Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is different, his alter ego Spider-Man is different, and the playbook Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man movie uses--a franchise reboot that wasn't, artistically speaking, necessary--seem's more suited to the morose Batman than the spunkier red, white, and blue teenage nerd who gets bitten by a unique spider.
This time around the spider has been genetically engineered by his scientist father, who leaves young Peter with Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) when Oscorp Industries gets rough concerning his father's research into cross-species regeneration and decay rate algorithms.
Peter's parents die shortly after leaving him. Years later he's a bright science student but bullied at school, in love from afar with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and soon to meet Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father's friend and co-researcher. Dr. Connors wants to grow his missing arm back and needs a workable decay rate algorithm. Peter supplies it after finding his father's briefcase containing the needed research information. Mayhem ensues.
The mayhem takes a while to simmer to boiling point, and it isn't Sam Raimi's mayhem, and that old Spidey Sense isn't as finely tuned yet for Peter. He gets beat up a lot and looks like it. I don't recall Tobey Maguire looking this bruised and sore after taking on Doc Ock or the Green Goblin. Peter also needs more help in this movie, which is supplied by a brave Gwen Stacy, her father the police captain (Denis Leary) and a resourceful construction worker (C. Thomas Howell) who realizes even super heroes need our help sometimes.
The funniest scene happens with Stan Lee and it gets my vote for the best Stan Lee cameo appearance in a Marvel film. And the best scene doesn't take place with Spider-Man battling the gigantic Lizard; it happens hanging off the traffic-jammed Williamsburgh Bridge, when Spider-Man must save a frightened kid and time's slipping away fast. These scenes sparkle inside a cleanly executed storyline that doesn't share enough of its substance with us: Aunt May and Uncle Ben are here, but they're perfunctory; Peter Parker experiences a life-changer, but he takes it in stride; Dr. Connors nearly get's his wish to send New Yorkers back to the Mesozoic Era, but he's stopped surprisingly quickly just so we can spend more minutes with Peter and Gwen, leaving me hoping Dr. Connor's would pop his lizard tail back in to shake things up one more time. Sadly, he didn't.
If you're keeping a scorecard, I rate this movie "good" and a little better--but just a little--than Raimi's Spider-Man 3. That movie also had too many scripters to tell the story. Garfield is taller and slimmer than Maguire, and he's got a fuller head of hair, but Maguire still shows more nuance even when standing still. Also in this movie, Peter Parker has finally acquired a cell phone, although he needs to use the vibrate button more. He also watches YouTube, which leads to a surprisingly relevant confrontation between him and Captain Stacy over what appears to be the truth in a video concerning Spider-Man. As for The Daily Bugle, it gets brief mention through a newspaper bundle showing a front page, but Peter's photo-taking is not uppermost here.
The 3D renders the movie quite dark for viewing while giving negligible depth to the action. I recommend seeing the 2D version instead.