Any movie brazen enough to put the word “amazing” in the title really should go the extra mile to ensure that the movie is, in act, amazing. Otherwise filmmakers run the risk of opening themselves up to reviews that begin like this: “Amazing Spider-Man,” more like “So-So Spider-Man.” There’s nothing that much wrong with the reboot of the Sam Raimi series, but it doesn’t have the oomph I would have expected from a talented director—the ironically named Marc Webb—hitting the reset button.
Like first Raimi film—which was released just ten years ago—“The Amazing Spider-Man” is an origin film. Peter Parker (“The Social Network’s” Andrew Garfield) is a misfit teen who develops superhuman powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. His spidey-senses tingle when danger is about and, as the song goes, he can “do whatever a spider can.” His new powers put him in the path of his scientist father’s old partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), an amputee doctor experimenting with cross genetic engineering to find a way to regrow his arm, and into the arms of Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), the cute daughter of a hardboiled police captain (Denis Leary).
There are differences between Raimi’s take on the story and the new film. He no longer organically shoots webs, they now come out of a mechanical webslinger. There’s a new romantic interest—Gwen replaces Mary-Jane Watson (played by Kirsten Dunst in the older movies) as Parker’s paramour– a new villain—Curt Connors appeared in the other movies as Peter’s professor—who morphs from human to giant lizard determined to infect everyone with lizard juice and J. Jonah Jameson, the Daily Bugle’s Editor-in-Chief is absent.
The biggest change, however, comes in the character. Spider-Man Mach 1, Tobey McGuire, played the webbed wonder’s human counter-part as a sweet, but awkward and bullied loner. Garfield takes a different approach. His Parker is rebellious, angst-ridden who taunts his enemies with wisecracks and gleefully yells, “I’m swingin’ here!” as he zigzags trough the air supported by his newfangled super webs.
It’s an interesting, fresh take on Parker, which Garfield, despite being eleven years older than his character, pulls off with aplomb. He’s made the character his own, balancing Parker’s nervous energy with Spider-Man’s cockiness.
Emma Stone’s Gwen and Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May bring some necessary heart to the story, but this is a summer blockbuster, so the emphasis is on the other stuff; nine-foot long lizards and fight scenes, but despite the large scope of the film it seems on a smaller scale than Raimi’s movies. Or at last as small a scale as a movie about a giant reptile and a radioactive superhero can be.
The visionary rethink that Christopher Nolan brought to Batman isn’t here. It does have the best Stan Lee cameo to date, beautiful photography and more humor than the previous films, but coming just five years after the last Raimi film it doesn’t feel as “amazing” as it should.
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