The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t so amazing, actually, and is a reboot of a remake, or a remake of a reboot, or a remake rebooted, and remade, rebootingly. It’s hard to keep up with these franchises when they swish back and forth all the time, determined to squeeze every last penny out of cinemagoers who should have more sense, yet don’t seem to mind sitting though the same film over and over.
This has an excellent cast: Andrew Garfield, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Emma Stone. It is 3D. The CGI is state-of-the art. And, fair play, it does try to inject meaningful emotion. But it’s a superhero movie and sticks to the basic recipe: tries to be serious, a few comic asides, and then gets down to the business of thwacking set piece after thwacking set piece as good battles evil until only one prevails, and it’s never evil. Honestly, even my own ennui had ennui, which would have been fine, except they kind of felt they’d met before, and just yawned at each other.
Directed by Marc Webb (yes, yes; get over it) this is an ‘origin’ story, although not the first origin story, as that was made by Sam Raimi ten years ago. So this is a remake of a reboot of an origin story? I don’t know. You tell me. Anyway, Garfield is Peter Parker, whose parents mysteriously died in a plane crash when he was little, and who now lives with his nice Auntie May (Field) and his Uncle Ben (Sheen), who may have invented that boil-in-the-bag rice which is so handy. We’re never told.
Auntie May and Uncle Ben keep looking worried and keep saying, ‘We know we’re not your parents, Peter...’ which seems a bit of a waste of Field and Sheen, but there you have it. Peter is an awkward, troubled teenager, bullied at school but with an eye for photography, science and his cute classmate, Gwen (Emma Stone). Then, in Auntie May’s and Uncle Ben’s cellar, he finds his father’s old briefcase. His father was a scientist and arachnid expert who worked for a big corporation, OsCorp, and seems to have died just as he made a breakthrough with some algorithm to do with cross-species genetics. So nosy-Parker goes nosy-Parkering around the OsCorp labs, where he encounters the one-armed geneticist Dr Connors (Rhys Ifans) — who is experimenting with lizard DNA to see if he can regenerate his limb — and is, yes, nipped by a spider rather than, say, a clothes’ moth. Clothes Moth Man? Quit fooling.
It’s fun when Peter discovers his new-found powers, and plays with them — particularly in one basketball scene — and shoots webs from his web-shooter and gives the bullies a taste of their own medicine, which is always satisfying. And Garfield is, probably, as good as you can be within the limits of material like this, with its wearisome script. He is both boyish and manly, has awesome bed hair, and his romance with Gwen is rather sweet and lovely. The film, which asks what all these ‘origin’ stories ask — who am I? — fills him in as rather a lost little fella with a huge father-shaped hole in his life, although why his mother doesn’t count, I don’t know. I bet she did most of the cooking and all the laundry.
Meanwhile, Dr Connors, our baddie, who will eventually drink a potion that turns him into a nasty big green lizard (honestly), is given his own pain and suffering, but it’s all rather rudimentary, and then the film gets down to what it wanted to get down to all along: thwacking set pieces as Spidey flies and bungee jumps against a Manhattan backdrop, although at least, in this instance, there is no bridge scene where traffic jams and then cars begin to fall off. Only kidding. Of course there is.
The thing is, you can reboot and remake all you like but you can never stray too far from the basic superhero film recipe, so this is same-old, same-old, as not enhanced by the 3D, which is as tiresome as it is tiring. It’s a McDonald’s movie, for those who like to know what they will be getting, which is fair enough, but as one of my ennuis also said to the other, ‘Go away. You bored me the first time.’