A member of the Online Film Critics Society, Peter writes for Twitch, the Financial Times, and Rue Morgue. A contributing editor at Metro magazine, and a columnist on blockbuster movies for Screen Education, he also blogs on pop culture at School Library Journal: http://blogs.slj.com/connect-the-pop/. Get too-frequent updates about comics, books, movies, and TV via Twitter: @Peter_GutierrezView all articles by Peter Gutiérrez
Indeed, even the development particulars that I thought were encouraging seemed ominous to others. Would this be Spider-Man for a Twilight-loving target audience? The hiring of director Marc Webb, best known for (500) Days of Summer -- didn't that confirm the too-heavy-on-the-romance angle that all of us dreaded? And how would Webb handle the pronounced action element we'd expect from this treatment of a character who's arguably the most kinetic of all superheroes? Moreover, what about all this new backstory stuff, with Peter Parker's parents playing bigger roles than they ever have?
Well, I'm happy to report that almost all such fears prove themselves to be unfounded. Peter's parents are mostly off-screen, and although Richard Parker's scientific work turns out to be critical in terms of the plot, that doesn't mean the central importance of Aunt May and Uncle Ben is diminished at all. Indeed, all those relationships suddenly become more interesting...
And what of all the love-dovey elements? Don't worry about that either. In fact, Webb and Co. are so adept at handling the action sequences -- which are among the most thrilling in this genre, ever -- that I feel that the high school romance stuff is actually what gets short-changed. That's not to say that Garfield and Stone aren't compelling: their chemistry is so electrically alive that it's like lightning caught in a bottle.
Similarly, Gwen Stacy's character, rather than being fully developed, is delivered mostly in terms of Stone's sheer charm. And that charm is vast, and probably has never been more powerful than it is here, make no mistake -- it's just that as you leave the theater you're not really sure what makes Gwen tick. For example, is she at all disappointed on a personal level that her quasi-employer Dr. Curt Connors (a solid Rhys Ifans) turns out to be the monstrous Lizard? Possibly. You'd just never know from her reaction, which is instantly to become heroic herself.
All of these faults, however, point to the film's strength: it moves very, very well, and additionally does not skimp on the action set pieces (even though we don't get the first one for quite a while). With such efficient plotting it seems that some things simply got sacrificed; thus we have several coincidences that might induce eye-rolling on your part.
Still, for its humor, overall intelligence (ignore the silly, sewer-dwelling normal-sized lizards), and terrific action scenes (note: I saw the film in IMAX 3-D), this Spider-Man surpassed all my expectations. Give it a chance, I say. With any luck, the second film in this new series will be even more satisfying than the first. After all, that was the case with the Raimi trilogy, and I feel this new version definitely starts out on a comparable note of promise.