When I first found out that The Amazing Spider-Man was coming out, I groaned. I harrumphed. I pished and poshed. "Why do we need another re-imagining of Spider-Man in the movies?" I asked, in my ignorance not realizing that much of The Amazing Spider-Man would be different from Tobey Maguire's web-slinger. In reality, this is an adaptation of the comic The Amazing Spider-Man, not the regular Spider-Man, and so there are differences between the two. The origin of Spider-Man remains the same - bitten by a strange spider in a lab, also influenced by his uncle's death after he allows a criminal to steal from a convenience store - but the major focuses of Amazing Spider-Man's plot deals with Curt Connors (AKA the Lizard) and Parker's love interest Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone).
So there's enough here to get over that hump about The Amazing Spider-Man being a retread of a recent film, which I was skeptical of at first. But there's also a strong point to be made that even people that aren't a fan of Spider-Man in general should take note of - Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man, is excellent in this role. He's got the awkwardness of being a teen, he's got the unkempt good looks that young people will love, and he's also fairly charming. There's a specific type of personality that Garfield brings to Spider-Man that elevates this film from a simple superhero movie for nerds to a movie that anyone can enjoy regardless of their passion for comics.
This is an origin story, so that means we see Peter Parker before and after he gets bitten. Before, he's sort of a loser - he gets beaten up in school by a dungpile named Flash, he's a photographer who everyone takes advantage of, and he's not stellar with the ladies. He's missing his mother and father, who had to go away, and so he stays with his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Fields). He's sort of a geek, but he gets that from his father, and he finds himself sneaking into Oscorp Labs, fiddling with some secret equipment and getting bitten by spiders with some strange genetics.
Of course, Parker changes into Spider-Man with some weird superpowers. He can grip things with his hands, as though they are continously sticky. He is hyper-strong, to the point of hilarity. He has a super-sense, and he can block projectiles from behind without actually seeing them. But he can't shoot webbing out of his hand - that he must design, with his new smarts, out of some synthetic wire.
The love interest with Gwen Stacy works incredibly well thanks to both Stone and Garfield, who have chemistry because of their awkwardness. Sure, Amazing Spider-Man works off of old tropes: two dorks come together, not sure of their relationship, and finally fall head over heels. But Stone and Garfield are the reason that this overused cliche works; they bring their own tics to their roles, and it's refreshing to see Gwen Stacy portrayed instead of Mary Jane Watson.
Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) is an interesting character. He becomes the Lizard in a selfish attempt to regrow his arm from lizard DNA; his labwork, his studies, are attempts to benefit the entire world, but his rush to test the experiment on humans results in an uncontrollable urge to spread the lizard virus to everyone in the city. Parker feels partially responsible for this - he did create the serum, after all. But his responisibility feels misplaced; it has always been Connors' own fault for his actions, and though Spider-Man fights to rectify the consequences, it is Connors himself who has to realize his failure. His mental transformation happens very fast, and I had a hard time believing that his role as the Lizard was simply caused by a mental disorder.
The Amazing Spider-Man does feature some ridiculous CGI, but for the most part it works well. The action sequences are flashy, and that's thanks to a large amount of web use in crazy spider moves. The Lizard's skills are a little lacking - his moves are less fun to watch simply because he's only got a tail and superstrength.
The film also runs a little long, and this is due to extended sequences of web-swinging throughout the city. In the beginning, the first trial runs of web-swinging are necessary scenes; however, once the film moves on and Peter Parker begins to fit into his role as Spider-Man, the additional moments where Parker is shown swinging from building to building begin to wear thin, and could have been excised.
Still, The Amazing Spider-Man is a surprisingly enjoyable experience. It's funny and sharp-witted, but it also knows when to play the emotional strings, and moments are certainly sharp and stinging. The action is well-paced, and Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield make a dynamic couple because of small, minute character details. While Spider-Man was done equally well just a few years ago, The Amazing Spider-Man enters the canon of successful superhero adaptations, and there will surely be sequels that continue this arc of the web-slinging comic icon.
The Amazing Spider-Man on Rotten Tomatoes