All that is really important is whether or not the movie is any good. And the bad news is The Amazing Spider-Man is watchable, but not much more. The movie was directed by Marc Webb, a music video veteran making his sophomore effort as a feature film director (his debut was the 2009 comedic drama (500) Days of Summer). Webb, and three credited screenwriters (James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, weren’t able to create so much as one truly memorable sequence throughout the 136 minute film. Andrew Garfield does a serviceable job filling the red and blue suit, but the 28-year-old Brit not only lacks true charisma, his Peter Parker doesn’t really develop even as we see him transform from the proverbial 90 pound weakling to a skyscraper-scaling superhero.
Everything about The Amazing Spider-Man feels competent but perfunctory. After a quick set-up in which a very young Peter left to the care of his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), we see Peter getting bullied at his high school. He quietly pines after fellow student Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). She’s a science geek with a predilection for short skirts and knee-high boots – beauty and brains in one package, no wonder Peter is smitten. After finding a satchel of his father’s important-looking research documents buried in his Aunt and Uncle’s house, Peter bluffs his way into OsCorp, a science lab run by Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). All of this, Peter realizes, is tied into why his mother and father left him and have been out of his life ever since. Gwen works at OsCorp, offering a perfect opportunity for Peter to make an impression with her (albeit a rather mixed one, considering she knows he doesn’t have any business being there).
As Connors, whose serum transforms him periodically into the Lizard – a giant, ill-tempered reptilian beast, Ifans is an ineffectual villain. Maybe part of it isn’t even Ifans’ fault, as the Lizard just isn’t nearly as effective of a villain as the classics we encountered in Raimi’s first two films, the Green Goblin (portrayed by Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man) and Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina in the 2004 Spider-Man 2). In The Amazing Spider-Man, Dr. Connors’ motivation is just not complex enough to carry the main thrust of a feature film. He wants a new right arm. And that’s about it. Well, that and a tacked-on, underdeveloped idea of turning the city into a bunch of lizard-people via a biological agent. We’ve seen the whole siege-on-an-urban-area so many times, it needs to be more inventive than this for it to work. The Lizard, as far as CGI bad guys go, feels like a boring retread of the Abomination from The Incredible Hulk (2008). His fight scenes with Spider-Man are neither tense nor imaginatively staged.
So that leaves the lion’s share of the dramatic weight to the central romance. Peter and Gwen become involved, which is complicated by the fact that her dad is the captain of the NYPD, George Stacy (Denis Leary). Captain Stacy and his officers are hotly pursuing the vigilante known as Spider-Man and unbeknownst to him, this menace is dating his daughter. But there doesn’t seem to be sufficient chemistry between Garfield and Stone, leaving an air of indifference surrounding their unusual relationship. Stone simply isn’t given enough to do, and neither is Leary for that matter. It’s unfortunate, given both actors’ skills, that the filmmakers didn’t allow them to dig into deeper characterizations.