First, the bad news: The Amazing Spider-Man contains a majority of the elements found in the Sam Raimi film – Peter Parker is a loser school kid in NY, Peter has the hots for his classmate, Peter gets bitten, Peter becomes Spidey, Peter overcomes the school bully, Peter loses his uncle, and Peter fights crime. There is precious little that the reboot brings to the table, some of which includes a glimpse of his parents. The good news is that The Amazing Spider-Man works despite the constant sense of deja vu.
That slightly-okay story finds a young Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) being hurriedly placed by his parents in the care of Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Cut to a grown up Peter working with his late father’s old colleague Doctor Connors (Rhys Ifans) and finding love and a pesky reptilian ruffian with a master plan. The bulk of the film then becomes a series of action scenes and romantic cutaways in which Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) effortlessly make us forget the lame melodrama between Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.
There is no upside down kiss under the rain, but there is an unexpected moment under a starlit balcony and a finale that puts a big twist on the bittersweet climax of the 2002 movie. Despite some clunky dialogue, the melodrama and romance here actually works — thanks mainly to director Mark Webb who brings the matured, assured handling of emotions from his (500) Days of Summer and makes his actors believable. Unlike the case in Spider-Man 3, Webb keeps The Amazing Spider-Man from becoming a string of hastily glued together boring ‘emo’ bits.
Best, however, is the charming Andrew Garfield in the title role —even though he looks hilariously old for a school kid. Garfield is the perfect leading man and has a sunny, winning charisma that audiences (mostly girls) can cheer for.
Peter here is faced with more heartbreak and trauma than in all three previous films put together, yet Spidey is more of the sarcastic wisecracking punk here — it makes for a nice change. Emma Stone is jaw-droppingly gorgeous to look at, and her Gwen is rather courageous instead of ditsy. Sheen and Field here are the Hollywood versions of Alok Nath and Farida Jalal, and they even have those overtly dramatic facial expressions and cringe-inducing lines. Irrfan plays the Token Black Guy of the movie.
Mark Webb seems to understand why we have put on the 3D glasses, and he offers enough immersive scenery to keep us wowed. When Spider-Man swings, he takes you along with him. The downside is that there simply aren’t enough of those scenes. There are some brilliant sequences, including one in a sewer that lasts quite a few minutes. One little scene at Peter’s school where a certain someone makes a cameo is probably the film’s best moment. There is also a 3D jump scare that might scare the hell out of you.
The Lizard is menacing, and very intricately designed but frustratingly there aren’t enough still moments to make us appreciate the work that was put in to create the motion capture GI beastie. When the action isn’t happening, Webb brings in his years of music video experience and throws in some rock music montage, but it sadly makes us yearn for Danny Elfman’s score from the Raimi movies.