I was once like you. I didn't think we needed another Spider-Man origin story, especially one that comes so soon after the perfectly serviceable last one. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man came out just 10 years ago and kicked off the trend of sensitive, thoughtful superhero fare that the film's parent company has undone with recent entries like the boneheaded Thor, the brain dead Captain America and the overrated but ultimately rewarding The Avengers. If we don't need another hero, we certainly don't need the same one twice.
Or maybe we do. Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man movie yet. It does away with lofty statements on power and responsibility and merely flirts with some themes about identity, teenage metamorphosis and community service. It's too busy moving forward to spend much time meditating: this is a movie that finds sheer exhilaration in storytelling. The plot is intricately woven and immensely satisfying. A friend of mine told me he found it all "semi-vibeless," but its leanness is what I loved about it. This is no-frills heroism of the first order. Save your thinking cap for The Dark Knight Rises and just go have fun.
I went into this not caring about Andrew Garfield (a slightly more brooding Peter Parker/Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire's) and certainly not grasping his sex appeal, but now I get it. His moments onscreen with real-life girlfriend Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacey) are electric. Neither has ever been more charming, him with his stammering and muttering and irrepressible grins in her presence, and her with the cool sex appeal of a young person who just realized what power she wields. They are riveting enough to forgive the fact that they're both too old to be playing high school students (she's 23, he's 28).
Maybe it's just that meager goals are easier to attain, but The Amazing Spider-Man succeeds at everything it attempts. The 3D looks great, particularly in the lab where Peter Parker gets bit by the bug that makes him Spider-Man and later when he glides through New York via his web. The look of the picture matches perfectly with the story's slickness.
The Amazing Spider-Man is fundamentally excessive, but it's a product of a culture of repetition. Human beings have always been obsessive about the myths they create, telling them over and over again. Even the ability to record for posterity can't shake us of our need to retell. There are two active Spider-Man comic book titles being published, a host of others in which he appears and still several more that have popped up since he made his debut in the pages of Amazing Fantasy in 1962. Alternate takes come specifically with the superhero territory.
Toward the end of the film, one of Peter's teachers tells his class that there is only one plot in fiction: "Who am I?" If Spider-Man can continue to lead films that are this fresh and exciting, may he never stop pondering.