★ ★ ★ ★
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans. Directed by Marc Webb. Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
As it's a remake, it's easy to go into The Amazing Spider-Man with some preconceived notions and even easier to compare it to Sam Raimi's 2002 version of the film. But even so, that won't stop you from fully appreciating this faithful adaptation of the classic comic. It may be straightforward, but it's got plenty of high-intensity action scenes, humor, romance and mystery – what else can you really ask for from a superhero movie? Those who've already written this movie off as a shameless rehash may want to rethink that decision and enjoy the fresh treatment it's given in regards to writing and acting.
Completely different from its predecessor, the film thoroughly develops the emotional depth of Peter Parker (Garfield), who suffers from the torment and curiosity of his parent's abandonment and death, adding a coming-of-age element to the original story. And instead of silently brooding, Garfield externalizes a great deal of his emotional conflict, reacting more like a normal teenager and less like a stereotypical superhero. His geekiness and boyish charm combined with his ability to stand on his own two feet give him a smart-ass attitude and dazzling wit, resulting in an extremely flawed, but likeable character remniscent of Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man. This makes for interesting chemistry with his love interest, Gwen Stacy (Stone), that's natural and down to earth – their relationship never feels too forced or heavy.
In one of his several attempts to uncover the mystery surrounding his parents, Peter finds himself snooping in the Oscorp laboratory and is bit by a radioactive spider. The story instantly becomes more complex and shifts to the inner struggle that comes with his new power, distinguishing when to use it and why to use it. In fact, it's almost an hour into the film before Peter's faced with any real external conflict, though it doesn't feel that way because Webb does what he's best at and makes the character as much of a draw, if not more of one than the action and drama that are yet to come.
The last hour of the film is where all the fighting and action come into play and Peter comes to odds with his father's old partner and his current mentor, Dr. Connors (Ifans) who's transformed into the Lizard and set out to wreak havoc on the city. The fight scenes are no doubt flawlessly choreographed and the CGI is outstanding and manages to not be overwhelming. In fact, the set pieces for The Amazing Spider-Man ellicit a retro feel that remind the audience of the comic book and give the film a more make-believe sensation, which is a nice balance to the realistic nature of the characters and relationships.
While the obvious action movie qualities are present, the true strength of this film lies in its powerful writing. A new emotional element has been added to Spiderman that tranforms a potentially run of the mill action/adventure movie into a passionate and moving story without stepping into overly sentimental territory. The film actually rids itself of any petty drama that is universally annoying in most superhero films – Peter doesn't have any qualms about letting his secret be known to Gwen and therefore, all of the grief that goes along with it is eliminated and the main conflict is more thoroughly developed. So, even if it was a little soon to be made, The Amazing Spider-Man definitely brings something to the table as far as breaking out of the typical action movie structure and shaping Spiderman into a unique and multi-dimensional character.