Peter Parker's (Garfield) parents left him with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) when their employer OsCorp (run by Rajit Ratha played by Irfan Khan) placed them in a difficult position. Rather than reveal his findings that proved cross-species research dangerous via a decay algorithm, Dr. Parker hid his equations and attempted to vanish. Regrettably, this led to a suspicious plane crash in which only Dr. Parker's co-researcher survived (Rhys Ifans as Dr. Connors). Dr. Connors is an ostensibly charitable fellow, but his employer hints at his sinister side. Moreover, the good doctor lost a limb in the plane crash and has been armless for years. In many ways this physical deficit has caused him to feel obsessed with growing back his arm.
This Peter Parker is taller, more muscular, and a down to earth high school student (in other words, a more traditional Spider-Man). At first, Peter is routinely pushed around by bullies (whom he later humiliates out of an urge for revenge) and has only one friend, well sort of. The young hobbyist photographer is in love with fellow classmate Gwen Stacy (his real life girlfriend Emma Stone, she is the new Mary Jane prototype). Among other things, Gwen likes bad boys with a sweet spot and enjoys a good adventure. When Uncle Ben causes Peter to begin thinking about his father and his past, the curious teen seeks a meeting with Dr. Connors. Naturally, Peter steals another intern's identification badge, embarrasses Gwen in the process and is introduced to Dr. Connors haphazardly. Did I mention that in the process he received a vicious spider bite from an industrial strength cross-species spider with powerful web-weaving capabilities? His transformation is instantaneous and his life is forever changed.
Shortly thereafter Uncle Ben is killed by a thief that Peter allowed to escape. This tragic incident was surely accidental but the saddened young man is driven by his Uncle's words about being responsible (a play on the prior film's theme of "with great power comes great responsibility"). After testing out his newfound powers of balance and aerial stability on skateboards, and by jumping off of 50 story buildings, our limber teenager begins utilizing his powers to prevent crimes in progress. The question that the Police Chief (Dennis Leary, also Gwen's father) wonders is whether or not Spiderman is solving crimes to help others or to help himself (by finding his Uncle's murderer).
Without a villain there would be pointlessness in promulgating a super hero. Besides, the film would lose it's brand recognition as The Amazing Spider-Man. The Lizard (the new Green Goblin) is none other than the good Dr. Connors turned lizard man. When his job had been threatened the doctor refused to leave his research without trying to re-grow his arm. Knowing the risks, Connors forges ahead with cross-species technology and began the transformation into a mutant. Connors becomes a real life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At once he is a brilliant and conscientious physician and a cruel mass murdering monster. This is quite a dichotomization. The battles fought over supremacy between Peter and Connors are spectacular because they look believable rather than completely fake as their predecessors seemed to appear.
The storyline of the new The Amazing Spider-Man is completely different yet essentially the same. The principal characters' names may have changed but their actions are almost identical to those of the originals. Andrew Garfield, while I harbored serious doubts about his credibility, is fantastic. Would he be viewers' first choice to play their favorite neighborhood superhero? Absolutely not, but the kid really possesses something unique. Garfield knows how to play the everyman role perfectly. There is little arrogance and he does not come across as a colossal jerk. Emma Stone is welcome to play any role in any movie, you guessed it, any time. As a blond her freckles virtually disappear, but it remains the same gorgeous actress with great talent and attention to detail. Rhys Ifans is no Willem Dafoe but he manages to play the role of a spineless doctor turned mayhem-driven giant lizard well enough. While I love Tobey Maguire's acting, and feel largely troubled by this quick turnaround as it tends to deceive fans of the franchise, it is still nice to have more Spiderman as opposed to no Spiderman at all. Bravo to The Amazing Spider-Man, the beginning of what promises to be an exciting new trilogy. Jolly good show!
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