The most annoying thing about "The Amazing Spiderman" is having to keep explaining to my youngest son that it has nothing to do with the three films which starred Tobey Maguire as the teen hero.
This is not a sequel, but instead a complete re-boot where director Marc Webb (yes, that's really his last name) retells the story of Peter Parker (played well, but completely differently by Andrew Garfield), a young man raised by his aunt and uncle. Those of you familiar with the Spiderman story know Peter is a bit of a science nerd, social outcast and easy target for high school bullies. However, in this version we're introduced to his parents (Campbell Scott and Julianne Nicholson) and their mysterious disappearance and subsequent death in a plane crash.
His father, a brilliant scientist working on groundbreaking research involving cross-species gene splicing, is suddenly forced to grab his research and disappear, taking Peter's mother with him, never to be seen again. As a young child, he's left in the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) in the dead of night. The blue collar couple raise him as surrogate parents and try to teach him to be a good man.
And of course, there's Peter's first love interest, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), daughter of New York Police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary). While Peter is bullied and persecuted in school, he and Gwen connect, and begin a very awkward romance.
Peter accidentally discovers a briefcase belonging to his father, packed away in his aunt and uncle's basement; and opens it to find clues and scientific research associated with his father's past. He also learns his father's partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) is still working for Oscorp and seeks him out, looking for answers. Connors has continued his research with disappointing results.
Posing as an intern, Peter snoops around Oscorp and suffers a bite from a genetically altered spider and his life changes forever. He finds himself gifted with increased senses, incredible agility and magnified strength.
Peter first learns of his new gifts after being attacked on a subway and cleaning the floor with the thugs. Soon he learns he's also able to walk up walls, cling to ceilings and jump from building to building.
After introducing himself as the son of his former partner, Peter provides the missing components to the research. Connors, who is missing an arm, uses the information to create a serum, using lizard DNA to try and regenerate his missing limb. Instead, the formula mutates Connors into a nine-foot rampaging lizard.
In the meantime, Peter is using his new-found powers to exact revenge on the school bully, Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka); but his purpose changes when a grocery store robber kills his Uncle Ben. Peter dons a mask and begins hunting down criminals who match the murderer's description. It doesn't take long for the masked vigilante to pop up on the police radar and become the target of a massive manhunt.
When Spiderman is forced to turn his attention from common muggers to the lizard -- a force he helped create -- the web slinger discovers the true rewards and sacrifices a hero faces.
The definition of a good movie is when it ends, you're sad it's over. For me, that was the case with this Spiderman film. The acting was solid and a far more accurate portrayal of Peter Parker and Spiderman in terms of the comic book character. He's sarcastic and constantly taking verbal jabs at his opponents as he battles. In this Spidey-world, he has to use mechanical web shooters strapped to his wrists rather than a web he shoots out of his arm. Even little details, such as his body positioning and movement seems more in line with his comic book persona.
The action sequences are well done as the battles rage from bridges to school buildings to the sewer system below New York City. The first person view as he scales walls and web-swings from building to building in the Big Apple is a lot of fun.
Peter and Gwen have a great onscreen chemistry, and apparently it's so good that it's carried over off screen as well. Wonder how future films will go when they eventually break-up. Hollywood couples never last.
Ifans does a great job as a talented scientist with the best of intentions for humanity -- although selfishly motivated -- who begins to slowly slip away from sanity as he becomes polluted with the antidote.
It looks like the start of a good new super hero franchise. Comic book geeks everywhere rejoice.