After three wildly inconsistent live-action movies, a dog of a Broadway musical, a couple of lousy cartoon shows, myriad OK-terrible comic books and countless disposable action figures, nobody really needs to be introduced to Spider-Man again. And yet here comes The Amazing Spider-Man, a more than adequate, if moot, origin story.
No, there's no mandate to retell how Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) became New York City's friendly neighborhood web-slinging vigilante. And no, Amazing's filmmakers don't handle their hormonal shifts in tone from teen angst to exhilaration particularly well. But yes, director Marc Webb and credited screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves do a good job of answering any origin story's central question: How does it feel to become a superhero?
The Amazing Spider-Man's creators have a good grasp of who their titular superhero is, making their infrequent lack of finesse fairly negligible. With Garfield's winning charm front and center, the film is more of a cheerfully aimless character study than a plot-driven story. Parker's need to stop mad scientist Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans) often feels like an after-thought compared to the kid's touch-and-go exploration of his spider-related super-powers.
The trade-off is that Amazing's world is as well-defined as its plot is meandering. Parker's love interest, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is a strong but not all-powerful heroine. And there's believable rapport between Parker and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), his surrogate father and the man whose death compels him to fight crime. That foundational strength makes The Amazing Spider-Man's weaker moments that much more forgivable — no small feat when Ifans' Conners is reduced to wandering around sewers babbling about lizard DNA and genetically mutating the city's inhabitants. Amazing's good enough, even if it's in danger of getting lost among all that other recent Spidey-stuff. (Now playing everywhere.) SIMON ABRAMS
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