Spider-man is back on the big screen just five years since Sam Raimi concluded his trilogy of movies about the web-slinger, a fact you might assume would lead to a radical rethink in the way the character is portrayed. Sadly not. Andrew Garfield takes over from Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker while the aptly-named Marc Webb gets in the director’s chair to take us back to where it all began. Again. The 2002 origins story in Spider-man gets rewritten here with Emma Stone as high school love interest Gwen Stacy, Rhys Ifans as one-armed genetic scientist Dr. Curt Connors, Martin Sheen at Uncle Ben and Sally Field as Aunt May. Kicking off with a short insight into how Parker came to be in the care with his aunt and uncle before his parents died, we’re quickly fast forwarding to our hero as an awkward student in need of some help with bullies and getting his words out around the ladies.
When Dr. Curt Connors shows up talking about combining animal species to offer powers such as regenerative limbs and Parker gets bitten by one of his lab spiders, you start scratching your head over why you’re seeing Spider-man circa 2002 being rewritten without Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane and Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin. This revision takes us through all the motions of Parker getting to grips with his powers and facing further family tragedy which are all-too-fresh in our memories from 10 years ago, but the sad thing is The Amazing Spider-Man does it so well that you’re left annoyed you can’t ignore the similarities.
Garfield may be a little old to be playing Parker at 29, however he strikes the right balance between geeky and aloof that doesn’t get annoying like the Maguire films. His Spider-man has far more style than Maguire too – he seems to fit the role more naturally. His Spider-man lacks the web abilities of the previous incarnation meaning he has to shoot his webbing from specially-adapted wrist devices which throws in a limitation to his spider powers. He’s also got a nice line in quickfire splats that work nicely to provide variation in his attacking skills.
The potential is there for Garfield to make the role of Parker his own.
The all-round more likeable superhero is also coupled up with an adorable performance from Stone which ensures Gwen’s romance with Peter isn’t a slushy high school throwback and has far more humour than the previous trilogy’s reliance on a never-quite-right dynamic engulfing Mary Jane and Peter. The domestic scenes with Gwen and her Spider-man hating cop father Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary) are well performed and set up some much-needed human drama in the final third when Dr. Curt Connors uses his own serum to grow a new arm but becomes a crazed human lizard and threatens to do the same to the whole of New York.
Spider-man’s skirmishes with low level thieves right up to his battles with The Lizard build nicely and are well put together by Webb, ensuring there will be no complaints from action junkies even though he struggles to conjured up a wow factor. This is a solid start to the new Spider-man trilogy which sets up the strands necessary for an intriguing two further films which could see this series held in higher regard than Raimi’s. The potential is there for Garfield to make the role of Parker his own and step out from the shadow of Maguire and if that is achieved the “too soon” status of The Amazing Spider-Man will change to well-timed.