The disappointment of 2007's 'Spider-Man 3' left such a bitter taste in the mouth of audiences and studio executives alike that just five years on, we already have a new incarnation of our web-slinging comic book hero. A necessity? Certainly not. Yet Marc Webb (Webb. Teehee.) has delivered an excellent film that matches previous director Sam Raimi's finest efforts.
Andrew Garfield steps into Tobey Maguire's boots as Peter Parker, who soon becomes the titular protagonist, while Kirsten Dunst's Mary-Jane finds herself replaced by Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. The relationship between the two 17 year olds (played by a 28 year old and 23 year old, respectively) is the beating heart of the film, and a joy to watch.
While Gwen and Peter's burgeoning relationship forms something of an arc across the film, the film's plot surrounds the mysterious cross-species genetics work of Peter's father and his amputee colleague Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Years on from his father's death, Peter discovers a formula that proves the key to Connors' work to attempt to regrow his missing arm.
With Peter's father out of the picture, it is up to Peter's caring aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen) to look after him, a task that proves increasingly unmanageable - as Peter finds himself genetically modified following a spider bite in a research lab, making his behaviour somewhat more erratic than the average teenager. Connors also transforms, losing both his mind and his human form in becoming The Lizard.
Bearing in mind that 'The Amazing Spider-Man' is as much an origin story as the first 'Spider-Man' was in 2002, it's unsurprising that at times the latest edition feels like a facsimile. This familiarity is not necessarily such a terrible thing yet differences such as the return of the mechanical webslinger of the comic books make the latest effort stand alone.
'(500) Days Of Summer' captured the exuberance of falling in love as well as the bitter breakdown of a relationship. In his second feature, Marc Webb exhibits that same giddy spirit between Gwen and Peter, thankfully saving the bitterness and tension for other areas - for example, the caustic interactions between Peter and Gwen's police officer father, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary).
The main antagonism however comes between Spider-Man and his criminal foes - his anger at his contribution to the death of a loved one is taken out on petty criminals before he is forced to focus on The Lizard. Sharing similarities in look and plot to 'The Incredible Hulk''s Abomination, danger signs begin to pop up at this moment. Fortunately, Webb's (perhaps surprisingly) adept action style and the sharp script provide enough excitement to allay the concerns.
The overriding themes of redemption and catharsis give deeper meaning to this action movie-meets-coming of age drama, and this is where 'The Amazing Spider-Man' shines - its emotional beats (aided by James Horner's rousing score) more than matching the dizzying web-slinging action. The fallibility of Garfield's Peter Parker comes to the fore, grounding him in a reality which we very much hope to return to shortly. All the more so because of the baffling mid-credits scene.
'The Amazing Spider-Man' is out in UK cinemas now through Sony Pictures.