July 05, 2012 Movies

Okay I admit it, about an hour and a half in I was going to myself – “the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is great – but hasn’t this been done already?”

That’s because one of the world’s greatest superheroes has been rebooted only ten years after the Tobey Maguire Spidey – and Sam Raimi’s pretty well-received – incarnation came out, and despite obviously a slight change in direction I just couldn’t shake off those feelings of déjà vu and over-familiarity.

Then in the final thirty or so minutes Garfield’s new take on the character shook off my cobwebs and pulled me into a exhilarating finale that got my Spidey-senses tingling – and completely won me over.

I kept thinking the same fate was going to bestow Garfield as the unfortunate Brandon Routh in the now-axed semi-Superman reboot, with similar plot devices – Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), weedy Peter getting bullied by thugs, turning vigilante to bring justice etc – this time based on the Ultimate Marvel universe.

But fortunately under the tutelage of acclaimed director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), decent scripting the right side of cheesy, a slightly darker edge – though not Christopher Nolan’s Batman dark – and the impressive on-screen interaction of Garfield and Stone (as love interest Gwen Stacy), it is still engaging fare before it explodes into life at the end.

And after Peter has a family meal with Gwen’s police captain Dad (Denis Leary), he winds her in for a romantic clinch – that makes Maguire and Dunst’s upside-down-kiss from the first Spider-Man look like a rubbish snog behind the bike sheds – that moment literally propels the film to the next level.

The villain of the piece, Welsh actor Rhys Ifans’ Dr Curt Conners/The Lizard – who was Peter’s father’s former colleague pre-Reptilian-mutating experiment – sadly does play second fiddle as this undoubtedly sets up for a sequel, building on this film’s main plot point of Peter trying to learn about the mysterious disappearance of his parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz).

Due to the confinements of the origin story almost tangling the plot for a vast part of the movie, this isn’t quite the Grade A superhero film I’m sure some fans were hoping for – but still leaves it comfortably in the top three Marvel films of the past five years.

Some may argue it probably doesn’t better the start of the last trilogy (I was actually more a fan of Spider-Man 2) and they may be right, but there’s a bit more heart in the movie that makes it more endearing by the close.

I just can’t wait to see more from Garfield and my new screen crush Stone – whose reported off-screen relationship is pretty evident – and I’m just pleased that rumours of Spidey for the Twilight generation has proved unfounded – it has much more bite than that.

Now, did I hear something about maybe Marvel and Sony not completely ruling out Spidey being in the next Avengers movie . . . ?

Gavin Miller

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, C Thomas Howell, Chris Zylka, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott

Running Time: 2hrs 15mins

Director: Marc Webb