One of the problems I've always had with Spiderman (or Spider Man or Spider-Man or however it's punctuated) is that fundamentally it's a primary-coloured bit of comic strip cartoon nonsense for children on Saturday mornings. It's not Ibsen or Shakespeare and, much like Batman, it's not something that can bear great emotional weight. This, I've long felt, is what made the three Sam Raimi films so dull: they're trying to treat these characters as though they're realistic human beings, but it's such a silly and flimsy idea that it doesn't convey. You can give Peter Parker and Mary-Jane as much soap opera angst as you like but it's like putting emotional weight onto the Smurfs: it's really not that interesting. Just as Bruce Wayne is a colossal bore and only comes to life when dressing up in black rubber and blowing things up, so Peter Parker is only an interesting guy when whizzing round the city in buttock-hugging spandex.
The Amazing Spider-Man isn't that amazing, but it's more fun and more exciting than any of the bloated and overlong Sam Raimi films; this is actually slightly longer than the first two Raimi films but it doesn't feel it. Trying to find out what happened to his parents after their sudden disappearance years ago, high-school kid Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, who's actually 28) ends up snooping around the mysterious Oscorp and his father's one-time colleague Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). And before you can say "Tobey Maguire" he's bitten by a genetically mutated spider and immediately starts developing weird arachno powers. As before, it's the meaningless killing of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) by an anonymous punk that pushes him into becoming a masked vigilante; meanwhile, experiments with mutant lizard serum turn Dr Connors into a giant reptile monster plotting to unleash toxins on New York....Then there's love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) to contend with - will she be in danger if he follows his masked crime-fighting vigilante destiny?
The 3D is "native" rather than a conversion, but it's still entirely unnecessary and the film doesn't need it (whether the film benefits from 3D I don't know, but it doesn't suffer from being seen in 2D) so there's no need to shell out the extra 3D premium; as with Men In Black 3 and Marvel Avengers Assemble and half a dozen others, I once more forgot there was a 3D print of the same movie playing just down the hall. But while the movie's never actively boring, it's never really that exciting either despite all the CGI whizzing about and mocap lizard action. I still didn't care that much, but I did care a tad more about Garfield and Stone than I ever did about Maguire and Dunst.
Given that we've already had the Avengers spectacular already this year, and the new Batman epic later this month as well as Dredd in September and new outings for Wolverine, Superman, Thor and Iron Man lined up for 2013 - can we have a break from superheroes for a bit? The IMDb even credits Darren Aronofsky with a potential Batman reboot, before The Dark Knight Rises has even been released! Please do something else instead of the same old retreads! That said: as retreads go, this is far lighter, more likeable, and has much more humour in it than the Raimis - not necessarily gags and laughs but it's far less ponderous. The standard of CGI appears to have improved in literal leaps and bounds, there's a typically effective and enjoyable James Horner score (which unfortunately does sound very much like many of Horner's other scores in the way that a Jerry Goldsmith score, say, doesn't sound like a lot of other Goldsmith scores) and there are nice turns from Denis Leary as Gwen's police captain dad, Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a perfectly acceptable superhero movie: it's entertaining enough while it's on, it's amusing in places and it doesn't take itself too seriously (the fatal flaw of the Nolan Batmans, which is why I'm slightly dreading The Dark Knight Rises) - though the best joke is probably that a Spiderman movie should be directed by Marc Webb (presumably in the same way that a film about Pearl Harbor should naturally be directed by a man called Bay). It's not perfect but it's a lot more fun than I'd expected and for a studio superhero blockbuster, fun is precisely what it should be.