When Columbia Pictures first brought Spider-Man to the big screen in 2002, the Marvel Comics adaptation was such a box-office bonanza that it spawned two equally successful sequels. Now, a decade later, the studio has seen fit to revive the popular series.
Although that might strike some as too soon to attempt to replicate a winning formula, director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) is up to the challenge. The Amazing Spider-Man easily eclipses the earlier trilogy by using a combination of shadowy cinematography, dialogue, seamless special effects, and romantic chemistry.
The film stars Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker who becomes the superhero Spider-Man, with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as his love interest. At the point of departure Peter is a 98-pound weakling who is being bullied in school and secretly harboring a crush on Gwen.
We learn that Peter has been raised by his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and is consumed with solving the mystery of his parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) who disappeared years ago. So, he pays a visit to a former colleague of his father, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a leading research scientist at Oscorp, a biotech company that is attempting to develop a revolutionary limb regeneration serum.
Connors claims to be trying to create a world without weakness by splicing human genes with those of other species. But his interest isn’t entirely altruistic, since he also happens to be missing an arm himself.
While visiting Oscorp labs, Peter is bitten by a mutated spider which causes him to develop incredible strength as well as the ability to climb walls and spin webs. This evolution conveniently gives him a new physique with which to impress Gwen, and the strength to get even with his tormentors back at Midtown Science High.
Concurrently, the murder of his uncle by a mugger inspires him to embark on a crime fighting campaign as a masked vigilante. That doesn’t sit well with Gwen’s father (Denis Leary), a New York police department captain, who is opposed to citizens taking the law into their own hands.
Nevertheless, the ante is upped when Dr. Connors morphs into a formidable lizard-like creature after injecting himself with an experimental elixir. Worse, the drug made the power hungry madman hell-bent on hatching a plan for world domination which the cops are ill-equipped to fight, but is tailor-made for Spider-Man to combat.
Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action. Running time: 136 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.