UNACCUSTOMED as we are to bringing you reviews of major film releases on a Friday, The Amazing Spider-Man will have to be an exception since it opens next Tuesday, 3 July, same day as the US, and reviews were embargoed until today.
The timing has summat to do with some independence holiday or other coming up. Presumably if Scotland votes aye on a certain date in 2014, Hollywood will one day mark the occasion by releasing a big screen version of Taggart (3D, of course).
Clearly, the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man are hoping for a big box office opening for this most humble of comic book heroes. A lot of money has been spent to reboot the franchise. Leading the change is a new Spider-Man in the shape of Andrew Garfield, taking over from Tobey Maguire, who had three bites at the apple in 2002, 2004, and 2007.
So down to business: Does director Marc Webb succeed in making what is Spider-Man 4 feel as fresh and juicy as Spider-Man 1? Only in part. There is a lot here to enjoy, not least Garfield, some spectacular 3D and plenty of sly humour, but unless you are a 12-year-old boy, or have the soul of one, things fall apart where they usually tend to fall apart in comic book movies – in the big showdown, where the protagonists spend an eternity knocking seven bells out of each other.
There's another problem with The Amazing Spider-Man. Though billed as a reboot, you may find echoes of the old films clanging like the bells of Notre Dame throughout the movie.
Webb (500 Days of Summer) opens by setting up the tale of Peter Parker's early years and how he came to be living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Cut to modern day New York and Peter is a high school student coping with the usual travails of school bullies and puppy love. The object of the latter is Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. Gwen is top of the class in science, with Peter a close second. She's so good, indeed, that she has an internship at the cutting edge labs of Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).
It is while visiting the lab one day that Peter encounters a spider and, well, let's just say those bells start to ding, ding, ding. There is no way around revisiting this part of the story. There would be fans rioting in the streets if it was left out. One wishes, though, there were a few surprises thrown in. The Amazing Spider-Man, after all, is meant to be all about the new. The addition of some fancy computer graphics doesn't quite cut it.
Besides the new Spider-Man himself there's a new Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), a new Aunt May (Sally Field) and a new villain. The best of the new bunch is Stone, a young actress who lifts the spirit of any film just by walking into a frame. Stone, star of Easy A and The Help, gets to exercise those considerable comic chops of hers with some smart one-liners. One of the best things about this new Spider-Man is its savvy sense of humour, and Stone is given more than her share of moments. This is a Spider-Man in which girls wanna have some fun as well, rather than just stand around in alleys waiting for a hero to drop out of the sky and plant a smacker on their lips.
Sheen and Field make a charming screen couple, but as with any Spider-Man movie it is down to Spidey himself to make or break the movie. A young actor on the way up, and not just the side of buildings, Garfield showed his dramatic depth in Never Let Me Go, Boy A and The Social Network, so in some ways a superhero role is a surprising departure. He tries to bring that depth to Webb's picture, but sometimes it is an awkward fit, too angsty for what is meant to be a fun, family movie.
Where he succeeds, triumphs even, is in the physical impersonation of Spider-Man. That Andy Murray hairstyle of Garfield's is matched with a dancer's body. In early scenes, as Parker tries out his new powers, we see Garfield moving like a cross between Gene Kelly and a trapeze artist, swooping and leaping and seeming to do it all without the safety of a net. Now that's amazing.
It is almost a disappointment when Garfield's physical skills are replaced by 3D wizardry, but only for a little while. The 3D here really is impressive, with Webb using every opportunity to hurl Spider-Man off any tall building in his path.
The 3D ought to lighten the tedium of the final, CGI-heavy act, but it doesn't. Most of the fun of the Spider-Man story has always been in the set up, and so it proves here.
Opens Tuesday July 3
Don't miss Emma Stone on Spider-Man - and her deadly obsession in tomorrow's Herald Magazine