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“With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s the most famous quote from the first Spider-Man adaptation, now just a 10-year-old rust heap in Stan Lee’s yard. Two more movies followed, by which point director Sam Raimi seemed to ignore his responsibility to make these movies fun and interesting.
That quote lives on in spirit in The Amazing Spider-Man — almost certainly the quickest “reimagining” of a mammoth blockbuster in history — but the exact words don’t leave the lips of the web-slinger’s Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). That’s true of pretty much all the important things in the new Spider-Man epic, directed by Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer). It’s a lot like the others and never really its own film in any way, never taking a chance by wading into the deep end of the pool. While The Avengers toyfully plays with an audience that knows it’s all CGI bullshit and merchandising, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman needs a full-time analyst, this Spider-Man just paints by the numbers.
The Amazing Spider-Man has a lot of great elements that orbit each other without ever truly being in sync. To begin with, Andrew Garfield’s performance is incredibly solid. He’s more put upon when he discovers his new talents than Tobey Maguire’s wide-eyed Peter Parker. The girl is different but it’s still practically the same thing. Gwen Stacy replaces Mary Jane Watson and Emma Stone is a marked improvement over walking raincloud Kirsten Dunst.
Superhero villains are largely superhero villains, so Rhys Ifans doesn’t shatter any preconceptions as the Lizard, but he’s fine. The effects might be used better here than 10 years ago, although they’re still just a guy swinging on webs between buildings. So?
It was probably smart to reboot the series so safely, because they’re not going to stop with one, and there’s room for improvement. That doesn’t help this installment very much, so what we get is essentially what a very basic outline of the same movie would be.