I’ll admit it — when I first heard Marvel was rebooting the Spider-Man film franchise, I wasn’t overly excited. It’s only been about five years since Sam Raimi finished up his trilogy of Spider-Man movies, and overall, those films were well received by critics and fans. Doing a reboot this soon seemed a little much.
However, regardless of whether or not the Spider-Man franchise really needed a reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man” (which was released in theaters July 3) turns out to be pretty amazing. It utilizes the best themes from the original Spider-Man trilogy, but also tells its own story and features a fresh look at the character Peter Parker, played this time around by Andrew Garfield.
The film reintroduces Peter Parker as a high school student still struggling with the loss of his parents, who disappeared when he was young. He stumbles upon a clue about his parents’ past, which eventually leads him to cross paths with Dr. Curt Connors, a scientist working at the Oscorp company (a familiar name for Spider-Man fans). While at Oscorp, Peter is bitten by a genetically-modified spider and begins to develop strange powers. He later has to use these powers to stop Connors, who has turned into a mutant, lizard-like creature after an experiment goes bad.
While I enjoyed the previous Spider-Man trilogy, I think I might have enjoyed this film even more. I like that the reboot is keeping the focus on Peter Parker as a teenager. In Sam Raimi’s trilogy, Peter seemed to age a lot more quickly. While there’s nothing wrong with that, keeping Peter as a high schooler in this film gave director Marc Webb a chance to show more of the character’s vulnerability and angst. Despite the fact he’s fighting criminals, there’s still a sense of innocence and idealism in Garfield’s character. He has amazing super powers but still has to deal with many of the everyday problems all teenagers experience (bullying, the pressure to do well in school, the awkwardness that comes with falling in love for the first time, etc.).
Much of the credit for this film’s success goes to Garfield and Emma Stone, who plays Peter’s love interest. Garfield completely throws himself into this role, giving a heartfelt and authentic performance. According to the Internet Movie Database, he has said in interviews that Spider-Man was his hero growing up — and that level of passion shows in this film. He has great chemistry with Stone, who also gives a strong performance as the smart and spunky Gwen Stacy.
I also liked Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben. They don’t just echo the characters from the previous Spider-Man films; they manage to make the roles their own. Denis Leary also is good as NYPD Captain Stacy, Gwen’s father. And of course, this film features one of Stan Lee’s trademark cameos — and it just might be his best cameo in a Marvel film yet.
The film’s one weakness is probably its villain, who isn’t quite as strong a character as Doc Ock, arguably the best of the villains from Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, or Loki, the villain from this summer’s other superhero blockbuster, “The Avengers.” However, the other characters in this film are so great this almost doesn’t even matter.
Although initially I was a little skeptical about the reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man” quickly won me over, and I think it’s certainly earned a sequel. I’m looking forward to seeing where Webb and Garfield take this new series in the future.