Like director Sam Raimi’s 2002 original, this “new” version is an origin story, depicting how mild-mannered Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network) transforms from high school science nerd to an arachnid-powered superhero in spandex.
The major differences boil down to these:
—swapping nemesis The Green Goblin for The Lizard (Rhys Ifans, The Five-Year Engagement);
—swapping girlfriend Mary Jane Watson for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, The Help);
—nixing newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson entirely; and
—the de rigueur addition of needless 3-D. Only one shot truly benefits from the added dimension, which is hardly worth the premium pricing.
With all this department shifting, I’m amazed that Amazing Spider-Man works as well as it does. I’d put Amazing on par with Raimi’s much-reviled Spider-Man 3, which I actually liked: fine, but flawed.
(500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb tries valiantly to put his own spin on things by making Parker hipper than Tobey Maguire ever was allowed, but still hits all the expected story beats our pop-culture consciousness already has down pat.
What saves it from being a pointless Xerox is how Garfield and Stone approach their characters. Stone naturally exudes spark and charm, which allows the chemistry with her web-slinging leading man to pop.
All in all, audiences are left with a well-crafted tale mixing action, humor and pathos ... just as we were a decade before. This time, it just doesn’t feel revolutionary.