(Action, PG-13, 136 minutes)
In with the new with a little bit of the old: “The Amazing Spider-Man” opens today and with it comes a welcome change in front of the camera and behind it. Lead actor Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi are out and Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb take the reins, respectively.
The basics of the story are there — the spider, the boy, Uncle Ben and a love interest — but this film takes it back before Mary Jane comes into the picture. More light is shed on Peter Parker’s parents, especially his scientist father, and Peter’s personal struggles and insecurities.
A suspicious break-in at the Parkers’ home results in Peter (Garfield) being sent to live with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). The untimely death of his parents makes Peter’s move permanent.
Peter takes photos at his high school but has inherited his father’s love of science. After stumbling upon secret papers left in his late father’s briefcase, Peter takes it upon himself to discover their meaning.
His curiosity leads him to Oscorp, a research facility in Manhattan, where he finds his father’s colleague, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), and his crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Dr. Connors is researching cross-genetic mutation with the intention of cell regeneration, and Stacy assists with the internship program. Although this new endeavour makes Peter feel more connected with his father and allows him to get closer to Gwen, it also causes discord at home between uncle and nephew.
However, both men soon meet their inevitable fates. Peter is bitten by a genetically engineered spider at Oscorp, and Uncle Ben is murdered. As Peter goes on a quest of vigilante justice, Dr. Connors goes on a quest for a different matter. In this film, Oscorp has a major role in the transformation of these two characters — one for good and one for evil.
I was Team Tobey in the beginning of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” but I wandered to the other side by its end. Garfield lacks Maguire’s nerdy charm but holds his own in the action scenes. He gains unmatched physical strength from the spider bite but relies mainly on technology — and superb sewing skills — with his new suit.
The only way to get the full effect of this movie is in IMAX 3-D. Be prepared for feelings of vertigo, whether Spider-Man is swinging across New York City’s skyscrapers, battling a new villain hundreds of stories high, or dangling from a fiery bridge.
The new characters were also a welcome change from the previous films. Stone offered a much-needed break from Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Mary Jane. Denis Leary also makes a good showing as NYPD Chief Stacy, a man who is extremely leery of Spider-Man.
Although revenge for Uncle Ben’s murder gets forgotten in this movie, Webb met the challenge of making something old into something new and entertaining. It doesn’t have some of the quirk of the first three movies, but it’s definitely got all the makings of a summer blockbuster. Although it pales in comparision to “The Avengers,” another film based on Marvel Comics characters, it comes a close second.