'Spider-Man's' untold story should have stayed that way

July 8, 2012
While this is the first Spider-Man filmed in 3D, in some ways, the film relies less on technology than its predecessors by placing a heavier emphasis on special effects than the previous films.

Last year, I said "The Green Lantern" would be a perfectly acceptable had no other superhero film had ever been released prior to it. It was so inoffensively bland that any masked man with superpowers could have stepped in without distinction.

One year later, here we are with another entry into the "Spider-Man" franchise, which makes "Green Lantern" look like "Batman Begins" by comparison.

When it was announced that this fourth film of the franchise was being produced, Sony, which holds the rights to Marvel Comics’ "Spider-Man," slapped an "Amazing" on the title and promised that this was to be "the untold story" of the legend.

I have a lot of stories that go untold. You know why? They're freaking boring, that's why. They would amuse no one else but myself. So, if your idea of getting the untold story involves how Peter Parker has suddenly developed a cutesy little stammer, or that he was also a totally rad skateboarder, or that his Uncle Ben (played by Martin Sheen) had a curiously large overbite, then by all means, slap your cash down for this outing.

For everyone else, the Sam Raimi version, which itself was imperfect but far more fun than this faded copy, is available on DVD, Blu-ray and instant streaming through Amazon.

Yes, the last "Spider-Man" film (released waaaaaaay back in 2007) was a steaming turd of a picture: cluttered, hokey and completely misguided. But this one not only adds nothing to the legacy, but fills in gaps with fancy fight moves (Peter Parkour?), cheesy quips, and about 1,000 more "ummmms" and "ahhhhhhs" between Peter and Gwen Stacey (played here by Emma Stone).

For those who have no idea of the origin of Spiderman (or can't remember back a decade when it was told by director Sam Raimi), Peter Parker (played by "The Social Network's" Andrew Garfield) was bitten by a radioactive spider and became a web-slinging superhero.

We spend a rather inordinate amount of time with him and his guardians Aunt May (played by Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (played by Martin Sheen sporting an oversized pair of Dr. Bukk's novelty teeth). And even more time with excruciatingly awkward lip-biting and mumbling between Peter and Gwen.

I mean, seriously, this film was cowritten by Steve Kloves, who had a hand in every "Harry Potter" film, and the best he can come up with here is:

Gwen: "So, um. Do you...”

Peter: "You know, maybe, we could, um..."

Gwen: "What, like..."

Peter: "Yeah, we could. Or we could, um, you know."

Gwen: "You mean, like, either?"

Peter: " Yeah, you know."

(Seriously, I left nothing out of that riveting bit of banter!)

That's as deep as it gets here, honestly. After the initial arachnid nibble, we then get the prototypical montage sequences (one of which I swear was an homage to Kevin Bacon's barn acrobatics in the original "Footloose") in which Peter comes to terms with his newfound abilities before he faces the inevitable nemesis. Here, he's in the initially harmless form of Dr. Curt Connors (played by Rhys Ifans), who once worked with Peter's pop, but now heads up what appears to be one of the city's largest (and most stylish) genetics labs.

But Dr. Connors, like almost every secondary character of the film, is given no clear purpose. He's neither tragic nor terrifying. He's just some British dude who breaks out in scales and wreaks havoc from time to time. That is how just about every character in this "Amazing" take on the comic is introduced and subsequently forgotten. This includes the woefully underused Emma Stone. Seriously, why cast someone with Stone's chops if she flits in for a few eyelash-batting bouts with Garfield before being pushed aside for yet another unexciting battle sequence?

And as strong an actor as Garfield was in "Social Network," he is a little more than a dewy-eyed whiner here. He manages to make one small improvement: he does for superheroes what Robert Pattinson did for vampires, and that is give them a luxurious head of beautifully shaggy hair.

But that is really about the only distinguished step above its predecessor. It's clear that despite his last name, director/cowriter Marc Webb was not the right man for the job. His overrated "(500) Days of Summer" earned cred in some indie circles, which itself is "amazing," but there is certainly nothing here that measures up to such potential.

It all feels just so pointless and unnecessary. When "The Hulk" was rebooted a mere five years after its first version, there was at least a slight improvement and a completely different direction on which it embarked. But "Spider-Man" feels like it should have stayed true to its promotion and remained "untold."