Not everyone was exactly anticipating it like the Marvel string of movies or especially The Dark Knight Rises, but the reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise is here and it is superior to the old model in virtually every way. You just have to kind of forget the old model exists to fully appreciate it.
I would normally say something about spoilers here, but if you saw any of the Sam Raimi movies or read any Spider-Man comics in the last 50 years, you pretty much know exactly what to expect here. Peter Parker is a dork who gets bit by a radioactive spider, gets powers, learns responsibility and everything else you know. The early stages of the movie can almost be swapped frame for frame with the previous series. Parker gets denied by women, Flash Thompson is a jerk, Peter embarrasses Flash in school, Ben Parker teaches life lessons about responsibility just before dying in a way that Peter could have inadvertently prevented (c’mon you had to know that was coming, right?). On the surface there is very little new. This is inevitable considering we know the characters and the story so well. However when looking closer, you’ll realize that the reboot handles all of these things a lot better.
Flash Thompson has more depth than just being a one note bully. Uncle Ben and Aunt may are much more detailed that before. Ben doesn’t just spew out one liners about being a good person. It comes out more organically. When Peter starts to develop his costume you see the transition from ski mask to the full suit. It makes it become almost believable that it could exist.
Then there is the new. Where we all scoffed at the tagline about “the untold story,” The Amazing Spider-Man does look deeper into Peter’s parent’s, who are scientists who knew too much about whatever it is they knew. The science background lends itself to make Peter the genius that we know from the comics, providing another difference from the trilogy. This reboot is much more faithful to the comics than anything before it. Peter is able to develop the web-shooters on his own, just like in the comics. The background of his father combined with some good timing make it seems much less impossible when he figures out all of the things he pulls off. The photography is there, but just as a hobby instead of going straight to the Daily Bugle. Why doesn’t he go there? Because he’s in high school! Where he belongs!
The other two main differences in the reboot are that he is in high school for the entire film, and Mary Jane Watson is nowhere to be seen. Again staying true to the comics, the love interest in this film is Gwen Stacey. Peter’s first love. This is important as to have one less thing to directly compare to the original films. The other thing it does is let the characters have some fun. Where things got awfully dramatic for Spider-Man the first time around, this time he is a lot more fun loving, and a lot of it has to do with Andrew Garfield.
Where Maguire looked like Peter Parker right off the page of the comics, Andrew Garfield shows much more of Parker’s personality, while still maintaining that look. Not that it was all his fault, but Maguire’s Parker was more of a nerdy man. He wasn’t specifically clever, just corny. Garfield is legitimately funny and interesting as Peter, and is pretty noble and cool well before he ever gets bitten by a spider. Being a high school student definitely helps as it let’s Peter just be an awkward teenager. The only critique I have is that Peter comes off as a bit of a horn-dog. Like I’m talking creepy at times. I can give him a bit of a pass though since he’s supposed to be a teenager, and he’s creeping on a Gwen Stacy being played by Emma Stone. Even Uncle Ben agrees she’s a looker. Stone plays a solid Stacy. Her and Garfield have good chemistry together and work the high school relationship tension as well as they can. I think we are at the end of the rope though for Emma Stone playing a 17 year old girl. I don’t care how good of an actress you are, you can’t make me believe you’re not legal with those stockings young lady. Martin Sheen and Sally Field due Uncle Ben and Aunt May justice as well. As I said before, both characters have more depth than they previously did. May is much less fragile this time around, and Ben can handle himself too. Someone finally realized that they are Peter’s aunt and uncle, not his grandparents.
Of course what superhero movie is complete without a villain. To keep things fresh we have the Lizard, who had been teased throughout the Sam Raimi movies. He, more than any other character, follows the same path as the previous movies. Like every Spider-Man movie villain before him, Lizard is a sympathetic character who chooses the wrong path in pursuit of success. There isn’t much to the Lizard, who isn’t exactly at the top of Spidey’s rogues gallery, but he also doesn’t overshadow Spider-Man, who is the real star here. His alter-ego, Dr. Curt Connors, is played by Rhys Ifans. Ifans essentially takes the place of Norman Osborn in the first film (for now). Connors becomes a father figure to Peter, which creates drama on both sides when they have to fight each other. There isn’t much too him, but he does enough to move everything along and give Spider-Man someone to fight.
That is where The Amazing Spider-Man separates itself from movies like Iron Man. Tony Stark had a very engaging introduction to his character, but he never really had a challenge on his hands. Here, Spider-Man has some great fight scenes with the Lizard, and the action comes off looking really well in 3D. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man spends a little too much time retelling a story we have already seen several times before, but they have enough additions and revisions to put this among the best movies (not just superhero movies) of the summer.