Can the New Spider-Man Movie Make the Spidey Story Fresh?

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 8 2012 1:46 PM

Trailer Critic: The Amazing Spider-Man

Spider-ManStill
Andrew Garfield suits up in The Amazing Spider-Man.

Photo by John Schwartzman © Columbia Pictures.

Marc Webb seemed like the perfect director for a Spider-Man movie, but I’m no longer sure that The Amazing Spider-Man is actually a Spider-Man movie. No matter how you felt about its Charlie Kaufman-lite gimmickry and twee approach to romance, (500) Days of Summer demonstrated a remarkably sure hand from a debut director. And while it may seem miles away from a superhero movie, it was, like Spider-Man’s origin story, just a sometimes goofy coming-of-age story about an awkward young city boy. The movie’s one perfect scene, in which the hero breaks out dancing to “You Make My Dreams” after he finally gets some, would have worked just as well with Peter Parker singing lead.

But for some reason, the new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 3D suggests that Webb has gone Dark Knight dour. Snarling about the role of vigilantism befits the bleak mythology of Batman, but good ol’ web-head usually knows how to lighten up.

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The action, at least, looks exciting. The rebooted Spider-Man seems to have picked up some Yuen Woo-ping level martial arts moves, and the first-person POV web-slinging, which we got a lot more of in the teaserish first trailer, has me excited for a new kind of Spidey thrill (it’s like Brian De Palma directed a comic book movie!). The movie will be in 3D, and a few objects do fly in the general direction of the audience—but for now, at least, Spidey isn’t shooting his webs right at you.

Rising star Andrew Garfield of The Social Network suits up as the moodier Spider-Man, and with his talent for blending sullen and boyish he's perfectly cast. There’s also a lot more slimy Rhys Ifans as The Lizard here, but both in scales and out he’s not yet making my spider-sense tingle. Emma Stone plays not Mary Jane but Gwen Stacy (hence the dye-job), a character who in the comics is most famous for her untimely death—one more omen for a darker Spidey tale.

It’s been five years since the Sam Raimi-directed, Tobey Maguire-starring Spider-Man trilogy wrapped up in 2007. Is that long enough to wait before another version? Who cares? What matters, no matter how long it’s been since the previous storyline came to a close, is that the new movie feel fresh. By the time this trailer dies out with some Dark Knight-style portentousness, some Transformers-style morphing effects, and a little dubstep bass wub-ette, it already seems a lot less amazing and a little too familiar.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer.