A lot of fuss was made a few years ago when Sony announced plans to reboot its successful Spider-Man series a decade after it first launched. After the relative failure of Spider-Man 3, though, the timing felt right for a creative shakeup. Audiences get that, and then some, with The Amazing Spider-Man.
Comparisons will doubtlessly be made between Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man. Both films mine similar terrain, since they both focus on the origin of Spider-Man. The approaches the two films take, though, are what make The Amazing Spider-Man feel fresh. For better or worse, Sam Raimi’s take on Spider-Man in the earlier franchise was relatively lighthearted. It was appropriate for a post-9/11 world. In the reinvented franchise, the tone is more grounded in reality. Well, as much as the story of a teen bitten by a genetically mutated spider can be grounded in reality.
Most people already know the basic storyline of Spider-Man’s origin, so there’s little need to rehash it. For the uninitiated, the story follows high school student Peter Parker, whose life is completely changed after being bitten by a spider.
There are some changes in this version of the story, though. This interpretation of Parker, played flawlessly by Andrew Garfield, is less of a wimp and more of a social outsider. He also has a wicked sense of humor that proves more charming than Tobey Maguire’s take on the character. It’s darker, and it’s infinitely more interesting. Parker’s joined this time by Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. Garfield and Stone have a palpable chemistry. The film, which has plenty of standout moments, hits its peaks whenever Garfield and Stone interact. They’re joined by an outstanding supporting cast, which includes Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
What also makes this interpretation stand out is its focus on relationships. More time is invested in building relationships, letting many of the major points of the origin story feel earned. It’s a perk of hiring director Marc Webb, whose only other film credit is (500) Days of Summer. As big of a film as The Amazing Spider-Man ultimately is, Webb successfully weaves in moments that normally come in smaller, character-driven films. It’s a bit of a departure from most superhero films. If anything, it feels in some ways like another reboot of a major superhero franchise, Batman Begins.
It also helps that, even though a lot of plot points are similar to Spider-Man’s, The Amazing Spider-Man sets up its own universe. The film sets up a sequel that should expand upon some of the storylines, including Peter’s search for his parents. It’s pretty much inevitable that a sequel will happen. In this case, it’s well-deserved.