The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Amazing Spider-Man</strong> (2012)

(On Cable TV, March 2013) Here is the key to this film’s seemingly-pointless existence: A long time ago, before it took ownership of its characters’ movies rights (a process that eventually led to The Avengers), Marvel sold the rights to the Spider-Man character to Fox studios, with a clause saying that movies about the character had to be produced every few years, otherwise the rights would revert to Marvel.  Combine that with the fact that the original cast members of the Spider-Man trilogy have all gone out of contract and into a much higher income profile and you get a perfect excuse for a reboot, whether you like the idea or not.  Ten years is a long time when it comes to the teenage audiences at which the Spider-Man films are aimed.  So it is that The Amazing Spider-Man is nearly a plot-beat-per-plot-beat rethread of 2002’s Spider-Man.  You’d think that modern audiences, familiarized with superheroes through fifteen years’ worth of such films, could be spared another origins story… but no.  Still, a reboot may be a disappointment, but it’s not necessarily a substantial knock against the finished film: it’s all about the execution, and a deft take on familiar ideas can outshine plodding originality most of the time.  Sadly, the biggest problem with The Amazing Spider-Man is that it can’t be trusted to present a satisfying version of the Spider-Man mythology.  It doesn’t do much with the expected elements of the Spider-Man origins story, and by strongly suggesting that non-nerdy Peter Parker is meant to become Spider-Man, it seriously undermines one of the charms of the everyman character.  This, added to evidence of late tampering with the script (as in: the trailers show more than what’s in the finished film) and the obvious non-resolution of enough plot-lines to point the way to a film trilogy, make The Amazing Spider-Man such a disappointing experience.  Oh, it’s not as if the film is worthless: The two lead actors are better than the previous trilogy’s lead actors even when they’re not given equally-good material (poor Emma Stone doesn’t have much to do than show off her knees), director Marc Webb has a good eye and the wall-to-wall special effects show how much the industry has improved in ten years.  This Spider-Man has better quips (one of the characteristics that establish him as a distinct alter-ego from Peter Parker), Rhys Ifans is intriguing as the mad-scientist villain and the film is slickly-made.  Still, from a storytelling standpoint, it seems as if all the worst choices were made in the service of a mechanically-conceived piece of pop-culture merchandizing.  It’s entertaining enough, but it could have been so much better…

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