alfred molina, andrew garfield, batman, campbell scott, christopher nolan, embeth davidtz, emma stone, kirsten dunst, marc webb, martin sheen, peter parker, philip seymour hoffman, sally field, sam raimi, spider-man 2, spiderman, stan lee, steve ditko, superhero, the amazing spider-man, the dark knight rises, tobey maguire
Grade: C+ (SKIP IT)
THE BOY WITH a serious case of sticky fingers returns to the summer blockbuster scene with something between a bang and a whimper. Ten years have passed since Sam Raimi’s stellar start to the “Spider-Man” trilogy, and just five since “Spider-Man 3” bombed out the franchise and Toby Maguire hung up his blue-and-red tights 2.5 billion dollars later. Peter Parker by day and Spidey by night, Andrew Garfield is now in the title role with Emma Stone (“The Help”) as girlfriend Gwen Stacy. These fine young actors keep director Marc [“(500) Day of Summer”] Webb’s take from being two-hours-of-bummer. (Last month, I saw a truly amazing Garfield hold his ground in the face of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Willy Loman in a Tony-nominated role on Broadway.)
8. At a longish 136 minutes, you’ll want an escape-hatch. Oh what a lengthy web they weave.
7. The plot’s contrivances pile up high and fast. It isn’t enough that love interest Gwen Stacy is an intern in the very bioengineering lab (Oscorp) run by Dr. Curt Connors (“Rhys Ifans of “Notting Hill”), Peter’s departed father’s partner in biology. Small world! Oh no, Gwen Stacy’s father is also a Police Captain in pursuit of Peter, making the family dinner to which Spidey in plainclothes is invited awkward indeed. That’s not so much a tangled web but an improbable one even by comic book standards.
6. Total Recall. The lady selling popcorn at the concessions stand said it all when, discussing “The Amazing Spider-Man” with me afterwards, said: “It’s just about new faces.” Indeed, there is very little new or freshly inspired in this fourth filmic take on the Marvel classic imagined by comic book artists Stan Lee and Steve Ditko back in 1962. Eight long years elapsed between “Batman & Robin” and Christopher Nolan’s 2005 reboot; in the case of Spider-Man, we’ve experienced just five spider-less years since the negligible “Spider-Man 3.” Too soon?
5. Sally Field Never Leaves the Kitchen. Peter Parker is the abandoned son of Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) left with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field). The gender parity in this film is a throwback. Not only does Gwen garner laughs rather than respect when she throws a lab-coat over her mini-skirt and knee-highs but the only other female figure in the film, Aunt May, surpasses the status of homebody: she’s a shut-in who offers only meatloaf and weak words of advice.
4. Predictability. After 30 minutes, you may be wondering who the villain will be and hiding in plain sight, herpetologist Dr. Curt Connors is a contender. The lizard nemesis here is a cross between the Hulk and Godzilla lacking the fire and muscle of either.
3. Paging Dr. Ock! The lack of real action in the film’s first hour left me thinking of Dr. Otto Gunther Octavius, that is, Doctor Octopus, so brilliantly embodied by Alfred Molina in “Spider-Man 2” (2004) with those mechanized tentacles that sent taxi-cabs crashing through coffee shop windows. Importantly, it was Dr. Octavius’s grief over his dead wife that drove his rage, and in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” there is a total lack of pathos. The villain in this instance is cartoonish.
2. Andrew Garfield’s pompadour. As Parker and Mary Jane, Maguire and Kirsten Dunst had just the geeky vulnerability, not to mention working-class backgrounds, to fit the bill. Here, Garfield and Stone are just too, well, pretty. Mary Jane was the girl-next-door, literally behind the clotheslines strewn with Uncle Ben and Aunt May’s laundry, whereas Gwen Stacy…well, didn’t I already mention her costuming? Part of Peter Parker’s appeal – say that seven times! – is that he’s a superhero by night but a lowly super-zero by day, and there’s no way Garfield could ever look the part. He’s the lovechild of James Dean and a No. 2 pencil.
1. There’s a mightier superhero to anticipate this summer and that’s the bat-suited one in Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment to his noir series, “The Dark Knight Rises” (July 20). What Nolan has done there – aided greatly, of course, by the fabulous horrors of Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger – is retool the familiarities of the DC Comics series and give us something dark indeed. It is not for nothing that twice in “The Amazing Spider-Man” you hear ol’ spidey say, after a fight: “You should see the other guy.” Bring him on.