Review: The Amazingly Predictable Spider-Man
Just how amazing is “The Amazing Spider-Man”?
Sorry to say, not so much.
Sure, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are certainly attractive, engaging actors. He has deep brown melting pools for eyes, a winning grin and a talent for capturing adolescent angst and confusion. As Gwen Stacy, Stone projects a cool but a little loopy self-confidence and innate smartness, and she has a nice, playful chemistry with Garfield’s Peter Parker.
True, too, some of the special effects are incredible, especially in 3-D. When Peter first tests his newly enhanced physical skills, we sense his tentative experimentation and then growing excitement about what he can do. When he first casts himself off a building, we experience all the vertiginous stomach-churning anyone would want. And then when Spider-Man swings through the canyons of New York’s skyscrapers, we are awed by the spectacle.
But somehow that’s just not enough.
The story feels tired and formulaic. Peter is left to grow up with his aunt and uncle after his scientist father and mother are forced to flee, but the central mystery of what happened to them is never resolved -- apparently one must wait for a sequel for that. Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) offers Peter platitudes about responsibility and maturity while Aunt May (Sally Field) looks worried and harried.
Even the moment when Peter is bitten by a spider at the evil Oscorp -- while visually stunning -- is strangely without dramatic tension or suspense.
And the conflict between the New York police chief (Denis Leary) and Spider-Man over whether the super hero is a vigilante or do-gooder feels forced and perfunctory.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment, though, is the villain. Rhys Ifans is fine as Curt Connors, Peter’s father’s colleague partner and an Oscorp scientist who of course wants to use genetic engineering to improve humanity. Oh, and while he’s at it, as an amputee, Connors also wants to regrow his lost arm. So, naturally, he decides to test a experimental compound on himself.
Well, nothing good can come of that, and before you know it, he’s turned into Lizard Man -- a ridiculous computer-generated dinosaur with a goofy, mean-Barney face.
There’s nothing about this monster that is truly terrifying like the nihilistic Joker that Heath Ledger created for the last Batman film. Lizard Man presents no threats or challenges to Peter’s evolving sense of himself or his developing moral code. He’s just a laughable Godzilla that Peter will vanquish on the top of a tall Manhattan skyscraper (that’s not the Empire State Building).
Without compelling characters and plot, "The Amazing Spider-Man" winds up weaving a rather flimsy web.