An unnecessary reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man is more average than awesome; more "meh" than "woo hoo". Not that it's a bad film, far from it. It's just that it fails to excite as much as The Avengers did back in April. Or Sam Raimi's Spider-Man did back in 2002.
So let's start with the biggest elephant in the room – why do what is essentially a remake a mere 10 years after Raimi's brilliant original? Don't ask me. My guess is that it's just greed on the part of Sony. They ditched director Raimi and star Tobey Maguire after the poor critical reception for Spider-Man 3 (plus they felt the guys were asking for too much money) and rather than just do another sequel with a new (cheaper) star and director, the studio thought it would make more money by simply starting again. Bad move all round.
For a two-hour film, the first hour of The Amazing Spider-Man does tend to drag, as well as supplying several instances of deja vu. It's the origin story all over again, but with a few twists. An unnecessary backstory involving Peter Parker's missing parents is brought in, plus the spider that bites Peter is genetically modified rather than radioactive. And the fact that the spider was genetically modified by Peter's dad is just one of a few annoying and silly coincidences that crop up. The other pet peeve with the first hour is that it's just so hard to believe Garfield as a picked-upon geek in high school. He's tall, good looking, rides a skateboard, has great hair and doesn't wear glasses. In my book, that makes him one of the cool kids. Maguire was a geek; Garfield isn't.
So Peter gets bitten, develops super powers, beats Flash Thompson, gets arrogant, doesn't help when a store gets robbed, his Uncle Ben is shot and killed, Peter creates a costume, yadda yadda yadda. So much seen-it-all-before. And it's done no better than when Raimi did it a decade ago. There's also a subplot about Peter trying to find his uncle's killer that gets abandoned after about half an hour. Two other big changes: one is that the filmmakers decided to go back to the mechanical web-shooters of the comics, rather than the biological shooters of Raimi's; two is in the love interest. We get Gwen Stacey (a blonde Stone) rather than Mary Jane Watson. We also meet the villain for this outing – the Lizard, aka Curt Connors (Ifans). Connors is a geneticist, working for Oscorp, and was also a colleague of Peter's father. He's experimenting with reptillian DNA, trying to invent a serum to help people grow new limbs that they've lost (he himself is missing his right arm). Of course, it all goes wrong and he turns into a giant CGI monster that looks somewhat un-lizard like; he bears a striking resemblance to Bowser from the Super Mario games.
So they're just some of the negatives. Are there any positives to report? Well, yes, a few. The film has got THE best Stan Lee cameo of any Marvel film to date. The cast are all terrific – particularly Sheen, who we don't see enough of either here or in films generally. Garfield makes a terrific Spider-Man when he's in costume. He brings great physicallity to the role, and it's also nice to see the witty, sarcastic badinage from the comics make a comeback – something that was lacking in the Raimi trilogy. The scenes of Spider-man swinging through Manhattan are done well, and the few action set-pieces tick all the right boxes. And the 3D is done well, although it's not absolutely essential – you'd need to REALLY love 3D to pay the extra money for it. Overall, there's just not enough going on to make this a must-see summer blockbuster. Wasting the first hour redoing the origin story was a mistake. Sony would have been much better off simply recasting the role, getting in a new director and making Spider-Man 4.
Let's hope that the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man is more than just adequate.