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'The Amazing Spider-Man' review

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Marvel celebrates half a century of Spider-Man this year, but does that warrant another big-screen re-spin, only ten years after the last one?

Not really, no. An all-new cast and new director (the aptly named Marc Webb) have safely delivered an entertaining comic book romp, but Sam Raimi's version swings closer to the edge and when you first saw it, it made all your little hairs stand up.

Raimi's casting of Tobey Maguire was the biggest risk and it paid off in spades - a weird, borderline creepy incarnation of the nerd-turned-superhero who, we realise, is genuinely misunderstood and actually rather loveable. In the same role British up-and-comer Andrew Garfield is, yes, a bit funny-looking, but in a cute hangdog kind of way. And he knows it too.

Garfield is a fine talent, but his moody skater-boy take on Peter Parker is, arguably, a little too pleased with himself, especially after being bitten by a genetically modified spider at Oscorp, the sky-scraping research facility run by nutty professor Dr Curt Connors - that's Rhys Ifans in a literally flesh-crawling turn as part-man, part-lizard.

'The Amazing Spider-Man' preview trailer still
Parker getting to grips with his suddenly super sticky fingers offers a good few laughs, but the joke has been done already, and it's funnier with a hero who is less sure of himself.

Still, his classmate and Connors's protégé Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone doing her usual smart and sassy) can't resist him (even without the spandex) and it's their sparky rapport that adds urgency to the film.

Stacy's dad happens to be chief of police and he's on a mission to track down the sticky-fingered so-and-so who's meting out vigilante justice after dark. Denis Leary plays him with typically dry wit and barely contained rage, and his clash with his daughter's new beau over the morality of vigilantism gives the film - and its hero - an interesting, slightly darker feel than the original.

Still, Parker is, essentially, a clean-cut guy, just a little confused after losing his dad (a shamefully under-used Campbell Scott) and indirectly playing a part in the death of his uncle. Martin Sheen adds weight to the film as the latter and Sally Field is a rock as Parker's fearful aunt, waiting up till the early hours while her precious boy cleans up the city.

Again, though, Raimi delivered a bigger emotional punch; making the domestic drama resonate more deeply with the action. Here, when Connors morphs into a giant lizard (cue the Godzilla jokes), Parker must save the girl (standard genre stuff), but the angst over his absent uncle and the twisted brotherly bond between Maguire and James Franco in the 2002 film had real pathos.

In ten years, visual effects don't seem to have evolved much, either. Scenes of Spidey swinging through the city were breath-taking then and now, and the fight scenes are choreographed with just as much humour and dynamism. After his indie rom-com (500) Days of Summer, Webb fully exploits a bigger budget, but while the movie is fun, it won't have the same sticking power as the original.


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