Anyone who has seen more than a half-dozen movies in the past 10 years is asking themselves the same question: Isn't it a little soon to be rebooting Spider-Man? After all, it's been only a decade since director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire teamed up for one of the best superhero movies ever made, and only five years since the pair called it quits after the underwhelming and silly third movie in the franchise.
So why are Marc Webb, who directed (500) Days of Summer, and Andrew Garfield, who was in The Social Network, scrapping everything that's happened since 2002 and starting over, even retelling Spidey's origin? Good question, and one that you'll probably forget once The Amazing Spider-Man slips into gear. The movie may not be necessary, but it's a summertime blast all the same.
Once again, it all starts with Spidey's backstory: Brainy high-school senior Peter Parker, friendless and raised by his loving uncle and aunt (Martin Sheen and Sally Field, both good), gets bitten by a radioactive spider, which gives him superhero powers. We get a few details this time on how Peter's parents died, but it's mostly the same bullies, the same interest in photography, and the one lone girl who befriends him — not Mary Jane Watson, but Gwen Stacy (a radiant Emma Stone) this time.
There's also a new villain with ties to Peter's past: scientist Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who worked with Peter's dad on a top-secret experiment regarding regeneration. Connors' studies on reptilian DNA to regrow his missing right arm transform him into the Lizard, a giant scaly creature who isn't quite the bad guy we usually see in these movies. Playing Connors as a more sympathetic character is just one way The Amazing Spider-Man distances itself from Raimi's movies.
It also doesn't have the same energy as the first two Raimi films. Webb (and the four writers who worked on the story) builds to the action, slowly stacking characters so that you have a pretty good idea what makes them tick by the time Peter puts on the Spidey suit for the first time. It certainly gives his Spider-Man more heart, but it's also less exciting in the action department. Webb is a more personal director than Raimi, so he gets more out of his cast, especially Garfield, who gives Peter the geekiness and vulnerability that Maguire often forced.
But you're not ponying up for 3D at the multiplex for character development (not that there's anything wrong with that), and once the movie gets around to Spider-Man swinging around New York City, playing masked vigilante, and tearing up Peter's high school in an epic battle with the Lizard, it's perfectly fine as summertime action fare. But this Spider-Man has something else on its mind.