Move over Toby Maguire, a new (and better) Spidey is in town. This movie is the great rejuvenation of the series that Spiderman really needed after the last outing which was cursed with too much sentimentality and like fifty different villains in the same movie. This is in no way a remake of the fantastic 2002 film. This Spidey, played with brilliant depth and irresistible nerdy charm by Andrew Garfield, is a lot sassier, smarter and wittier than the previous one. Did I mention heâ€™s also a bit of an ass? Because he is. But it makes it sooooooo much more fun to watch. He takes himself much less seriously, and in turn that makes this movie way more fun that Sam Raimiâ€™s series. While the previous ones were all pretty self-serious, this one has a lot of great meta humor and is personally my favorite of the two franchise starters. That being said, on a technical level the 2002 version is technically a better film that this one. This film suffers from a villain that is too sympathetic and therefore much less scary. While personally I prefer the fun feel of this film, it does have a tendency to make a lot of the action sequences less harrowing and harder to take seriously. Where this film succeeds, however, is the scenes where nothing really impressive is happening. Rather than just being filler between action set pieces, they are filled with great character development and they really allow the actors to soar. There is fantastic chemistry between Garfield and just about any of the other actors, especially the always gorgeous Emma Stone.
The plot of this movie is pretty similar to the original Spiderman movie, just replace Mary Jane with Gwen Stacy and Green Goblin with Dr. Connors (aka big-ass lizard man). The film starts with Peter Parker as a child, his parents fleeing after a mysterious robbery and leaving him with his aunt and uncle as well as a lot of questions about what exactly happened to them. Peter grows up into an appropriately awkward teenage loner who is blessed with a great sense of humor and a bevy of cunning intelligence. While rummaging through his uncleâ€™s basement, he finds some of his father's papers detailing a lot of his scientific research with cross-species genetic engineering. This leads him to his fatherâ€™s former company, OSCORP, which is still working on perfecting this area of science. Peter sneaks into the building's highly restricted labs and begins exploring, which leads him to a room containing mutated spiders. He is bitten and then turns into the titular amazing Spiderman. While he is doing all of his training to harness his newfound abilities, he also befriends Dr. Conners (Rhys Ifans) by giving him a tidbit of his fatherâ€™s research that leads to the apparently successful cross-species genetic engineering.
Soon after this, Peterâ€™s uncle (Martin Sheen) is gunned down by a gas station robber, as in the first film. This is traumatizing to him and he starts out on a vigilante tirade in order to find the man who committed the crime and bring him to justice. Meanwhile, Dr. Connors, an amputee, is fired immediately after this revelation, and in a last minute effort to fix himself he tries to bind his DNA to that of a gecko so that he can regrow limbs and all that jazz. Naturally this goes awry and turns him into a giant aggressive lizard man hell bent on destruction. Spidey catches wind of all of this business and makes it his mission to put a stop to Dr. Connors madness. This of course leads to some pretty good action sequences, the best of which being one where Connors hunts Peter down in his high school. This all leads to a climax that is just decent.
The third act of this film is kind of disappointing because instead of having the villain remain a terrible badass they choose to humanize him. It could have been really great but instead this choice just makes it average. I was about to slap a solid B+ on this one at the end of the final action sequence, but then the final ten minutes of this movie came. It is the perfect mix of sadness and hope. The writing is brilliant. I was almost brought to tears, which is no small feat seeing how unabashedly cynical I am. It was a truly beautiful ending that made up for that last showdown fifty times over. It was positively perfect and I think it set up a sequel beautifully.
Overall this was a great first mainstream feature for director Marc Webb who previously did (500) Days of Summer. These seem like totally different films, I know, but there are some similarities on the romance front and it has the same amount of beautiful character work. He also carries a lot of his flair for visuals from that film and makes very good use of it here. Webb handles a relatively silly villain quite well, never letting him dissolve into cartoonish nonsense. Above all of this though, the director makes sure to have fun with the film. This movie actually really reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (aka the best show ever) in that it never takes itself too seriously but it also knows how to buckle down and get intense when it needs to. While the whole cast is really quite good, this is Garfieldâ€™s movie. A lot of people may think Iâ€™m exaggerating but I honestly think he deserves some recognition from Oscar. He takes the character which was previously kind of bland and makes him into an endearingly nerdy, awesome person. His one-liner delivery is stellar and he really captures much of the joy and pain Peter experiences throughout the film. He made Spidey a lot more interesting and engaging by making him more of a mixed character than a traditional good guy. His acting is truly brilliant and will probably be under-appreciated, but he carries his first vehicle well. That guyâ€™s gonna have a great career. While there are certainly issues with the villain as well as some big flaws with its uneven script, this movie is really solid. Yeah, itâ€™s too soon for a new Spiderman seeing that the last installment was only like five years ago, but screw it. This is a really fun film that most people will enjoy and itâ€™s going to make for some really interesting sequels in years to come.