The Amazing Spider-Man lives up to at least part of its title. The film deals with the origins of the hero and serves as a good introduction for audiences who may be unfamiliar with the character from the comics or Sam Raimi’s previous films.
Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker, a student at Midtown Science High School. His parents disappeared under mysterious circumstances when he was young and he’s been raised by his aunt and uncle. At the beginning of the film, Peter is a fairly typical teenager: he skates, has an interest in photography, struggles with bullies at school and nurses a crush on classmate Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). Then he’s bitten by a radioactive spider and his life changes forever.
The film takes a fairly by-the-numbers approach to the seminal events around Peter’s transformation into Spider-Man; where it really sets itself apart is in its casting. Garfield seems like a natural fit for Peter Parker, easily capturing the combination of cockiness and vulnerability that has made Spider-Man one of Marvel’s most enduring and endearing characters. Emma Stone does a lot to prevent her character from becoming just another bland love interest/damsel in distress, while Sally Field and Martin Sheen (playing Peter’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben respectively) give the film a solid emotional core.
Director Marc Webb brings a surprisingly assured technique to the action sequences, considering his indie background, and he clearly has fun exploring the implications of cross-species mutations. His roots serve him best, however, when foregrounding the relationships between the characters. As the leads, Stone and Garfield have a particularly effortless chemistry which bodes well for future films in the rebooted franchise.
Rhys Ifan’s Dr Connors may be disappointing, considering the caliber of the villains in recent superhero movies (or Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films), but overall The Amazing Spider-Man does a good job of establishing the fundamentals of the character for a whole new generation of movie-goers.