Now this will be the trilogy fans wanted.
I have to admit, I never would've thought Andrew Garfield was a good choice for Peter Parker. Not that I'd heard of him besides his appearance in "The Social Network" (2010), but he hasn't done much to suggest he'd be great for this. Tobey McGuire was enough of a talented wallflower to get audiences to accept that casting choice, as he'd been in great films, but hadn't broken out as a star. Garfield on the other hand is just one in another slough of young newcomers I know nothing about. Except he plays an intelligent geek, not the 'revenge of the nerds' type geek. As such, he's still a regular teenager and is relatable, while still being somewhat of a wallflower among his peers. Right away that makes the character more interesting, as we're not routing for him cause he's stricken with bad luck or is just too much of a nerd to succeed, but rather because he's the regular kid we all were once. George Lucas called it the 'Terry the Toad,' which we all start out as. So take away the external nerd and make him somewhat normal, and you still maintain something unique about the character without making it something too foreign for the audience to jive with.
Because of Garfield's relatable take on the character, the origin story didn't feel at all like a 'been there done that' type thing. In fact, the involvement of Peter's parentage and how it and OSCORP relate to his becoming spider-man made the origin all the more involving for the audience, as it was like everything was interconnected. Even the villain plays a role in the origin of spider-man. And given the mystique behind it all, it's clearly framed to have a sequel explain away part of the mystery. So right away Marc Webb makes what was just a random incident in the other trilogy infinitely more interesting; especially because of the mileage they're going to get out of it come the sequels.
Rhys Ifans is great as Dr. Curt Conners, a brilliant geneticist at OSCORP who specializes in cross species genetics for the purposes of regeneration. Most specifically in reptiles as Conners has only one arm and thus understands how valuable this science could be for the masses. So right away your struck with the notion of the 'good geek gone bad' like we saw with Otto Octavius in the 2004 sequel, except more screen time is devoted to Conners to showcase him as being very genuine about his passion for his science project. Thus when his alter ego 'Lizard' emerges, you still have a whole character behind that rather than just some mindless monster like Green Goblin, whom ironically enough came to be the same way for the same reasons that Conners becomes the Lizard, except whereas there it was shallow, here it's got more heart to it. However the sanity of the Lizard is questionable as evident in the climax, for his sudden mental jump from genuinely wanting to cure people of their ailments to coming up with his 'better idea' virtually happens without warning. It felt as if some scene was lost on the cutting room floor, and that's where my quarrel with the character stems from. Besides that, Marc Webb is keeping with the tradition with Raimi's trilogy that the villains are tragic characters rather than all out evil beasts.
I wasn't too crazy about Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) or her father the police captain (Denis Leary). I mean I liked them better than their counterparts from Raimi's trilogy, and Gwen was a much more interesting girlfriend for Peter than MJ--especially since we may not see too much of her in the sequels--but they didn't have much to do here. I did like how Captain Stacey poked fun at how ridiculous it was that the NYPD couldn't catch a guy in a spandex outfit. That sort of poked fun at how seriously Raimi's trilogy was. This one seemed more tongue in cheek about it. Because spider-man was just a regular kid, then his alter ego couldn't be some incredible superhero. It still had to be the relatable kid. And capturing that and poking fun at it helps set the mood for this film so we know what realm of realism we're in. Or, realism for a comic movie with sic-fi elements.
However, not all the characters or new ideas were great. For one I much preferred Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson in the roles of Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Sally Field and Martin Sheen take their places here, and I don't blame the actors. It was what they were given to work with. Not to mention that the Ben from Raimi's trilogy had more of an impact on Peter. Here he and his fate don't really seem to effect Peter at all. At least not nearly as much as demonstrated in Raimi's trilogy, and that knocks down the rating a bit. Perhaps it's because they focused more on Peter's quest to find out more about his parents? Anyway, Ben's fate was so sudden as opposed to the 2002 film that we the audience don't really feel the impact of Ben either. There's no 'with great power comes great responsibility' type moment in here. I mean they did a cheap homage to that, but he doesn't really come off as being as important in Peter's life, especially when Webb completely skips over the aftermath of this, and instead flows right into Peter's beginnings as spider-man. And as for May, I couldn't tell if she knew Peter's secret, or if she was just taking the 'give him his space' approach way too far. So these two characters needed work, especially since they're the two most important people in Peter's life. But maybe Webb will make something of them in the sequels.
True enough, the action was nothing new. It was the same type of stuff from Raimi's trilogy, and not as cool, but better than the action from the 2002 film. What I really liked though was the movements of spider-man. He wasn't as graceful in his swinging around like Tobey was. Garfield is all over the place and resembles what you'd expect that experience to really be like, constantly shooting your web to grab hold of the next object. Very on the fly and it feels like an adrenaline rush. Or at least it looks that way for Peter rather than being a walk in the park like it appeared for Tobey. That further emphasized the fact that Peter was the guy in the suit, and not some superhuman which is where this film really scores its high marks. For in Raimi's trilogy, Peter was so much of a geek that when he donned his suit and took to action, he seemed like a totally different person, whereas here whether he's in the suit or not, he's always Peter Parker so you're never counting time until he dons his suit. And that's really what counts in such a film. I mean technically spider-man isn't an alter ego so much as a hobby which Peter's grown attached to and feels a level of responsibility for. So ultimately, you can never lose sight of the fact that Peter is the guy in the suit, and Webb and Garfield accomplished that.
Overall, this was a much better adaptation than the 2002 film which leaves so much more material for the sequels since this all wasn't the result of some random event. There's a whole web of mystery behind it. Garfield has redefined Peter Parker as the relatable teenager. Also, this isn't a hybrid film where the first half is the origin, and the second half is the action. Sure it plays that way if you break it down, but the origin is so much more complex that it streamlines into the second half, and by turning spider-man back into a costume worn by Peter rather than some superhuman alter ego, it plays out a lot better from the first half to the second half. So in the end, this was the best reboot I've ever seen, and I'm very much looking forward to spider-man's next outing.