So Andrew Garfield is my new favourite thing. I’ve got to admit, Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man never really did it for me. He was a bit wishy-washy, a bit golly-gee, and although he did an admirable job, I never took to him overly much. Not so Andrew Garfield.
Now, I’m not big into comics. I can’t tell you what my understanding is of the psyche of Spider-Man based on years and years of reading the character. All I know is the basics. But Garfield seems to fill out and deepen the character in a way that is so engaging, so naturalistic and so compelling. It is very rare that you actually see him act in this role, as in, seeing the cogs go round and seeing what decisions he made to bring the character alive. Not that he’s just reading the lines and phoning it in; he’s exceptionally emotive and you can see the impact of every event and every decision he has to make pass across his face. But it’s not the face of an actor edging toward 30; it’s the face of this faintly goofy hipster kid, introverted and nerdy and funny and bullied a little and in love and all of a sudden big ugly stuff happens to him (largely in the form of a big lizard) and he struggles to deal with it all in a way that is both believable and somehow familiar; like you know someone like that and that’s exactly how they’d react. He is uniformly excellent throughout and even if the rest of the film were complete arse (which it totally isn’t) he would have made it worth watching.
Well, this was supposed to be a review of a film and it’s turned into a love letter, so let’s move on. Striking the only real negative tone that I can against the film, the giant lizard I could quite happily have done without. Genetic mutation I can cope with, but Hulk-style spontaneous increase of body mass winds me up, not to mention spontaneous ability to regenerate body parts immediately and with no apparent need to eat anything. c.f. X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine’s ability to regrow most of his upper body multiple times in mere seconds. I mean, even if he could, he’d be ravenous! He’d need, like, an intravenous cheese drip to provide him with enough protein.
Anyway, aside from that contrivance the film is rock-solid. Rhys Ifans is almost serene in his normality compared to some of the films I’ve seen him in, which is pretty much Notting Hill and Little Nicky. Emma Stone, who I suppose I should know but don’t, is charming. Martin Sheen is an excellent and heartbreaking Uncle Ben, Sally Field a great but under-used Aunt May, Dennis Leary a delightfully arseholey police captain. Plot, pacing and coherence are all well within acceptable parameters. For my liking they were a little heavy with the slapsticking of his newfound powers and once again they papered over exactly how he lays hands on his incredibly detailed (and delightfully form-fitting) suit, but I’m just anal about pointless trivia like that. Roger Ebert reckons that this instalment comes second in all the recent Spider-Man movies to Maguire’s Spider-Man 2 (with Doc Ock as the villain), and I do believe I agree, not that Roger needs my validation. 2 had Maguire’s Spidey in full-on hero form, especially with the overground subway train scene, my personal favourite out of that entire film. This Spidey is just finding out that he can be a hero. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I’m sure will at the very least equal, and hopefully surpass, that high water mark, though they’ll need a serious bad guy to manage that not just another random anthropomorphised animal (Rhino, I’m looking at you).
On a technical note, I watched in IMAX 3D. None of the film I believe was shot in native IMAX format but it doesn’t seem to suffer; although the screen at Cineworld in Sheffield is a baby compared to others the picture was still remarkable and the 3D a noticeable step up compared to standard Real-3D.
To sum up, the film is awesome to experience, exceptionally well-acted, suffers only slightly for the injudicious use of an oversized amphibian and is a complete upgrade on the first three. I’m ready and waiting for Spidey to take his place in The Avengers within the wonderful Marvel Movie Universe that has coalesced recently, and who else can’t wait for the two legendary smartarses, Spider-Man and Iron Man, to start trading wisecracks?
In short, yay Spider-Man, yay Marvel movies, and yay Andrew Garfield!