According to Matt Tolmach, one of the producers of The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker is what sets Spider-Man apart from the other super-heroes - "He's a kid who has trouble with girls, he's not popular, he's not rich and powerful... he's just an ordinary boy." And that, according to the Tolmach, is what makes him relatable - a man who you can see bits of yourself in.
Columbia Pictures has taken its old Spider-Man franchise presents it as a rebooted movie named The Amazing Spider-Man. The movie goes back to Spider-Man's roots, and showcases his evolution from an anti-social teenager to a prankster to a real hero.
Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) leave their young son, Peter, with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field), before disappearing mysteriously. Peter (Andrew Garfield) is now in High School, and he is still smarting from the way his parents abandoned him. He wants answers, but cannot get any from his uncle and aunt.
Peter stays aloof in school, occasionally bullied by the jock, Flash (Chris Zylka). He admires Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) from a distance, and is engrossed in his photography and skateboarding most of the time. A chance discovery of his father's old briefcase in the basement of his uncle's house leads Peter to Oscorp, where Richard Parker worked many years ago. He visits Oscorp to meet with Richard's old partner, the renowned one-armed scientist, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).
While sneaking around the Oscorp labs, Peter is bitten by a spider that was a part of a genetic mutation experiment.
The basic plot is almost identical to the first Spider-Man (the one with Tobey Maguire), but the new movie is made highly relevant to present times. For example, Peter designs his own costume, once he understands (from the Internet) which material will make him move the fastest. He invents a mechanism to create artificial webs, much like the comic book hero. The best scene that shows his laid-back attitude is the one in which he plays bubble-bursting games on his phone even as he waits for the villain to make an appearance.
While the script has nothing new to offer, the two biggest draws in the movie are Peter Parker's personal relationships, especially with Gwen, and the introduction of the Lizard as the villain. Gwen was Peter's first love in the comic books, much before Mary Jane came into his life. Marc Webb, best known for his debut film, 500 Days Of Summer, deals with these interpersonal relationships convincingly - the complicated one between Aunt May and Peter, the surrogate father that Uncle Ben becomes, the uneasy truce between Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) and Peter/Spider-Man, and the difference in the ways Connors and Peter individually deal with their respective alter egos.
However, the script does not explore the reason behind the vanishing parents, nor does it deal very well with the Lizard. The movie spends a lot of time setting up the story, but leaves you dissatisfied with the climax.
Andrew Garfield is a talented actor, and although he claims Tobey Maguire was an inspiration, he brings to the character vulnerability and ordinariness that no other actor could have. He sulks, pouts, rebels and treats his guardians like dirt, but yet manages to come across as an endearing young man.
And there is something about Emma Stone that makes you sit and up take notice. With her wide eyes and blond hair, she portrays Gwen perfectly, and one hopes to see more of her in the next instalment. The chemistry between Stone and Garfield is palpable and crackling.
Your heart will go out to Rhys Ifans' Connors - a man torn between ethics and personal ambition. Irrfan Khan has a small but pivotal role as Rajit Ratha, Connors' boss. Martin Sheen is a delight, but unfortunately does not get much screen time. Sally Field looks a little confused - she does not play a matronly Aunt May, by the way.
Shot in 3D, The Amazing Spider-Man does not dwell too much on New York landmarks and other such clichés. Instead, most of the production design is limited to the huge Oscorp building, and taut shots of the characters. The costume designing is nothing to write home about, but the Spider-Man outfit looks terrific on 3D.
Be prepared for a predictable story and plenty of visual effects, if you watch the movie. What is exciting is the fact that there will be a sequel to this film, and one can only hope that the young Garfield and Stone get their due appreciation for making a super-hero so human.