The Amazing Spider-Man is amazingly similar to 2002’s Spider-Man. But it’s a perfectly enjoyable and competent summer blockbuster, and though I’d estimate about two-thirds of this film’s DNA comes from the earlier one, it’s fun to notice the small differences between the two Spideys.
This time it’s UK-bred actor Andrew Garfield (whose American accent is, as far as I could tell, flawless) who plays high school loser Peter Parker, a dorky photographer constantly bullied by cooler classmates but who attracts the notice of pretty Gwen Stacy (The Help star Emma Stone, blonde this time). Peter pursues the unfinished genetic experiments of his scientist father (Campbell Scott), who disappeared one night and left him in the permanent care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, slightly overdoing the doddering act) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Those experiments take Peter to the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (veteran Brit actor Rhys Ifans, still best known for playing Hugh Grant’s wacky roommate in Notting Hill), where, in one of the film’s many groan-inducing coincidences, Gwen also works. Despite heavy security at the super-secret lab, Peter sneaks into the unguarded inner sanctum where he learns more about experiments meant to regrow human limbs — Dr. Connors is missing an arm. It’s here that he’s bitten by a genetically altered spider.
The usual sequences of discovery of super-powers follow, and there’s even a scene with Peter getting the idea of wearing a costume from accidentally falling into a wrestling ring that features masked combatants. But to me Spidey 2.0 is more interesting than the likeable goody-goody played by the mild Tobey Maguire. First, Peter Parker has been picked on for a long time, and turning the tables on his tormentors gives him a license to act like a jerk himself for a while, for instance in a scene with the bully Flash (Chris Zylka) on a basketball court, where Parker’s arachnid grip and reflexes are simply used to humiliate the other boy. Peter is even unforgivably rude to his guardians. Making Peter less sweet and innocent makes him seem more human and real, and I think we’ve all seen that teens are fully capable of being arrogant and obnoxious.