Film

IT IS only 10 years since the first Spider-Man movie of the century was released, yet, in a fit of nostalgia or an act of desperation, Sony has seen fit to reboot the franchise, starting with THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, a retelling of the origins story covered a decade ago.

Much has happened in the intervening period: two sequels, the spread of 3D technology and a troubled Broadway musical that was such an expensive flop that the current offering might well be an attempt to recoup some of the losses.

As in 2002, there is an incident that leads to Peter (Andrew Garfield) getting his DNA mixed with that of a spider, thereby gaining the ability to climb walls, swing between buildings, sew his own costume and trap his enemies in a web. Peter is still a nerdish amateur photographer living with his uncle (Martin Sheen) and aunt (Sally Field).

The familiar narrative thread is spun out, albeit with a couple of alterations to what is to comic-book fans almost a sacred text that has to be respected, if not revered.

Peter is bullied at school but, thanks to that arachnid, he changes from what would euphemistically be called a kitten, then bitten and later smitten by Gwen (Emma Stone), a fellow student and part-time guide at the biochemistry company whose chief researcher is Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), formerly a scientific partner of Peter's father, who lost part of his arm in a manner that is left dangling until the next episode.

Working single-handedly, Curt's aim is to restore his missing limb but, naturally, his experiment goes horribly wrong when the applied means leave him reptilian, a condition he hopes to impose on the rest of Manhattan.

Peter, having discovered his extraordinary faculties, humiliates his tormentor, embarks on a mission of revenge and becomes a vigilante who rids New York of some of its criminals, an achievement that annoys Stacy (Dennis Leary), the city's police chief and, by coincidence, Gwen's father.

It could be argued that Garfield and Stone, both of whom are well into their 20s, are rather old for high school even though that seat of learning specialises in scientific subjects - but if that is the case, where are the Asian-American students who would be represented disproportionately in such an institution and how did Peter's nemesis get in and be tolerated?

Quibbles aside, this premature reinterpretation of Stan Lee's heroic creation features some spectacular effects while finding time to sympathise with Peter's inner conflicts as he, like Toby Maguire in the earlier movies, realises that with great power comes great responsibility, not to mention great loneliness.

THE opening and closing credits claim that LOCKOUT is based on an original idea by Luc Besson, the French producer renowned for his action pictures.

It would seem that Besson and his writer-directors (James Mather and Stephen Saint-Leger) have forgotten John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981) in which the US president finds himself trapped in a futuristic - it was set in 1997 - Manhattan that has been converted into a prison for society's most dangerous criminals; a disgraced war hero is sent in to rescue the poor blighter from the outcasts.

In the current offering, Emilie (Maggie Grace) is the do-gooding daughter of the president, who finds herself trapped on MS One, a maximum security facility reserve somewhere in space. Her only hope is a mission undertaken by Snow (Guy Pearce), a former Central Intelligence Agency operative accused of murder, who is dispatched to liberate her before she meets a fate worse than death at the hands of some of the world's most vicious offenders, who have been kept somnolent and subjected to medical experiments.

Needless to say, Snow is successful but not before he has overcome violent, dangerous men who, like himself, have nothing to lose. He also has to resuscitate Emilie, whose near-death experience is ended by a strategically placed injection that is a real eye-opener. Snow is a wise-cracking hard case and his jokes stand out against dialogue that is otherwise mediocre, but the villains are among the ugliest ever filmed.

The similarities between this film and Carpenter's might well be coincidental; on the other hand, they could have resulted from Besson's penal envy.