Web Sensation: The Amazing Spider-Man

An Active3D Review: The Amazing Spider-Man
Rating: ***½ (out of 5)

Andrew Garfield’s been doing TV since the mid-2000s, but his theatrical feature breakout role was surely that of Mark Zuckerberg’s betrayed business partner Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network. Now he hits the big time by taking his shot at playing Peter Parker, the dude that develops special abilities that allow him to swing into the spot of New York’s number one crime fighter. Garfield represents Hollywood’s new male hero: attractive, yet not the GQ guy who’s all abs and chiselled granite chin. He has a likeable and somewhat vulnerable everyman quality that, I suppose, makes it easier for the Ordinary Joe in the audience to identify with him.  Yes, folks, you too can be masked avengers in your spare time!

Emma Stone, as Spider-Man’s blonde love interest, Gwen Stacy, gets off to an awkward start, but this is more of a script issue, I suspect, than any fault of her performance. The celebrated writer/ comedian/ actor, Denis Leary plays Gwen’s dad, the NYPD chief, with an uncertain performance that I just couldn’t buy into 100%. Playing Peter Parker’s uncle and aunt (who become his guardians quite early in life), are Martin Sheen and Sally Field (yup; we still like her). Sheen delivers one of those sturdy renditions of the archetypal baby-boom American father; loving, committed, gutsy and unswervingly moral.

Welsh thesp Rhys Ifans, who’s entrenched himself comfortably in Hollywood, plays Dr Curt Connors, a principled scientist who’d been both friend and colleague to Peter Parker’s pater (who, as far as we know, didn’t pick a peck of pickled peppers). Connor is working on limb regeneration sciences, and, when his employers rush him in his research and force an untested serum upon him, you just know that things are going to get ugly…

The 3-D is underplayed but effective, and really kicks in with dizzy force when Spiderman swings his way through New York City. If only Johnny Weismuller could’ve enjoyed the benefit of such technology back when he ruled the backlot jungle as Tarzan! Stereoptically speaking, the filmmakers also exploit an aspect of 3-D that is seldom discussed, and that is: the ability of the image (or parts thereof, at least) to recede effectively into the background. This, of course, is thanks to a smart blend of stereographic agility and crafty background design. After all, 3-D isn’t only about things being shoved in our faces… The shots which feature characters dangling from skyscrapers, had me clutching the theatre seat’s armrests – put it down to vertigo and well-deployed 3-D.

The performances are uneven, but my biggest beef about the film is that, at two and a quarter hours in length, it’s simply too long. Someone needs to tell the filmmakers that this isn’t Gone With the Wind. Its storyline isn’t that complex or epic that it couldn’t be unspooled in a tight and exciting hour-and-45. The film’s director has previously made largely shorts, music videos and video documentaries – oh, and two TV series episodes. I’m therefore curious to know what persuaded the studio that he could handle, as his first theatrical feature, a high-budget, high-gloss movie such as this. Maybe his name clinched the deal: Marc Webb.

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