paint Parker as at least emotionally brittle. Whilst not carrying the same heavy portentousness as Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series, this version (and there will be others) does however imbue the Spider-Man story with just enough real-world cynicism as to slightly dull the comic book origins a shade, injecting a welcome dose of real drama into proceedings.