At the Movies: The Amazing Spider-Man

The new Spider-Man movie is entertaining — but not quite amazing.

Some people, myself included, question the need for a Spider-Man reboot. After all, the first one was a mere 10 years ago. The second one was one of the best superhero movies ever made. Granted, the third one was a bit of a mess, but that’s no reason to scuttle the whole setup.

Yet here we are, with Peter Parker back in high school, Uncle Ben still alive — for a little while at least — and Pete’s first love has gone from Mary Jane Watson to Gwen Stacy (technically, Pete’s first love was Daily Bugle secretary Betty Brant, but I guess they’re saving that version for the third reboot.)

In trying to put a new spin on the proceedings, director Marc Webb brings Peter’s hitherto unseen parents into the fold. As the film opens Richard Parker (Campbell Scott), a scientist working with arachnids, rushes out of his home with wife Mary (Embeth Davidtz) and their young son. They drop Peter off with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) and are never seen again.

Peter (Andrew Garfield) grows into a brilliant, skateboarding outcast teen. He learns that his father once worked with a scientist named Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and goes to Oscorp hoping to meet him. Connors’ student intern is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a young woman Peter has been crushing on in high school.

Connors and Richard Parker were experimenting on combining human and animal genetic material. Connors, who lost an arm, is hoping to use lizard DNA to allow him to regenerate his lost limb. Peter manages to stumble into the spider testing room where he has his fated encounter with an enhanced arachnid.

Pete wakes up with spider powers, acts irresponsibly, Uncle Ben is shot, yadda yadda yadda, Spider-Man is born. Meanwhile, Dr. Connors injects himself with lizard serum and regrows his arm. Then turns into a crazy lizard person.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is a decent relaunch. There’s plenty of new material here to make up for the parts that are repeated, but the feeling of deja vu is still strong. The movie moves at a rapid pace — it’s over two hours long but doesn’t feel like it.

The special effects are fine but the action sequences seem short and lack spark. The 3D added nothing to the proceedings, which is a shame because if anybody seems like they were made for 3D, it’s Spider-Man.

Garfield and Stone give the series a new vitality. I’m not yet sold on Sally Field as Aunt May. I miss J. Jonah Jameson, who’s been replaced in the adult-who’s-out-to-get-Spidey role by Police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary). I’m sure they’ll bring JJJ in for the sequel. I’m assuming there will be a sequel since they left so many dangling plotlines.


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