I will stipulate, like many others, whether they love or hate Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, that it was perhaps a bit premature for a reboot. That said, however, I believe the new movie is superior in many ways to Sam Raimi’s version from last decade (which I also liked), from the acting to the atmosphere.
I had the advantage of viewing the new Spider-Man in IMAX 3D, and the effect was indeed amazing. It was immersive without being “in your face” either literally or figuratively; I felt part of the action without it being either dizzying or intrusive. None of the 3D effect was obvious; it just was.
The familiar plot has been somewhat altered; gone is the Daily Bugle except for one small reference, and Peter (The Social Network‘s Andrew Garfield) is less an aspiring photojournalist and more an aspiring young scientist. Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has been replaced by Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. Rather than an aspiring actress, Gwen is a bright young future scientist working as an intern at visionary scientific research company Oscorp. And Peter’s parents have disappeared, apparently going underground in fear of a big secret being stolen or revealed. That secret, once discovered by Peter, drives the plot of The Amazing Spider-Man.
The secret is a crucial algorithm developed years earlier, and it leads Peter to Oscorp, which was founded by Peter’s father Richard and his partner Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans – pronounced Reese Ee-vans). It’s while poking around Oscorp that Peter receives the fateful spider bite that irrevocably alters his existence, granting him superpowers and the ability to repay the jerks who’ve bullied him for years.
Since Richard’s disappeance, herpetologist Connors has run Oscorp, turning it into a mega-success. But what really drives him is his desire to replace his right arm, lost long ago. He runs Oscorp with the singular goal of developing cross-bred genetic mutations that can result in the regrowth of limbs, which will not only heal him, but benefit humankind. Unable to identify the one essential algorithm he needs to make the experiment work, Peter, without realizing the genie he will let out of the bottle by doing so, provides him with the long-since missing key to Connors’ grand experiment.
The key to The Amazing Spider-Man is the uniformly strong, even distinguished, cast. Garfield makes a much darker, more brooding Peter than the wide-eyed Tobey Maguire. He’s essentially a vigilante out for revenge against the man who murders his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). Peter is also driven by guilt and years of being bullied at school. It’s a potent mix, and Garfield hits all the right notes.
Welsh actor Ifans is great, creating a strangely sympathetic villain in Connors. In addition to Garfield, Stone, Sheen, and Ifans, Sally Field as Aunt May and Denis Leary as Police Captain Stacy provide enough gravitas and emotional impact to counterbalance high-wire effects and blockbuster effects. I love Martin Sheen in everything he’s done, going back to a bizarre early ’70s made-for-TV movie called Sweet Hostage, and it’s nice to see him – and Field – on the big screen.
I have a few quibbles, including Connors’ too-abrupt transformation from good guy to monster (maybe it was the God-zilla particle?), and the maybe-too-subtle resolution to the disappearance of Peter’s parents. There was also too little exploration of the movie’s real bad guy. (I can’t reveal more without giving away plot points, sorry.) All would have added drama to the story, but these are minor complaints.
Was it necessary to do a reboot of the franchise so soon? Probably not, but do not let that stop you from seeing this one. Yes, the familiar beats are there, but it’s different enough (and so well done) that you will forget it’s a reboot and enjoy it for the excellent movie it is.