Rating: Two and a half stars out of four
Putting aside my love for the first two Spider-Man films and my dislike of the third, I was really looking forward to “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Spider-Man is among my favorite superheroes and I wanted to have another film capture what makes him special. While not as laborious as “Spider-Man 3,” this reboot does little to distinguish itself from superior superhero films even in its own franchise.
Most people probably know the origins of Spider-Man, which is maybe why the first third feels so rushed and breezy. A radioactive spider bites Peter Parker, a thief kills his uncle Ben and Peter becomes a vigilante to strike back at crime. His first big enemy is an old family associate named Curt Connors, who transforms into The Lizard and plans to launch an attack on New York City. The story offers some great potential, but the writing is not strong enough to support it. The villain’s motivations are flimsy, plot threads feel underdeveloped and the film leads to a very typical superhero action climax on a skyscraper. It’s superhero origin film 101.
Director Marc Webb, best known for his indie romantic film “500 Days of Summer,” tries to add his own spin to the superhero genre but it feels disjointed. There are two very good action scenes (the best being one in a sewer), but others try to use that choppy editing and camerawork trend that feels sloppy. Indie rock music is inserted at random spots to almost no effect, particularly with a needless music video styled sequence in a warehouse. Attempts at fan service are made like giving Spider-Man his mechanical web shooters, but they feel like purely cosmetic changes.
The biggest problem is that Peter Parker is not the likable character we know and love. He is portrayed as too hipster and selfish to make his shift into a superhero feel genuine. He acts cold to his uncle and aunt, he comes off as kind of a stalker with Gwen Stacy, he only occasionally shows genuine concern for civilians and, worst of all, he is not charming or funny as Spider-Man should be. It is partially because of how Andrew Garfield plays the character, but the way Spider-Man is written here would not help any actor.
That said, there are things to praise. Emma Stone is superb as the girlfriend Gwen Stacy, adding a lot emotional depth for what could have been a thankless role. There are also some great supporting turns from Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary and Rhys Ifans, though they needed more screen time. The music is good overall, the visual effects are mostly top notch and there is fun to be had with the romantic elements throughout.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” is never awful, but it just missed on so much potential to be great. As of now, it is a serviceable superhero film to prepare for “The Dark Knight Rises.”