Watch the trailer for 'The Amazing Spider-Man'
There's an essential core to a Spider-Man tale; nerdy Peter Parker is living with his Aunt and Uncle after his parents die in a plane crash, Peter is bitten by an altered spider (in the original tale it's radioactive, but since we've generally learned that radiation just kills things, we've moved on to genetically altered) and rapidly develops spider powers. Shortly after, his Uncle is killed (usually after he and Peter have a fight, but not before the essential element of responsibility is imparted) by a criminal that Peter had previously allowed to go free, thus sending our hero into a guilt spiral that ultimately helps him become the hero we all know as Spider-Man.
The new 'The Amazing Spider-Man' film adheres to this formula well, giving us a solid grounding in the Spider-Man mythos.
First up, I should probably introduce the main players of our winsome tale; most of the people will be familiar to you, but there's a few changes from the 2002 Spider-Man film that might have a few people confused.
Uncle Ben (played by Martin Sheen) is the heroic impetus for Spider-Man. He's Peter's father figure, and it's his Uncle's death, and his Uncle's speech on the importance of responsibility (which, as you may know, comes with great power), which drives our super powered youth from bystander to hero.
May Parker is his Aunt (played by Sally Field), his now only living relative, and she provides an emotional grounding for him. She is the entirety of his family and the closest thing he has to a mother.
Captain George Stacy is Gwen's father. Unlike in the comic book series, where Captain Stacy is a supporter of Spider-Man, the movie incarnation (played by Dennis Leary) treats him like a dangerous vigilante, filling the persecutory role that is normally taken by J. Jonah Jameson. Captain Stacy becomes the social challenge for Spider-Man.
Dr. Curt Connors is the Lizard (played by Rhys Ifans), a conflicted villain that starts out only trying to help humanity and himself by harnessing the abilities of animals, such as the regenerative abilities of a lizard to restore his missing arm. Unfortunately, this triggers a Jekyll/Hyde like transformation in the doctor, providing Spider-Man with an enemy that is both a physical and an intellectual challenge.
This new 'Spider-Man' film departs from the 2002 franchise entirely, a reboot on the continuity that retains the original elements of the story without betraying the tale of Peter Parker.
In many ways, the Garfield portrayal is more active, more the outsider when compared to Toby Maguire's reclusive, insecure Spider-Man. This new film feels darker and more energetic, missing the large set pieces of the previous franchise to instead focus on the essential elements of Spider-Man's heroic struggle.
Spider-Man has three challenges in every incarnation; the physical, the mental and the social.
Due to his dual Spider-Man/Peter Parker nature, Spider-Man's villains tend to challenge him on both the physical and mental levels, with a greater or lesser degree depending on the villain, but it's the social challenges which makes Spider-Man distinct from the other heroes we see splashed across our screen. Spider-Man battles against the perception that he's a freak, a villain and a dangerous vigilante. The film puts police Captain Stacy in the role as primary social antagonist, declaring him a villain and menace to the city, a perception that Spider-Man fights the same way he always has; by saving the everyday people that are in danger, building a reputation amongst the every-man of his home city that ultimately benefits him. While the culmination of this support feels cheesy and out of place in an otherwise on-tone film (the pan up to an American flag was particularly jarring), there's nevertheless a great pleasure in seeing him overcome that social challenge, to have the general public support him when he needs them to.
I'm digressing again. I thought I asked you to keep an eye on that?
This Spider-Man is far more athletic than the previous film incarnation, feeling part gymnast and part parkour expert (check the link if you're unfamiliar with the sport, it's worth a look to see some of the crazy things people can do). The film focuses on the spider elements of the character to a greater degree than any other has to date, especially emphasised in a scene in the sewers (which I shan't spoil for you, but you'll know what I mean when you see it).
The use of 3D was minimal overall, though if the glasses don't bother you I'd recommend you see it in 3D simply for some of the pieces where Spider-Man swings through the city -- the subtle use of the technology making an appreciative difference without going over the top.
Stick through the credits at the end, there's a little teaser there that rather strongly hints at a planned sequel, and given the recent successes in the superhero genre (and, in my opinion, the excellent work in this film) it's no surprise that there's more coming.
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars (Just don't eat two choc-tops in quick succession like I did. Ugh, I still feel unwell.)Related Video: Watch Emma Stone's 'Spider-Man' video log