Let's start with Andrew Garfield. No disrespect meant for Toby Maguire, but Garfield is a much better actor than Maguire and really played the part of Peter Parker, and Spider-Man, perfectly. While this is not the Peter Parker from the original comics in the 60s, Garfield fits better with what Peter looks like as an adult. I know this is still the high school years, but I think they needed to update Peter's look in this film. These days, outcasts are not geeky science nerds, they are more outsiders who can't find their place in the high school society hierarchy. In the ‘60s, it would have been the little nerd getting sand kicked in his face. This is a new generation and the new Peter Parker fits perfectly with modern day sensibilities.
I think that Garfield plays Peter as that kid who can't seem to fit in and just kind of walks around school with his head lowered to avoid confrontation, which doesn't always work when faced with bullies like Flash Thompson. On a quick side note, the portrayal of Flash was also solid and I loved how they worked in Peter and Flash's reconciliation after the death of Uncle Ben.
Speaking of Uncle Ben, while I love Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson, I really liked the work done by Sally Field and Martin Sheen. I like how they were younger because I always felt that Uncle Ben and Aunt May were always too old in the comics if they were Peter's biological aunt and uncle. Beside, these two actors are two of the best of their generation. Just like in the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie, the death of Uncle Ben was a tough pill to swallow and both Robertson and Sheen were great in their roles in the two movies.
Now, a lot of people have been complaining about the reboot and reliving Spider-Man's origin story over again, but that doesn't bother me. I care more about the movie and how it lives as its own organic being. I like the origin here better. I like how it ties in with Peter's dad's disappearance, and based on the post-credit sequence, it looks like the mystery of Peter's parents will tie in with the rest of the recently announced trilogy. I assume they are leading into a meeting with Norman Osborn and that is just fine with me.
However, there are other reasons I like this reboot better than the original trilogy (which I liked as well, as a huge fan of Raimi). Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey is a million times better than Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. First of all, Dunst was a horrible choice to play Mary Jane. For another thing, a high school Peter needs Gwen Stacey and if they continue to follow the comic line, she might be in for a disturbing end in this trilogy.
However, the interactions between Peter and Gwen were perfect. When she saw him standing up for a bullied boy, only to get beat up himself, the sparks began to fly. When it came time for Peter to actually ask Gwen out on a date, Webb proved to have the magical touch as he presented these kids in the exact way you would hope, with neither really knowing what to say and the awkward silence saying more than regular dialogue could have. Garfield and Stone blow Maguire and Dunst out of the water.
I have done a lot of talking about the setup. Let's look at the action.
I like how Peter hacked into OsCorp to learn how to make his web blasters. I hated Raimi having Spider-Man shoot the webs from his skin like a spider, a way of showing his ascent into puberty. I love how they have Garfield make these without reverting to the old comic question of how a high school kid could be so smart to invent them. He wasn't, he was just resourceful. I also love how they had Spider-Man wisecrack because that is what made him so fun to read in the comics.
Rhys Ifans was solid as Curt Connors and his transformation into the Lizard was well done as well. My only problem here is that they took away the tragic Wolfman story of Curt being good as human and evil as the Lizard. Instead, they had the serum drive him insane. Of course, this was also from the comics and the animated series, as in both the Lizard wanted to create a world in his own likeness, so the new movie didn't really stray that far.
There were also some great setups, specifically with Norman Osborn remaining out of sight for now. I expect Harry to show up in the next movie but don't think his dad will be the main enemy until the third, unless they have him show up at the end of number two.
Now, there were entirely too many gratuitous scenes of Spider-Man flying through the air, and while they were awesome to watch in IMAX 3D, the format I saw the movie in, they were just showing off by the director. There were also items left unsaid. When Peter chose to become a masked vigilante in order to track down the villain who killed Uncle Ben (just like in the comics and original movie), he never found the killer. There is also the fact that the bad guy played by Irrfan Khan disappeared after the Lizard bridge attack.
However, at the end of the movie, there was little that did not make me happy.
I was a HUGE Spider-Man fan as a kid (in the ‘70s and early ‘80s). Watching this movie made me smile because this is the Spider-Man that I have always wanted to see on the big screen. It was not dark like Batman and remained a fun, thrill ride from start to finish. While not as great as The Avengers, it easily matches the Raimi movies and helps erase Spider-Man 3 from the mind.
Ignore the complaints that this is a reboot done too soon. Just watch the movie for what it is, a great big, kick ass and fun comic book movie that finally gets Spider-Man just right.