Thousands of words have already been spewed across many entertainment think pieces, so let me be blunt: Hollywood is clearly out of ideas. This year has already seen a movie about the mediocre board game Battleship and two interpretations of Snow White. Until someone invents some new, audience-friendly approach to the narrative form, our summers are going to be full of these lukewarm rehashes.
With that in mind, it almost makes sense that the Spider-Man franchise is being relaunched a mere five years after the third Sam Raimi film. The numbers show that, for now, superhero movies are working, and Spider-Man is one of the best superheroes of all time.
Needless to say, there’s almost nothing original about The Amazing Spider-Man. The film trades in Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker for Andrew Garfield, and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson for Emma Stone’s turn at Gwen Stacy, Parker’s first real love.
Casting choices aside, the other big change is an attempt to lean on “realism” a little more. Sure, Parker still becomes Spider-Man due to a run-in with a radioactive spider, but this edition stays true to the early comics in that his web-slinging abilities are possible due to a contraption that he developed in his bedroom, not any sort of biochemical magic.
Small, real-world flourishes certainly help ground the film a little, but it still looks and feels like a fantastically animated cartoon when Spidey is flying from building to building.
Plot-wise, it’s really the most standard Spider-Man story imaginable as Parker attempts to deal with the loss of his parents and his newfound powers while navigating life as a slightly hip misfit of a teen (he has Mark Gonzales posters in his bedroom and he skateboards). It’s the sort of by-the-numbers plot line that makes me feel snoozy as I type it out.
That doesn’t mean it’s not good, though. After a dragging start, The Amazing Spider-Man kicks into standard popcorn movie fare with enormous building leaps, freaky bad guys and tons of witty banter. The flick is well-acted by most. Garfield and Stone stand out with onscreen magnetism.
The only real dud on the thespian front is Martin Sheen, whose wise-old-man schtick is overacted and boring to watch. Let’s just say that I wasn’t particularly disappointed when he was, er, removed from the story.
These are all small complaints for what is essentially another solid summer blockbuster. Sitting somewhere between the ensemble eye candy of The Avengers and what will surely be a brooding art school adventure in The Dark Knight Rises, the latest Spider-Man recalls a simpler kind of fun in superhero movies. And that’s not amazing, but it’s still pretty damn great.