by Gautaman Bhaskaran
The attraction for Indian viewers of The Amazing Spider-Man is likely Irrfan (no Khan, he has decided) in a powerfully defining though disappointingly small role as the villainous Dr Rajit Ratha. Irrfan infuses a delightful touch of wit into those few minutes of his celluloid appearance. Only Irrfan can do that and with such natural ease, and with a deadpan look that is yet so telling.
Another India-related highlight is that the whopping 1000-print release on Friday predates its American release slated for 3 July. The movie hit Indian theatres in 2D, 3D and Imax formats, and in several languages, including the original English version and Hindi. Compare this with the 2007 Spider-Man 3 release with just 588 prints in India.
A whole decade after Spider-Man and his Spidey stuff lit up the screen, generating a $2.5 billion franchise, Sony unveils the fourth outing in this immensely popular, costumed hero saga — going back to the beginning, this time with Andrew Garfield.
The Amazing Spiderman is indeed amazing in several respects.
One of them is Garfield’s moving performance as Peter Parker, whose parents disappear when he is a little boy, and who is raised by his uncle and aunt. Garfield, who took over from Tobey Maguire, is a gentle and romantic character, traits which often eclipse his vigilante operation. His trapeze acts, crawls over imposingly tall Manhattan buildings and wild swings between them may be thrilling and death-defying, but when he gets tender with school-mate, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), calling her a great kisser, Parker seems to radiates emotion that borders the sublime.
While this may disappoint die-hard fans of the action hero — who probably feel let down by his overwhelming emotional journey — it may be a smart move by director Marc Webb (no pun please) to add a bit of novelty to a character created by Stan Lee 50 years ago. Sam Raimi, who helmed the first three Spider-Man films, made his teenage protagonist strong and confident. Webb instead chooses to underplay these qualities, even allowing his hero be without his suit most of the time. Indeed, there are occasions when Parker himself appears distinctly uncomfortable with his disguise.
Webb has also replaced Mary Jane Watson (essayed by Kirsten Dunst in the earlier movies) with Stacy. Despite these changes, including the introduction of a new villain — vindictive scientist, Dr Curt Connors or The Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans — The Amazing Spider-Man remains more or less faithful to the comic book. Parker, all said and done, is a teenager, confused by changes and hormones brought on by puberty, but also by the way his hormones begin to play up. Teenage angst is beautifully illustrated here.
Choosing Stone was as apt as casting Garfield. Seen in movies such as Easy A and The Help, Stone is no pretty doll on screen. Her Stacy is far stronger than Dunst’s Watson. Look at the way Stacy kicks the baddie. And one hopes that her part will get meatier, even bolder, in the sequels.
The latest Spider-Man may not weave a great plot, but it has a story of sorts. Parker’s life, spent in dull misery after his parents vanish in the middle of one night, brightens up when Stacy begins to show an interest in him. However, when he is bitten by a genetically modified spider in Connors’ laboratory (where he goes snooping after discovering his father’s research papers), Parker finds to his astonishment that he has supernatural powers.
His life goes on an over-drive when he transforms himself into a crusader. Stacy’s bossy father, who heads the New York Police, and a rampaging Lizard out to destroy everything provide the requisite drama — and complications to the couple’s unfolding love story.
At 137 minutes, The Amazing Spider-Man keeps you riveted — even without the hardcore action of the earlier episodes, amply making up for the absence with its witty romance, something rare in the comic book culture. And yes, the climax is still sensational.