FILM REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man (12A)

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EVERY great story has a beginning.

Spider-Man now has two: Sam Raimi’s action-packed 2002 blockbuster and this emotionally-richer, though equally exhilarating, opening chapter directed with verve by Marc Webb.

Rebooting the franchise 10 years after Tobey Maguire donned the red and blue skin-tight suit as the eponymous web slinger seems premature.

The Amazing Spider-Man recounts the same origins story, albeit without cackling arch-nemesis Green Goblin or love interest Mary Jane.

Twists and turns in the script are the same: the bite from an Oscorps spider that imbues weakling Peter Parker with his superhuman powers, the senseless tragedy that propels the student on his heroic quest.

Technology has advanced in gargantuan bounds in the past decade and Webb’s film soars in the action sequences, some in first-person perspective to take full advantage of the 3D format.

Casting is also better here.

The chameleonic Andrew Garfield tugs the heartstrings as a teenager wrestling with a destiny he never asked for.

Screen chemistry with Emma Stone sizzles. It’s no surprise they are reportedly dating off-screen.

What The Amazing Spider-Man lacks is a scenery-chewing villain or that one defining moment that lingers in the memory like the upside-down kiss or Uncle Ben intoning solemnly, “With great power comes great responsibility”.

High school student Peter Parker (Garfield) is haunted by the disappearance of his parents (Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz).

He lives with his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and aunt May (Sally Field) and contends with all the usual growing pains, including persistent bullying from jock classmate Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka).

A tender romance with fellow student Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), daughter of police chief Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), keeps Peter on an even keel until he is bitten by a genetically modified arachnid.

At the same time, Peter discovers evidence linking his parents’ disappearance to his father’s business partner, Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).

Little does Peter realise that Connors also has a secret alter ego: reptilian menace The Lizard.

The Amazing Spider-Man is a terrifically entertaining refurbishment of the Marvel Comics superhero, blessed with an appealing mix of high-octane action and humour.

A delightful scene on the New York subway, in which Peter experiences his abilities for the first time, is pure slapstick replete with a heartfelt apology to the poor passengers caught in the crossfire.

Vertiginous sequences of the hero swinging between skyscrapers look stunning and digital effects are polished.

However, director Webb is equally interested in what goes on behind the mask.

The tentative romance with Gwen affords a pleasing change of pace from the frenetically edited skirmishes with The Lizard.

A tantalising additional scene, embedded in the closing credits, whets our appetite for the sequel, which is pencilled for release in summer 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man? Almost.

Damon Smith

No swearing, no sex, violence, rating: 8/10

Released: July 3 UK and Ireland