Only five years after Tobey Maguire last squeezed himself into the iconic blue and red webby costume and we already have a reboot of the Spider-Man story, with British actor Garfield stepping into the role of young Peter Parker, the school boy who gets bitten by a super-arachnid and discovers he has super Spidey powers.
We start at the beginning (again), as Peter goes from a cute geek to a super-strong geek who can fly from building to building using a web-making device he designs (in a departure from the Sam Raimi-directed/Tobey Maguire-starring movies, Peter doesn’t produce the webs from his own body).
There’s more back-story than we’ve had before – we get to see his parents and what happened to them, and there’s more screen time for Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field) – and there’s also a new bad guy (more of him later) and a much-improved love interest: instead of annoying Mary Jane, we’ve got sparky Gwen Stacy (Stone), a gal who is as feisty as she is fun. Together, Stone and Garfield make a great team and are given some terrific dialogue as they stumble through the beginnings of a relationship, hindered by his secret alter ego and her gruff police captain dad (Denis Leary).
Unlike the previous 21st century incarnation of Spider-Man, this Peter is more of a believable teen, and – thank goodness – less of a brooding, pouty brat (sorry Tobey). Yes, Garfield’s Peter has to deal with tragedies, but he also gets to enjoy stuff like his first kiss with Gwen or his Spidey-boosted skateboarding skills without a sulky look on his face. Goofy Garfield is certainly more likeable (and, dare we say it, sexy) than morose Maguire ever was, and he’s probably more appealing to both the women and kids in the audience. In fact, until the bad guy turns up, this Spider-Man movie feels like it’s more broadly aimed at the family (and less at comic book geeks) with even the death of a major character (you know who) not being especially grisly or traumatic.
However, for every good guy there must be a baddie, and here it is Rhys Ifans’ Dr Curt Connors, a one-armed pal of Peter’s late dad who decides it would be a good idea to try a formula on himself in the hope it’ll grow his arm back. Things are never that simple, of course, and it’s not long before he’s also growing scales, a tail and a destroy-everything-in-my-path attitude as The Lizard. And while even young-ish kids may be fine with the rest of the movie, his transformation and slithering through the sewers is enough to turn the strongest stomach.
In the end, thanks to some great web-flying effects (both stunts and CGI), terrific performances from Garfield and Stone, and a snappy script, this is definitely the most fun Spider-Man movie you’ll find. While the end fight is a little bit of an anti-climax (a bridge rescue earlier on is much better), there’s still enough excitement here to have you looking forward to an Amazing Spider-Man II.
Is The Amazing Spider-Man suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Rhys Ifans’ transformation into the Lizard is pretty yucky and will upset younger children.
If you don’t like spiders, the scene at the lab where Peter is bitten will be upsetting.
The scenes in the sewer featuring the Lizard are also scary for young children under the age of 10.