Andrew Garfield puts on the tights in this reboot of the first great superhero film franchise of this century. When Sam Raimi’s series began, us comics fans could not believe our luck; the script was decent, the effects looked good, and the material was played straight, not for laughs. Raimi and crew did even better on the sequel, creating one of the best comic book movies in history. And then, well, the third instalment was like so many other franchises that went back to the well once too often: the script was terrible, effects were off, and the tone was wrong (cf. Superman III, Batman Forever, X3).
So terrible was the third Raimi film, in fact, that all involved began to slowly back away, and the planned fourth film never got made. Now, in a time when you can barely walk a city block without tripping over a good Marvel movie, Spider-Man is back. And even though it is saddled with retelling an origin story, the script is very good. Thanks in part to advances in graphics and compositing and in part to decisions made in the script (ie., showing Spider-Man doing his stuff primarily at night), the effects are very sharp. And the tone is just right, thanks to the impressive cast (Emma Stone as Gwen, Martin Sheen as Ben, Sally Field as May, Rhys Ifans as Dr. Connors, Denis Leary as Capt. Stacy) and a script that is more concerned with developing character than rushing us into the next set piece. Garfield and Stone have great chemistry as awkward teenaged scientists, and the script does a good job of capturing the lighthearted and cocky side of Spider-Man.
My only real complaint about the script is one of the set pieces, near the end, where New Yorkers do something to help Spider-Man at a critical moment. This kind of scene was understandable in the first film, just after 9/11, but honestly, those of us who don’t live in NYC find them tiresome and stupid. It was the only eye-rolling moment about Spider-Man 2 as well. I also missed the presence of J.K. Simmons, Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell, but that’s ok. Stan Lee has his cameo of course, and it may be his best yet.
One thing I feel I should note is that this film has some significantly darker moments than the other Spider-Man films, putting it on par with Spider-Man 2 for occasional distress to young viewers. I would call this one a hard PG-13, and am still debating whether or not I should take my 10-year-old son.
All in all I was very pleased with The Amazing Spider-Man; between this and The Avengers and X-Men: First Class, we have an embarrassment of riches.