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It has hardly been ten years since Spider-man made its onscreen debut. A journeyman director known for horror took a well-known comic book and turned it into one of the largest global franchises in movie history. Two years after that, Spider-man 2 overtook its predecessor, raking in over $700 million worldwide in the process. It seemed that there was no limit to the heights Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi could reach. That is until Spider-man 3.
While the third installation of the Spider-man franchise made the most amount of money, it also left most moviegoers discontent with what they had received. Too many villains, too much mascara-clad Peter Parker, too much everything. Raimi, Maguire and company had lost their way. The phoenix burned itself into ashes.
Enter a new Peter Parker for a new generation. He is an outcast, he is angsty, he is English. Andrew Garfield endured a great deal of vitriol when he was announced as the new face of Marvel's most famous web-slinger. What Garfield may not have had in physique, he made up for in determination to infuse authenticity to the role.
Director Marc Webb isn't satisfied with only trotting out another Spider-man movie, he wants to tell a different story. This Peter Parker isn't so much nerdy as he is completely alienated. The loss of his parents set him apart from other kids. Upon the chance discovery of his father's old files, Peter completely changes his life. He meets his father's old partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and finds out Gwen Stacy, the girl he has had his eye on, is Connors' intern.
The rest of the story is fairly familiar to audiences, but what Garfield, Stone and Ifans do with these interactions is what makes the new Spider-man worth watching. Moments where Peter spends dinner with his new beau and her domineering father (trademark Denis Leary) or his Uncle Ben (couldn't Martin Sheen have been in longer?) are played with an enthusiasm that some of the secondary character relationships missed in the Raimi franchise. More appreciated, Stone's Gwen Stacy isn't always waiting to be saved. She has her own motivations and ambitions. Stone's heroine has wit to go with her dazzling smile, something that was missing from Spider-man's female characters. These considerations make it apparent that Amazing Spider-man is unfurling its own origins in a carefully timed fashion rather than rushing to the climactic battle with the main baddie.
Peter Parker could have been another teenager lucky to receive powers, but he is grounded by his spectre-like existence in this world. He never really fits into the world, but as Spider-man he can take all the grief and crap piled on him and shoot it right back. The snark so closely associated with the arachnid-icon is indulged more frequently than past films. With that said, Garfield's interpretation of Peter Parker is darker. He rebels rather than back down. The danger is amped up as well: consequences of Peter's costumed proclivities are palpable. He cracks wise because he is in a horrifyingly real situation and quite often the people he cares about are harmed due to his actions.
Whether Webb's character arcs will continue to develop as the series begins anew is only speculation at this point, but this jumping point is a good start. Garfield and Stone have the chemistry to make it last.