© 2012 Ray Wong
Just 10 short years from the original Spider-Man movie starring Tobey MacGuire and Kirsten Dunst, do we really need a reboot? That's the question many people are asking, but they will also most likely be going to see this new "origin" movie starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
We all know the story well… Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an "orphaned" teenager living with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). He's a shy but bright kid that is often bullied in school. He has a crush on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), daughter of police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary). Most often, Peter is just trying to survive high school while trying to figure out what happened his parents, who one day just disappeared.
Then Peter comes across a briefcase left behind by his father Richard (Campbell Scott) that contains a secret "zero degeneration" algorithm on cross-species gene therapy. Peter visits his father's former partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who insists that he doesn't know what happened to Peter's parents. Meanwhile, while snooping around, Peter is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. Suddenly he gains special powers.
Even as Peter gains new strengths and abilities, and his relationship with Gwen is advancing, he still can't get his mind off the fate of his parents. His erratic behavior helps cause the death of Uncle Ben, and Peter's guilt makes him realize he needs to use his power to help others. Meanwhile, Dr. Connors uses Richard Parker's algorithm to successfully create a serum, and he uses himself as the subject of a human trial. He is both frightened and excited to realize the result as he turns into The Lizard…
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) holds his own against his predecessor as the iconic Peter Park/Spider-Man. He is different from Tobey MacGuire in that his Peter Parker is more angsty and motivated, and his Spider-Man is more giddy. He also gives his character enough depth. As Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone (The Help) is effervescent, intelligent, and strong-willed. However, Ms. Stone falls a little short in making this character really shine. Unlike Dunst's MJ in the original series, Stone seems to be in Peter Parker's shadow most of the time. She deserves better.
Rhys Ifans (Anonymous) is excellent as Dr. Connors/The Lizard. As the good doctor, Ifans is gentle and sharp, but he has enough of a shady side to make us believe he can be the bad guy. Denis Leary (Ice Age) is dutiful as Captain Stacy. While he's somewhat one-note as the Captain, he shows a soft side when he's playing father to Gwen. Martin Sheen (Imagine That) and Sally Field (Say It Isn't So) are both excellent as Uncle Ben and Aunt May respectively. That's no surprise.
While the all-star cast is good, the problem with the movie lies with the writing. The screenplay by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Alvin Sargent (Spider-Man 2) and Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys) is pretty much a regurgitation of the original. It's a surprise considering they are all talented writers, and Sargent actually wrote Spider-Man 2 and 3. The familiar plot feels rushed (in comparison, the original movie took its time). While trying to distinguish this from the original, the writers make some changes to the characters and circumstances, but the result seems like a hack job and is not convincing. The circumstances leading to Uncle Ben's death, for example, is rather dumb, to be honest.
The problem with doing a reboot, especially in such a short time, is that the original is still rather fresh in our minds. Comparison is inevitable. Fair or not, by comparison this movie pales. As I said, the plot seems rushed, and the circumstances are contrived. What the writers did well, however, is that they have succeeded in developing the key relationships: between Peter and his uncle and aunt, between Peter and Gwen, between Peter and Dr. Connors, and between Gwen and Captain Stacy.
But nothing is new here -- nothing we haven't really seen before, and unfortunately director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) also didn't bring anything new to this production. It's a shame because I love (500) Days of Summer. Perhaps this movie is simply too big as Webb's second feature. He's not seasoned enough to handle a big blockbuster, yet. Don't get me wrong, the movie has all the elements and special effects, etc. and it is quite entertaining. It's just that there's nothing new and fresh here, and one keeps asking the question, "Why a reboot?" without getting a clear answer except "because they can milk more money out of this."
That's a shame, and I am sure that's exactly what Marvel and Sony are planning to do. But I am not impressed. This is far short of being amazing.
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Campbell Scott
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
Running Time: 136 minutes
Script - 6
Performance - 7
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 8
Production - 8
Total - 7.1 out of 10.0