The Amazing Spider-Man

Eight years after George Clooney slipped on the black latex suit and brought Batman to life, director Christopher Nolan gave the entire franchise a much-needed reboot, completely re-imagining the Dark Knight with new story lines, new characters, and a whole new feel.

Five years after Tobey Maguire spun webs in his red-and-blue suit, director Marc Webb gives us… just another Spider-Man movie.

Sure, if you missed any of the prior incarnations, you may just have yourself a good time– but seeing as it’s only been five years since the last time Spidey flung his webs, I suspect that portion of the population is pretty small. And you’ll more likely find yourself wondering why we need to watch the same movie all over again.

We, of course, know the story. Boy gets bitten by spider, boy wakes up with spider-like powers, boy fights crime dressed in a suit and mask. Screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves do tweak some of the minor details and give the back story a little more oomph, but the general plot remains the same.

If anything helps The Amazing Spider-Man set itself apart, it’s the cast. Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker as an outcast, but one who’s not afraid of a fight (compared with Tobey Maguire’s wimpy nerd). Emma Stone is as great as ever as Gwen Stacy, his eventual girlfriend, and the supporting players include Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter’s uncle and aunt, Denis Leary as Gwen’s police captain dad, and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, the eventual villain. (And keep an eye out for the trademark Stan Lee cameo, as an oblivious librarian.)

Webb, who gave us the brilliant romantic dramedy (500) Days of Summer, knows how to do nuance well. The quiet, intimate scenes are full of life and emotion –particularly the cutely awkward moment when Peter first asks Gwen on a date– it’s only when he tries to go big that The Amazing Spider-Man falls short.

First of all, where’s all the ‘flying’? Based on the trailer and the fact that audiences are asked to shell out some extra bucks to don 3D glasses, you’d think we’d be treated to extended scenes of visual mayhem, watching as Spidey goes swooping and soaring through the streets of New York. Not so much. You’ll probably leave feeling short-changed.

Not only are those scenes too few and far between, we’re robbed of what coulda-shoulda been one of the most amazing sequences in the movie– when Peter takes Gwen out for her first spin. Instead of seeing (and vicariously feeling) her awe and amazement, we only get one far-away shot and then a cut to the next scene. Huh?

Sure, there’s plenty of action on the ground and on the tops of buildings, but frankly that’s not what we’re here for.

If that weren’t enough, Vanderbilt’s script is arguably the weakest of the franchise so far. The sharp, smart (and funny) moments that made The Avengers the best movie of the year so far are missing here, and other parts are left dangling with little or no explanation, like the disappearance of Peter’s parents and the overnight 180 of Dr. Connors from kindly researcher to a megalomaniac bent on global destruction.

An extra scene during the end credits sets up a sequel nicely; the good news is that Spider-Man will now have plenty of time to get back in the swing of things. Assuming, of course, we need yet another Spider-Man movie.

3.5/5 stars