“The Amazing Spiderman” is, in a word, “amazing”. It’s not so much a rebooting of the franchise but an intelligent and engaging re-imagining of it. Peter Parker’s transformation from nerdy foil to various bullies is less about the serendipity of being bitten by a spider, but more about his own curiosity and, almost, fate. Director Marc Webb (pause a while to take in that appropriate name) brings on the skills he honed on the delightful “500 Days of Summer” to present us with a Peter Parker who doesn’t have the brawn to cope with bullies, but certainly has the fearlessness to evolve into a superhero. He’s cool enough to warrant the attentions of Gwen Stacy, the love interest, as Peter, not as Spiderman. His transformation is really a hugely exaggerated rite of passage into adolescence. It’s the adolescence every skinny youth would have loved – from gawkiness to transcendence. It’s a moment captured nicely when he confronts his uncle’s would-be murderer and flaunts his super powers on this hapless knife carrying thug.
Relative newcomer, Englishman Andrew Garfield (part of that new crop of English public school boys who seem to have decided that acting’s better than banking) carries off the part of the shy/awkward/confused teenager who grows into a kind of web slinging maturity, with great aplomb. His emotional arc, like the entire movie is very convincing.
No less so, his love interest, Gwen – Emma Stone. We last saw Emma as the heroine and narrator of “The Help”. She, like him, is a bit of a nerd. The director lets you in to where the chemistry arises.
Equally engaging is the baddie – Dr.Curt Connors, once a partner to Peter’s dead father, and who (like all baddies) is an obsessed scientist working for a faceless company – Oscorp. He’s a Jeckyl turned Hyde as he morphs from man into New York (always damn New York. Why don’t they pick on, say Miami) destroying lizard. Connors is Rhys Ifan, who you may remember as Hugh Grant’s skinny friend in “Notting Hill”.
There are many really stand-out scenes in the movie – apart of course from the wonderful web slinging flying feats (that actually work nicely in 3D). Parker recognizes his own super strengths and speed first by inadvertently destroying his bathroom, his computer (the keys stick to his newly sticky fingers) and thrashing a gang of hoodlums on a subway car. He kicks the daylights out of them, all the while astonished by what he’s doing and apologizing profusely to them as he beats them up. But the first real expression that he’s a genuine hero not just a web crawling vigilante comes in a stunningly well realized scene in which he saves the life of a kid trapped in a flaming car. We know it’ll come out well, but Webb builds the tensions as grippingly as Spielberg did in a (not dissimilar) scene at the beginning of “Jurassic Park” two when a trailer is tipped over a precipice.