After Spider-Man 3 had it’s tepid response, Sony tried to cover it’s butt. They had Raimi developing a fourth Spider-Man film…and 500 Days of Summer Director Marc Webb (the humor there was not lost on anybody) was developing another Spider-Film. Sony decided to go with Marc Webb’s version and dumped the entire Raimi version. Webb promised this would not be a reboot, even though it would have an entirely new cast. In the end, we definitely got a reboot.
And the film has a focus that Raimi’s series never thought of. Peter is really upset about his parents disappearing. There is a big conspiracy based subplot where Richard Parker was actually involved with the experiments that result in Peter getting bit by the spider. And instead of the spider being some random research lab, Peter is bitten at Oscorp. On the other hand, it is nice to see this film not seeing how many villains that they can pack in. Instead, we are offered one new villain. And he was not featured in Raimi’s trilogy. He was set up, as Rhys Ifans is playing Doctor Curt Conners, who was played by Dylan Baker in the previous set of films. But we never met his alter-ego the lizard. And they make Peter part of his creation, because Everything Must Be Tied Together.
Really, there is plenty to like here. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have a wonderful chemistry. They were dating at the time, but that is never a guarantee of onscreen chemistry. Emma is great in the role of Gwen Stacy, while Denis Leary is her Police Chief father. Leary brings his working class everyman persona to the role and it is quite effective here. Sally Field and Martin Sheen make for a fine Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Andrew Garfield is likeable, and his Spider-Man is a wise cracker…but..Peter is excessively morose. He is constantly in a state of passive rage. And while there is comic book precedence for this in the early years, it feels out of place here.
Uncle Ben’s death seems…lacking. Peter storms out after an argument. Peter does not prevent a robbery at a convenience store, but it does not seem as effective as the comics version or Raimi’s first Spider-Man. Peter’s darkness, especially in relationship to his missing father (and it is really his father, Peter seems to not feel the same emptiness in regards to his mother). Peter has never been that haunted by the loss of his parents, he saw Aunt May and Uncle Ben as his parental figures.
One the biggest holes is…there is no J. Jonah Jameson. And it makes the film feel not quite like a Spider-Man story.
The Peter and Gwen story is compelling and the relationship between Peter And Captain Stacy make for great tension. At the same time, Peter makes a promise to Captain Stacy that he almost immediately breaks…and Peter is flat out unkind to Gwen in a moment where she really needs his support. He of all people should understand her loss, and he is pretty much a jerk.
The whole conspiracy aspect feels unnecessary and worse, drags the film down, even though it hinges on the conspiracy to make sense.
The effects are good, and they have improved a lot since 2002. The Spider-Man models and the Lizard look great, and are very slick. In the overall design, I appreciated the look of the new Spider-Man costume. It is colorful and stays faithful to the traditional costume of the comics.
There is plenty to like, some things that improve on the last incarnation and yet…where it fails, it fails pretty big. It is entertaining, but still does not reach…great.