'The Amazing Spider-Man' Review: Garfield Sticks the Landing in Imaginative Super-Reboot

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” That Albert Einstein quote adorns one of the posters seen behind high school student Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in "The Amazing Spider-Man."

It’s an appropriate lesson to be highlighted in a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise.  We all know how one angst-ridden teen became a cocky superhero, but this movie attempts to re-tell that famous story. Yes, we already may have the knowledge of this story but the question is if this retelling has the imagination and insight to pull us into the theater once again. 

Garfield—a strong supporting player in the 2010 drama "The Social Network"—takes center stage, filling the shoes of the likable but harmless Tobey Maguire. Maguire was a solid choice as Spider-Man, not as great as his admirers believe nor as disappointing as his detractors claim.

But Garfield seems to be the perfect Peter Parker. Despite his good looks and charm, Garfield offers a relatable fragility that was on full display when he lost much of his Facebook portfolio in "Network." Garfield can no doubt be confident but when hurt, the actor embodies the lonely bullied teen that Parker was before a spider changed his life.

The story revolves around Peter’s search for the truth about his parent’s disappearance. That quest leads him to the scientific facility Oscorp, where he discovers that his high school crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) works under the tutelage of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).

Dr. Connors—a close colleague of Parker’s father—is working to achieve his goal of creating a world without weakness. Inevitably, Parker transforms into the web-slinger he was born to be and Dr. Connors’ work leads him to cut unnecessary corners and make decisions that transform him as well.

Much of the plot is a rehash of the origin story we saw in Maguire's 2002 "Spider-Man" film, but this strong cast imbues it with a freshness and seriousness that Maguire’s sometimes cartoonish adventure lacked. Parker’s uncle and aunt are here played by veteran actors Martin Sheen and Sally Field. And comedian Denis Leary serves as another opponent that Parker faces off against. Leary plays Stacy’s father, a tough police officer who believes Spider-Man is more of a threat to the city than some of the criminals he dispatches. 

But what the story lacks in originality, it makes up for in some of its quieter moments and its special effects. Watching Spider-Man fight crime is enticing, but it’s also neat to watch this masked hero take an order for organic eggs from his aunt while sitting on top of a rooftop between adventures.

And Marc Webb, the director of the 2009 comedy "(500) Days of Summer," proves capable of handling such a high-profile franchise. At times, Webb's direction is disjointed, but the special effects make up for that and the 3D effects are astounding. 

For those who think Spider-Man didn’t need a reboot, I can understand your trepidation about this new franchise starter. But the movie works, despite its familial elements.

Einstein was right about imagination versus knowledge. The 2002 "Spider-Man" had the origin story down but it didn’t offer the imagination of this reboot, which makes this Spider-Man amazing after all.


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