Spider-Man meets the girl of his dreams, gets bitten by a spider, encounters a foe, and saves the day while learning that being superhero isn’t a choice — it’s an obligation. That pretty much sums up every single Spider-Man movie including the new reboot The Amazing Spider-Man which looks to bring a darker and serious tone to the Spider-Man franchise. With a deeper origin story that sticks more to the comic book version, The Amazing Spider-Man still manages to come up short even with so much going for it.
It’s been eight years since we last saw Spider-Man on the big screen, dancing and twirling his way out of our hearts. With an underwhelming appearance by one of Spider-Man’s most famous foes, Venom, it seemed like a no-brainer that Sony would reboot the franchise and correct some of the trilogy’s major flaws. Tobey Maguire was a serviceable Peter Parker, but the series in retrospect never seemed to do the character justice. In Marc Webb’s version, Spider-Man attends high school by day and scours the city for criminals by night. Andrew Garfield plays both sides of Spider-Man with a mission — his body language and timing is inspired. As a high school senior dealing with the absence of his parents who have gone missing without a trace, Peter Parker is the awkward teen that people can relate to. He stands up for the bullied, has passive-aggressive issues, and fumbles with the right words to say in front of his crush, the platinum blonde Gwen Stacy played superbly by Emma Stone. When he dons the red and blue tights as the titular high-swinging superhero, he’s a focused and more confident action hero coming to terms with a great power and its use.
It’s more retread than reboot — though this one is miles ahead of the first Spider-Man movie which came out 10 years ago. 2012’s Spider-Man — he’s amazing, don’t you forget — is more realistic, better cast, better presented, and stronger in its affirmations. Peter Parker’s motivation to don a suit and swing through the heights of the city while relying on his Spidey senses and agility come with more conviction this time around. But The Amazing Spider-Man suffers in its pacing and plotting. While the first half of the movie goes through the motions covering the spider bite, characters, and what it takes for Parker to accept the role of masked vigilante, the second half never reaches a full crescendo. Maybe it’s the sense of deja-vu — it’s all been done before. Maybe it’s the lackluster writing and narration that makes sure no one gets left behind in case they’re too preoccupied with the popcorn leaving oil traces on their shirts. This movie feels safe and targeted to audiences with short attention spans. Had it not been carried by its two main actors who know how to play awkward teenagers in love, this movie could have been a disaster. Mumbling and twisting, Parker and Stacy are the main draws for this movie. We know Webb can handle a romance story — 500 Days of Summer is one of the best romantic comedies never seen — and the chemistry between Stone and Garfield is apparent and unmistakable. But there must be more to this movie besides a paint-by-the-numbers plot that empties itself at the midpoint as Spider-Man becomes occupied with taking down the obligatory supervillain. It’s got potential, and a sequel is probably a foregone conclusion. Let’s hope for better camera angles, more intelligent writing that doesn’t ground itself in cliches, and a returning cast that outdoes its already outstanding effort. Let’s hope the next Spider-Man lives up to its title before the next reboot.