(NEW YORK) — As a film fan, I was simply not ready for a Spider-Man reboot. The Amazing Spider-Man is as necessary as plain yogurt (I’ll never understand plain yogurt. Does anybody eat plain ice cream?). Still, according to producer Avi Arad, his team is bringing the teen web-slinger back to introduce him to all of the 16- and 17-year-olds who were too young to remember when the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire cartoonish, mostly fun first Spider-Man movies came out, the first of which was way back in 2002.
Whether I believe that or not, they’ve certainly proven the brand to be profitable enough to reboot the franchise for whatever reason they choose. They even went out and hired (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb to reintroduce and reinvigorate the Spider-Man franchise. Yes, a man whose last name is Webb is directing The Amazing Spider-Man. Kind of like hiring a meteorologist with the last name Storm. As it turns out, hiring Webb was an excellent choice.
In The Amazing Spider-Man, we meet soon-to-be-hero Peter Parker as a child. His father, Richard Parker, a scientist for Oscorp, is protecting a secret. When his home office is breached one night, it’s suddenly time for Dad (Campbell Scott) to grab his wife and child and head to his brother’s house (Uncle Ben, played Martin Sheen) where he drops Peter off, leaves a leather briefcase and drives away, never to return.
Cut to high school, where we meet Andrew Garfield’s lanky, quiet but angsty-under-the surface boy genius version of Peter Parker. While pensive Peter is constantly bothered by bully Flash Thompson, he never runs away. On the contrary, when Peter sees Flash bullying somebody else, his natural instinct is to protect the weak, although things don’t work out so well for him. Who saves the day? Why, it’s Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, sporting her natural blonde hair color).
Now we come to the part where I tell you everything you really need to know about this movie. The scene when Peter asks Gwen out, well after he’s acquired his Spidey-senses and powers, is an absolute treat. This is part of the magic that Webb brings to the project and highlights the chemistry that, I believe, led to Garfield and Stone’s off-screen romance. It’s the truest scene in the movie and teems with an adorable, innocent awkwardness uncommon to any super-hero flick. Many big-budget action flicks try to make characters seem organic. Garfield and Stone are organic. As are Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben, Sally Field as Aunt May and Denis Leary as Captain Stacy.
And then there’s the great Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, aka The Lizard. Richard Parker’s former partner is a genius scientist hell-bent on finding a way to regenerate cells so he can grow back his missing arm. Ifans can actually sweat hubris if you need him to and in The Amazing Spider-Man, he sweats buckets of it. When we get to the point where he becomes The Lizard, his moral struggle between remaining human or injecting himself with the serum that allows him to become The Lizard (Am I man, or am I Super Lizard?) is palpable.
You’ll notice I’ve said very little about the action. The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t so much about web-slinging, jumping off buildings and swinging from construction cranes as it is the characters — and these are excellent characters, supported by enough eye-popping 3D action to satisfy, well, everybody. With the possible exception of those who suffer from vertigo or fear of heights.
So yes, while I wasn’t ready for another Spider-Man movie, Marc Webb and company have put together an unusually satisfying and well-rounded reboot that serves as an excellent introduction to a new franchise. The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t always exciting in the conventional super-hero sense but the realism in these characters will keep your imagination tethered (by a web) to the story.
Four out of five stars.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sara Sidner and Jason Kravarik, CNN Newswire
Michael Pearson, CNN Newswire