The Amazing Spider-Man ★★★½

I enjoyed but didn’t love Sam Raimi’s 2002 film. The novel pairing of a director out of his comfort zone and a pair of Hollywood stars du jour seemed on the face of it to be a great match-up, but Tobey Maguire proved emotionally inaccessible and his lack of chemistry with Kirsten Dunst was palpable. The physics were off in the showpiece web-slinging scenes as well, which always bugged me.

Marc Webb’s reboot shares a similar setup: he’s new to action films, having directed just one prior feature (the indie hit 500 Days of Summer), and he’s picked two rising stars to play Spidey and his love interest. This time, the casting (and the chronology) works. Andrew Garfield’s scruffy, awkward Peter Parker cracks both wise and goofy opposite Emma Stone’s blonde Gwen Stacy. They’re hard not to like.

Webb, like Raimi, takes his time with the origin story, establishing the inspiration behind the costume and the genesis of the hero’s “web-shooters”. The source material is comically contrived, but this version appears more at ease with itself, while never crossing the line into self-knowledge. And it really shines in the staging of its acrobatic sequences — instead of observing at arm’s length, there’s an immediacy and closeness to the action, the camera moving in unexpected ways while never losing its sense of position.

I lost interest in Raimi’s trilogy well before the second entry was done, but I’ll be back for another round here.

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