In 2002, Spider-Man swung onto the big screen and into the hearts of comic book and superhero fans everywhere followed up by the upgrade in quality with Spider-Man 2 (2004). However, in 2007, this legacy was under harsh scrutiny with the release of the bloated Spider-Man 3. With no compromises to be made between Sam Raimi and the studio on Spider-Man 4, Sony decided to reboot the titular character in 2012 with the more forgotten The Amazing Spider-Man.
Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) is a normal high school student that lives with his Uncle Ben (played by Michael Sheen) and Aunt May (played by Sally Field). On a trip to Oscorp with some fellow classmates he runs into his school yard crush Gwen Stacey (played by Emma Stone) and soon-to-be mentor Dr. Curt Conners (played by Rhys Ifans) where he gets bitten by a genetically altered spider. Soon after Parker feels changes happening he can’t understand, like a 6th sense and increased strength and speed. Learning of these abilities he begins to embarrass his school bully Flash Thompson, which begins a chain of events that lead to the death of his father figure, Ben Parker. Distraught and feeling personally responsible for his death, Peter decides to use his abilities for the greater good and become the hero that would be known as Spider-Man.
Nothing will replace Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man from the first trilogy, but I did enjoy Andrew Garfield’s take on the webhead in 2012. He still carries all the same quirks Peter Parker would have but they gave him more confidence while keeping him that awkward teenager. While this does make him come off like a jerk sometimes, it is a different take on the character and allows a new generation to say that this is our Spider-Man. They also went with the idea of darkening his origin story too, not only by having Ben Parker get shot and die on screen, but also to have Peter right down the street helpless to stop it.
Let’s get this straight: Andrew Garfield is not my favorite Spider-Man, but he does an excellent job in the role. However, he does get overshadowed by more charismatic and likable characters like Gwen Stacey. She is not only a smart cookie like Peter, but she is also not a damsel in distress as they characterized MJ in the Raimi trilogy. She herself makes the antiserum to stop scientist turned reptile, Curt Conners AKA Lizard, from turning the population of New York into monsters. Stacey even helped Spider-Man again when Conners attacked him at school, avoiding the damsel trope and making her just as formidable as Spiderman. Not only can she take care of herself, but she also has amazing chemistry with Andrew Garfield, selling their blossoming romance. This was Spider-Man’s movie, but Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey absolutely stole the spotlight from Garfield.
Now let’s move on to the villain, Lizard. When we first meet him, he is a scientist trying to discover a way to regrow human limbs for those that are amputees or were born without them. What makes him better than most villains is the fact that Conners isn’t inherently evil, but misguided. He felt like a gentle soul with intelligence trying to make the world a better place, then his “cure” for regrowing limbs messed with his head AND DNA (huh, a palindrome) creating the Lizard. Rhys Ifans is great as the good man turned mad scientist turned reptile, it just stinks he was in such a forgettable movie.
In the age of reboots and sequels, The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) is fortunately one of the more forgettable ones. This was mostly due to the fact that it was released only 5 years after the Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy concluded. It tries to take some new ideas and different angles on retelling Parker’s origin story, making it more grounded and darker without losing the lighthearted nature of the character. Andrew Garfield was solid as Peter Parker and Spider-Man but he was lost in the shadow of his love interest Gwen Stacey. Lizard was solid and more empathetic than most villains but he is no Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus. It is a shame that this film is somewhat the weakest of all attempts at Spider-Man’s origins in my opinion. Hopefully we get to see Garfield retake the mantle of the iconic character in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).