The Amazing Spider-Man comes back with an unfamiliar bang and unhurried charm. Andrew Garfield (remember the skinny guy who played the CFO in Facebook "The Social Network"?) replaces the effable Tobey Maguire, and Emmy Stone replaces Kirsten Dunst. Director Mark Webb seems to love his surname so much that he ought to make a webby film out of it. He has done a pretty decent job of building a credible first take on the Spiderman. It delves on the improbable origins of Peter Parker in the annals of cross-genetics and how Peter's father helps Dr Curtis Connors in his research using complicated calculus formulae that go into making algorithms that alter biologically.
A good deal of time gets spent in establishing how Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) goes on to investigate his roots from adopted father Martin Sheen (always good to see him back in any cameo), how he meets Dr Curtis Connors, gets bitten by a genetically altered spider and shoots webs at will and walks on walls and jumps from one skyscraper to another in union-jack-red-and-black attire that still looks like an urbane swimming trunk!
What can get a spider? A Lizard. And so, the villain Dr Connors becomes a giant mutant lizard that stomps the streets of New York and pulverizes people and caravans of cars like a Godzilla - most of the stunts between the Spiderman and the giant lizard are nightly in nature. Nevertheless, the plot moves on to more complex matters - the lizard-man becomes more menacing and engulfing for mankind and our friendly Spiderman gets help from New York Police just in time to thwart Dr Connor's dangerous tricks. In between, a decent romance between Andrew Garfield and Emmy Stone that is more prolonged than seen in Spidey movies (without a love triangle).
How good is the characterization and the performances? To be fair, Andrew Garfield gives a towering performance that will appeal well to the fans of the Marvel Comic character. Early versions of Spiderman starring Tobey Maguire had a genuine likeability about him, so it kind of grew on you with an earthy and credulous touch.
The scenes showing the adhesive nature of the superhero's hands and feet, and the commanding horsepower of his routine actions resulting in weird consequences like glass-shattering, basket-ball goal-post smashing are eye-popping and well-picturised. Even a simple act of googling his own spidey behavior results in the unraveling of the keyboard letters which is intense and believable. The origins of a superhero and the coming of his age were never shown so fluently in any movie before.
Most humor is embedded in these initial sequences, afterwards the plot gets thicker and serious. Character-wise, Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Rhys Ifans (who plays Dr Connors) play their parts flawlessly. Dr Connors character lacks texture and depth and definitely comes nowhere close to the swagger of the villain seen in first three Spidey movies. That is the major flaw in this movie - the villain's characterization lacks substance and enough justification and as if there's a late realization of this, director Mark Webb shows him just after the movie's primary title credits in conversation with another invincible power as to how to betray Spiderman yet again.
How good is the 3D Effect? Not that good. Except in one of the final stunts where the giant lizard leaps out of nowhere to browbeat the Spiderman, I could not perceive the third dimension with any telling effect. These days, the camera work in 2D is so exceptional that one need not wear 3D glasses to feel you are walking in the air with Spiderman over the nightly skyscrapers of the Manhattan, or "touch" that totempole of an Empire State Building or puke a web on the villain's face. That's a bit disappointing. Andrew Garfield, as I said before, has worked his lanky frame to give a unique tilt to the character, almost as incredibly as Tobey Maguire does. I am sure the shutterbags will soon report how Andrew has also done gymnastics, martial arts, weights and high-end cardio to stand out as an agile Spiderman - who needs to move at top velocity, in non-linear fashion, at tangent to gravity, within vertical limits. The effort shows - like one pose where he literally does a Shirshasana.
Is there anything else to rave about? Yes, there is. James Horner - that majestic Music composer - the only stalwart who scored award-winning music on a par with John Williams - has scored memorable BGM. It's on Sony Classical and I am going to own one.
I went with low expectations, having watched all of the three Spidey films. This one was quite watchable with few guffaws and one or two Indian tricks. One is Irrfan Khan - it is quite a forgettable role, I wonder if it can be even called a cameo as memorable as what he did in Slumdog Millionaire.
Of course, we Indians cannot match Hollywood in SFX or scripting or storyboarding or marketing of a franchise. The spiderman and other comic heroes will continue to make money. The First Spiderman walked away with $400 million at the Box-Office. In India, it collected Rs 26.2 crs. The second, Rs 33.4 crs and the third, Rs 68 crs. All this, when the Income Tax Officers didn't adjust the Cost Inflation Index for the four years very high between 2002-2007.
As far as The Amazing Spider-Man goes, the Rupee depreciation is going to assure that with 1,000 screens hit with the movie (762 screens for "Avatar"), Hollywood is going to rake it even more. Well done, Mark Webb.