A decade ago, director Sam Raimi has made his near-perfect masterpiece of SPIDER-MAN (2002). He raised the bar again with SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004), which was highly regarded as one of the finest superhero movies of all-time. Then came SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007), which was condemned by many as a creative disappointment (even though I personally beg to differ) and even failed to capitalize the first two box-office successes that had set remarkably well before. Between 2008 till 2010, Sam Raimi was originally set to return with SPIDER-MAN 4. At that time, he wanted John Malkovich to play Vulture but Sony Pictures didn't see eye to eye with his idea especially with the reportedly awful script had turn up. With subsequent revised script and the studio's insistence to release the movie on May 6, 2011, Sam Raimi chose to leave the project completely and SPIDER-MAN 4 was ultimately scrapped to make way for the reboot instead.
Now here lies the question: Why the rush to meet the deadline at the first place? Seriously, whoever thought it's a great idea to let go of Sam Raimi needs to get a slap in the face. With SPIDER-MAN barely released a decade ago, and a very good one as well, is the reboot really that necessary? For those who have been skeptical for years wondering whether this reboot, entitled as THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, can either match or raise the bar that set by Sam Raimi earlier, will find this a creative disappointment. If taken this as a stand-alone movie, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN does have its moments but not nearly amazing enough to warrant this as a worthy reboot at the first place.
In this reboot, the origin story has been slightly tweaked where we first come to know that as a young boy, Peter Parker (Max Charles) found out that his parents -- scientist Richard (Campbell Scott) and wife Mary (Embeth Davidtz) - had mysteriously fled in the night while leaving him in the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field).
Some ten years later, Peter (Andrew Garfield) is now a grown-up teenager who studied at Midtown High School. A geeky loner who is also a high-school amateur photographer, he is often bullied by the cocky Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka). At the same time, he also has a crush with his fellow classmate, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Then one day, when he found a briefcase belonged to his father at his home's basement, he discovers a secret formula regarding about cross-genetic species written on the papers and also learns that his father was once worked with fellow scientist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) at a biological corporation Oscorp. That clue eventually leads him to Oscorp, where he faked his way in as one of a group of high school interns. He eventually sneaks into a lab where he is unexpectedly bitten by a radioactive spider. Next thing he knows, he possesses sudden super-strength and begins to feel strange about himself.
Well, as for the rest, we all know that Uncle Ben is gunned down by a thief that Peter can't help blaming himself for not stopping at the first place and eventually seek vengeance while prowling the night dressing like as a masked vigilante. He is subsequently calls himself as Spider-Man after he creates his own mask, a spandex suit and mechanical devices attached on his wrists capable to fire out web. While the thief who killed his Uncle Ben is still on the loose, he realizes he has a bigger responsibility to bear, when a superhuman villain by the name of Lizard, has strikes terror in the New York City. And that Lizard turns out to be Dr. Curt Connors who has apparently mutated himself with the cross-genetic species injection.
Taking over Sam Raimi in the director's chair, is Marc Webb, who only had one movie to his credit and that was the indie sensation called (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. At the first glance, appointed him as the director for such significant high-profile studio project like THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN sounds like way out of his league. While there are unexpected director before him who can do well in superhero genre (namely Kenneth Branagh in last year's THOR), Marc Webb isn't exactly up to the standard. Working on a script written by veterans James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves, the entire movie tries hard to be gloomy and lightweight one after another. Apparently Webb has taken an inspiration from Christopher Nolan's BATMAN BEGINS (2005) to rewrite the otherwise colorful side of the origin story of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in favor of a darker tone. That radical move does works well in certain angles but it also makes the movie a bloated mess to sit through as well. The biggest problem here is its inconsistent pace. Clocking at 136 minutes, the movie often feels labored as Marc Webb made a mistake of taking too much time to establish its tone to see how Peter Parker becomes from a geeky loner to a vengeful, masked vigilante filled with teenage angst. It doesn't help either when the movie also drags too much with the romance angle between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. If that's not insulting enough, Marc Webb has gone overboard with the long-winded epilogue that seemingly have a tough time to end the movie.
But for all the glaring flaws, the movie does have its redeeming value once Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man. Special effects has came a long way since we see how Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) swings its web all over the New York City in Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN and this time around, the effects here are significantly improved a lot. In fact, it feels more realistic and does give a sense of vertigo each time we witness how Spider-Man web-slings from one skyscraper to another. As for the action scenes, Marc Webb manages to create some serious fun here (even though he doesn't have that "wow" factor Raimi has done significantly better) especially with all the acrobatic stunts aided with a fluid, often seemingly-impossible camerawork. Such notable scenes including the daring rescue of a young kid inside a vehicle dangling upside down at a bridge, the battle scene against the Lizard at the high school and of course, the final confrontation atop the Oscorp building.
As Peter Parker/Spider-Man, the 28-year-old Andrew Garfield who made his name in Hollywood with the Oscar-winning THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010), may looks too old to play a teenage Peter Parker at the first glance but he manages to beat the odds to tackle the role convincingly enough. While he is not as appropriately geeky as Tobey Maguire, he does excel on his own term particularly the way how he feels awkward and shy whenever he encounters the girl of his love, Gwen Stacy. And speaking of Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone is certainly charming and radiant enough to make her more than just a thankless love interest. For Rhys Ifans, he does what he can to portray a misunderstood villain as Dr. Curt Connors/the Lizard even though he's not up to the par of what Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin and Alfred Molina's Dr. Octopus has done so well in their villainous characters. But of all the fine actors here, it is Denis Leary who steals the limelight as the no-nonsense Captain Stacy. In fact, he has all the memorable one-liner (e.g. "Do I look like a mayor of Tokyo?") that makes his character all the more fun to watch for. Too bad it's a shame that Martin Sheen and Sally Field, both terrific actors, fails to make their respective Uncle Ben and Aunt May characters all the more lasting impressions here.
Overall, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is a slightly above-average superhero genre that still provides some necessary entertainment for a summer-movie blockbuster. And by the way, don't leave the cinema yet as there is a minor scene midway in the end credit which features another potential villain set up for the proposed sequel in 2014.