Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, and Sally Field
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 136 mins. Reviewed in Jul 2012
This American film is based on the Marvel Comics superhero, Spider-man, who was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It is the fourth movie since 2002 to portray Spider-man on cinema screens. A young Spider-man tries to discover the truth behind his parents’ disappearance, after they placed him in the care of his loving Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Peter Parker loves his foster-parents, but he is bullied at High School, and his meek demeanour makes him a willing victim to the harassment of those around him. He falls for one of his class mates, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who had an incidental role in Spider-man 3” (2007), and he tries to win her heart in his mild-mannered way.
Then one day, Peter visits Oscorp., a scientific organisation, led by Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who is attempting to engineer a regeneration serum to grow limbs and human tissue. Curt was a research partner of Peter’s father, and is a scientific mentor to Gwen. Masquerading as a prospective in-tern for the organisation, Peter is bitten by a spider that transforms him into a person of enormous power and strength. Not understanding what has happened, Parker struggles to make sense of it all. The scenes of his powers out of control on a New York sub-way train give a startling visual reality to what is unfolding within him.
One can be forgiven for assuming this film is hardly the next sequel in the current Spider-man series. It has a different director from “Spider-man 3”, another director of cinematography, and different lead-players. Instead of being the next in line in an ongoing series, it is really a film that tells the Spider-man tale afresh from the start. The film could have gone wrong for so many reasons, but instead it stands as one of the best Spider-man movies made to date. Its plot does not allow its special effects to dominate. Though terrific as its action shots are, it is the relationship drama of the interactions among its characters which gives the movie its coherence, and that is helped enormouslyby first-class acting by Andrew Garfield as Spider-man, and the sparky chemistry that exists between Spider-man and the woman he loves.
The film departs from previous movies about Marvel heroes, and varies more from the Marcel comics. It is not about a person who sees good from the start as worthy over everything else, but it is about a person who comes to a personal realisation where good lies, and learns from his fragility to distinguish good from bad. In searching for his father, Peter Parker finds himself. There are strong moral messages in the movie, and the film gives us a super-hero, who allows the viewer to identify with a human face. The film shows how difficult it is for Spider-man to be good, and how worthy that is when you find the means to be so.
There are lots of elements in common with previous Spider-man movies, but this movie gives another interpretation of familiar material in previous Spider-man films. The spider-bite that transforms Peter Parker still occurs, but it is imbedded more effectively within a scientific context involving cross-species experimentation that uses gene technology. Peter’s uncle dies, and Peter fights the temptation to take vengeance for his death. The evil character in the film is not some eccentric, malevolent character, but is a colleague of Peter’s father, who transforms himself into an aggressive reptilian monster, who terrorizes New York, wanting to make up for the weaknesses of human beings. It stretches the imagination to find that Spider-man’s main antagonist is a giant lizard, but the film manages (only just) to pull it off.
There will be a Spider-man 5, but if the same Director is involved, this is the film that will set the pace. It stays more emotionally in tune with its main character than previous films in the series have managed to do, and it is very entertaining.
12 Random Films…