Like a lot of folks, I questioned the need for a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise just five years after "Spider-Man 3." But I also can understand why Hollywood decided it was a good idea.
A fresh take on Spidey in the context of the other recent films from the House of Ideas makes sense: Marvel is now a household name. And a lot of kids who were too young to see the Tobey Maguire Spidey films are now in their teens and primed -- thanks to "Iron Man," "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Avengers" -- for a new take on the Webslinger.
The new Spidey film also benefits from improved special effects technology and a younger cast, making it possible to put Peter Parker back in high school again, where he's most sympathetic and compelling as a character.
The result is a pretty entertaining -- thought not completely necessary -- flick. No, I wasn't crazy about having to sit through Spidey's origin story again. But a well-formatted script and some great performances makes this version very enjoyable.
I thought Tobey Maguire was a great Peter Parker and enjoyed his quirky/geeky take on the character. Andrew Garfield is also fantastic in the role. I'd hate to choose one or the other. But I will say that Garfield perhaps brings a little more raw emotion to the role. This is a Peter Parker you truly feel sorry for. You want to pat him on the back and tell him everything's going to be ok.
Garfield's portrayal and the film's script and direction do a great job of capturing that can't-catch-a-break feel of the early Stan Lee-Steve Ditko Spidey stories. It helps that much of the film's action takes place in Midtown High. This is all pre-Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jameson, although it's clear that Peter has an interest in and aptitude for photographing. It's all more slowly unfolding than the first Spider-Man trilogy. We get a better sense than in the earlier films, I think, about how badly Peter's life sucks.
I won't spoil too much of the plot, but we're clearly set up for at least a couple more films with this cast and storyline. Norman Osborn will clearly be a factor, though we don't see him on screen. And the love interest this time out is Gwen Stacy, not Mary Jane Watson. Comics fans know this will mean some tears shed in film two or three.
Emma Stone is a fantastic actress and is her typically great self as Gwen. This is a strong, capable character who holds her own with Peter/Spidey. There's a real chemistry and exciting, first-love intensity between the two leads, to the extent that they could have skipped the superheroics and made a nice film about the high school misfit who wins over the most popular girl in school. Garfield and Stone are top-notch actors and incredibly well cast.
Rhyss Ifans as Curt Connors/the Lizard is good, too, although I think the writers missed an opportunity. As well-played as the part is, there's not a lot to it. Basically: Smart-but-misguided guy becomes big amphibian (repile?). The thing that made the comic book Lizard interesting and tragic was the appearance of Connor's wife, Martha, and child, Billy, and his struggle to control his rage while trying to be a good person for them. This struggle humanized the character. Without that, we don't have too much reason to sympathize with the Lizard.
In terms of action, I think this film trumps the previous trilogy. As scripted and depicted, this Spidey swings and fights more like the comic book version. The effects are very impressive and there's some nice imagination to the fight sequences. An underwater battle between the Lizard and Spider-Man is especially exciting and impressive.
If you're a longtime Spider-Man fan, you may complain about having to sit through the hero's origins again. But there are rewards for doing so, namely some very good performances by Garfield and Stone. And kids who missed out on the earlier trilogy, will meet an exciting, relatable new hero to follow.
Now that everything's setup, I'm eager to see the next installment.