Let's get this out of the way: I was a huge fan of the original Spidey trilogy and truly felt Tobey Macguire captured the essense of the early Peter Parker. I felt a reboot was unecessary and a slap in the face, motivated more by Paramount's need to get another film released before they lost the licensing. I never planned to see the film, but my wife and a free ticket could not be denied.
I went into the theater fully expecting to hate the movie as much as I'd hated "The Dark Knight" four years previous. It had all the earmarks of the kind of film I hate: A too-soon reboot, a pretty boy teen dream as its star, and an attempt to darken the franchise because nobody seems to think any other kind of superhero film is valid anymore.
Thus we return once more to Spidey's origins, this time with a sub-plot involving his parents and their mysterious disappearance. That's one of a few storylines that fails to pay off in this movie, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
This Peter Parker grew up in the post-Grunge ear, so he's emo as all hell and, despite his looks and rock star build, is a social outcast. Also, unlike the Peter of early comics lore, he's not a "milksop." When he sees school bully Flash Thompson kicking the snot out of some kid, he leaps to his defense and refuses to photogaph it. One would think he'd want to get some evidence, but that would make sense and prevent Parker from also getting his ass handed to him.
This Spidey film follows the love story more closely to the comics. Gwen Stacey, she of the yellow bangs and short skirts, was Pete's first love, not Mary Jane. Not to spoil the future, but she's also the second person he's unable to save from a horrific death, but that doesn't happen in this movie. Gwen is also a genius science student who works for Curt Connors, the scientist all true Spidey fans know is the bad guy in the movie as soon as they hear his name or see he only has one arm.
The stage for intrigue is set when Pete finds his dad's old attache case and runs across some files with long equations. When he sneaks into the Oscorp building to meet with Connors, all the sets fall into place and we got us a Spiderman movie.
Part of the problem lies in inferior casting choices. Sally Field is a great actress, one of our finest, but she's more miscast here than ever as Aunt May. She and Martin sheen, whose Uncle Ben is excellent, also have zero on-screen chemistry. Then there's the husky-voiced Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey. She's not at all a bad actress but she often seems to be in a different movie until the final act. The choice of Welsh actor Rhys Ifans as Connors is an odd once that has mixed results. As he changes from the good-natured humanist into the insane creature, his scenery chewing is sometimes painful to sit through.
That brings us to Andrew Garfield. How is he? Not bad, actually. His Peter Parker isn't the one from the previous films anymore than Christian Bale's growling Batman is the same as Michael Keaton's more refined version. As Parker, Garfield is effective, although it's obvious at times he's acting. As Spidey, he's a mixed bag of nuts.
Sam Raimi and MaGuire wisely chose not to have Sidey wisecrack too much while this film tries to show-horn in the one-liners. Garfield is not up to the challenge. His delivery is forced and the lines aren't very good. And perhaps that's the fault of the screenwriters. The dialogue in this installment is nowhere near the level of, for instance, Michael Chabon's in Spiderman 2.
That brings us to the visuals and effects. Frankly, they're lacking. The Spiderman suit...OY! I just became Yiddish to express how ugly it is. Then there are the webs. Whoever designed the effects for those should be backlisted. It's absolutely terrible. Not only do they look fake, but half the time they don't even seem to be coming from Spidey's web-shooters! They just appear on the screen. And the Lizard looks as fake as the Scorpion King from ten years ago.
Director Mark Webb has nowhere near the action sensibilities of prevoius director Sam Raimi. The fight scenes are paint-by-numbers and uninspired and the webswining scenes, so effective in the other films, seems functional and serviceable in this one.
Bottom line, I didn't care as much what happened to anyone in this film as I did the originals. Dramatic misfires such as the way Uncle Ben dies like a bad-ass vigilante or the lack of closure on Pete's parents and the man who killed his uncle just make the movie feel incomplete. The epilogue during the credits backs that up.
All in all, it was a decent effort that would have been much better with the original creative team involved. I'd see a sequel, but much like Batman Begins, I might hate the second one to the point where the entire franchise is ruined permanently.
At least it was free~