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A Passable Blockbuster Which Fails to Captivate
on 23 May 2015
Andrew Garfield plays the eponymous Spider-Man, a superhero who keeps the folks of New York City safe from an assortment of genetically mutated anti-heroes. His everyday alter-ego is Peter Parker, a struggling photographer.
Jamie Foxx plays Max Bryan, a research technician and uber-nerd who works for Oscorp. Oscorp lead the way with research into electro-magnetic power. Max gets involved in an industrial accident, ending up in a tank of electric eels, who bite him countless times. He transmogrifies into Electro, a creature who can use electro-magnetic power to devastating effect.
Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacey, Spidey's on off girlfriend, in a rather understated role.
Dane Dehann, in the standout performance of the movie, plays Harry Osborne, the twenty year old sole beneficiary of his late father's business Oscorp, a two hundred billion dollar organisation. Due to genetic mutation he's also the Green Goblin, another arch-villain bent on bringing Manhattan to its knees.
The film starts with a thrilling opening ten minute sequence on a plunging aircraft. It then goes straight into an equally thrilling ten minute segment through the streets of lower Manhattan, as Spider-Man tries to halt a robbery of plutonium. I haven't seen so many cars destroyed since The Blues Brothers, nor a truck cause so much damage since the opening scene in Beverly Hills Cop - The Blues Brothers [Blu-ray] [Region Free], Beverly Hills Cop: Triple Feature [Blu-ray].
Unfortunately, having provided the viewer with this visceral excitement in the first twenty minutes, the film then has a soporific effect for the next hour or so, as the focus turns to Spidey's will he won't he romance with Gwen. It doesn't really work, because Peter Parker's character is quite anodyne, and he doesn't have any convincing chemistry with Gwen. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst had a far more engaging and credible chemistry in the previous franchise of Spidey movies.
The film also suffers badly from the lack of a comedic element. In the Maguire/Dunst films, the wit was provided by Peter Parker's riotous newspaper boss J. Jonah Jameson, a larger than life workplace bully played with great gusto by J. K. Simmons, who lit up the screen every time he appeared. In this movie, there's not much respite from the vaguely dreary romantic meanderings of Peter and Gwen - the film really needed a clownish figure to raise a chuckle or two.
Electro is a bland super-villain. Jamie Foxx is a great actor, but he's largely wasted in this role. Alfred Molina's Dr Octopus in the earlier Spider-Man 2 was vastly more charismatic and interesting. Here, Electro is a poor man's version of Julian McMahon's Dr Doom in the Fantastic Four movies - Fantastic Four / Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Double Pack [Blu-ray].
Harry Osborne was potentially the most interesting character in the film, excellently portrayed by Dane Dehann, but he's badly underused.
If you're going to have a romance as a central element of a super-hero movie, the key is to make sure that the couple sizzle on screen - Maguire and Dunst managed it in the earlier Spider-Man movies, so too did Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in Superman - The Superman 5 Film Collection 1978-2006 [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]. Sadly, Garfield and Stone fail to ignite. They'd have been more believable as a brother and sister.
I don't think that this blockbuster pic is a good buy on Blu-Ray. The 90 minute middle section is a bit like wading through treacle and it wouldn't bear repeat viewings. The original Spider-Man trilogy is significantly more engaging and enjoyable - Spider-Man Trilogy [Blu-ray] [Region Free]. The film does liven up in the last half hour, but it was quite a struggle for me to stick with it for that long.
If you haven't already seen Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, I recommend that you do so - those two movies are vastly more effective than this tepid reboot of the wonderful Spider-Man - Kick-Ass/Kick-Ass 2 [Blu-ray] [Region Free].
Thank you for taking the time to read this review.