There are many ways to spin a familiar fantasy -- but this webslinger is decided different from Sam Raimi's previous Marvel Comics-based trilogy. While the plot -- revolving around a teenager bitten by a genetically modified spider, developing incredible powers that inspire him to become a vigilante crime-fighter -- remains intact, the characters are more fleshed-out and the new stunt-work is splendid.
As embodied by Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network"), angry, rebellious Peter Parker wonders why, one night when he was little, his parents dropped him off with his Aunt Mae (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and disappeared forever. After he finds scientific papers in an old briefcase belonging to his dad (Campbell Scott), Parker diligently tracks down his father's former colleague, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), at Manhattan's OsCorp research center, where his savvy Midtown Science High School classmate, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), is leading a guided tour. Invigorated by Parker's discovery of his father's formula specifically relating to cross-species limb regeneration, psychologically-pressured Connors injects himself -- with monstrous results.
Scripted by James Vanderbilt, Steve Kloves and Alvin Sargent, it's directed by Marc Webb, whose "500 Days of Summer" was a charming romantic comedy. So it's not surprising that Webb invigorates the Parker/Stacy relationship with that same kind of awkward wistfulness, adding a palpable sense of mystery and danger, epitomized by "We all have secrets: the ones we keep, and the ones that are kept from us."
Plus it helps that there's obvious chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone ("Easy A," "Crazy, Stupid Love"), who playfully cautions, "Easy there, bug boy."
John Schwartzman's spectacular cinematography is amplified by James Horner's score, while Vic and Andy Armstrong's second-unit and stunt-work introduces the French sport of parkour, in which athletes run, jump and climb in urban environments, and reinvents the way Spidey zips from building to building.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is an awesome 8, delivering emotional truth along with spectacular visual effects. Be sure to stay for a pivotal, provocative scene after the closing credits.