I was not certain whether to welcome this film or not. On the one hand, I really liked Toby Maguire’s Spiderman, and it seemed too soon to ‘reboot’ the film again; on the other, Spiderman 3 was one of the worst films in the Marvel stable (only Wolverine is more unremittingly terrible) and Andrew Garfield, a decent actor and a genuine Spiderman fan, was making all the right noises about what they were trying to do.
Anyway, their are several things to like about this version. Garfield is indeed a good Peter Parker, less comic than Maguire but just as convincingly geeky. Rhys Ifans’ Lizard/Dr Curt Connors is convincing both as the initially well-meaning scientist and later as the deranged iteration, determined to change the world in his own mutated image, though much of his character and story arc looks very much like that of Dr Octopus in Spiderman 2. Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) is the love interest rather than Mary-Jane, who sadly makes no appearance – she should be the girl-next-door Peter has overlooked as he frets about Gwen. In addition, Webb and his team of writers have taken the opportunity to ‘correct’ some of the things that rankled in the previous series, most notably that the web-shooters are again an artificial invention rather than an utterly implausible (even by the standards of comic-book superpowers) ‘mutation’.
There are a couple of other innovations that stand out. The “bitten by a radioactive spider” origin is radically reworked into a genetic engineering experiment. This has multiple benefits: it makes the origin (again, with the proviso that this is a superhero movie) more plausible; it ties in nicely with the supervillain story, who gains his powers while trying to use lizard DNA to regrow limbs, with his own amputated arm being a powerful incentive; and it allows the writers to investigate the death of Peter’s parents and make more of his orphan-status in the drawing of his character. Martin Sheen and Sally Field are great as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, though Field is so different visually to the comic version that it took me a while to warm to her.
Overall, the film is fine. It tells an interesting story efficiently and with good performances. But it’s not different enough, for me, from the previous series to really get too enthusiastic about. Perhaps, if the sequels develop a more nuanced story arc (and avoid making clunkers like Spidey 3), I’ll look back on this film more favourably.