Warning 2: It’s after 3 a.m. as I write this, so I don’t promise perfection.
Holding this movie up against The Avengers, Spider-Man 2, or Iron Man, I’d say it ranks slightly below them, but only slightly. If those are 10-star movies, I’d give this one an 8 or 9. It won’t make you want to leap out of your chair and cheer, but I liked it and will want to see it again.
Action: Excellent. The director achieves a slightly darker, grittier Spider-Man, one who has to work at it to do the things he does, much more so than in the previous movies. For this incarnation, being Spider-Man is hard work, rougher and less fun.
The fight scenes are fast and tasty. Whereas the Tobey Maguire Spidey seemed to be dancing through his battles (which I liked), this one is fighting continuously on the edge of his abilities, and it adds an extra level of suspense.
The skateboard is an interesting touch, and it was fun watching Pete practice on a half-pipe while exploring his new physical abilities.
Special Effects: The Lizard is fairly well done, gritty and dark and believable, but not quite as visually stunning as, say, the werewolves in Van Helsing.
Love Story: Good. It was realer and a bit more subdued than the Peter-Mary Jane story of the previous movies. Peter is goofy and unbuttoned here, and all the better for it. I liked the Gwen Stacy character, and the dynamic between her and Peter.
Acting: Oh, damn, this kid Andrew Garfield is good. He manages some nuances to this Peter Parker that I’m not sure Tobey McGuire could have pulled off. This Peter manages to be the picked-on nerd character at school without being uncool. Gwen Stacy’s Emma Stone is equally gifted.
Sally Field as Aunt May and Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben were unexpected choices, but both are excellent actors and did great jobs.
Story: This is a likable addition to the Spider-Man canon. The “origin” storyline and the death of Uncle Ben are written differently from the previous movies and the original comic, but both work very well. There’s a very interesting scene where Spidey sets up a literal web that he rests in, tensioned web lines he hopes will vibrate to warn him that the Lizard is coming, and from which direction.
Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy has a great character arc that has him angry at the masked spider vigilante in the beginning, supportive and even defending him in the end. Stacy also gets to be a hero all on his own, and you’ll like the way they do it.
Flash Thompson, Peter’s bully-boy high school nemesis, has his own character arc, from simple bully to someone compassionate and real, finally to a Spidey fanboy (as he was in the comics).
There’s a scene where Spidey is rescuing a kid from a burning car, which also happens to be dangling from a webline off a bridge, and it is likable but falls short of the emotional impact of, say, Spidey 2 stopping the runaway train.
Stan Lee’s Cameo: The best yet. You’re gonna love it.
Slightly Bothersome Stuff: There was a scene with big construction cranes that seemed a bit contrived.
Spidey’s spider-sense was minimized in this movie, and he actually gets winged by a cop, which every Spider-Man fan knows just doesn’t happen.
Late in the movie, Peter has Gwen fetch an antidote to the lizard serum, and either I missed the scene that explained how he knew where to get it, or the writers/director pulled something out of their asses.
There are a couple of scenes with lizards which are slightly baffling. Some connection between the Lizard and these smaller lizards is implied but never explained.
There’s an Easter egg or whatever they call it after the credits, an extra scene that teases future developments, but apparently I blinked and missed the crucial half-second revelation it offered. If someone else finds out what this is, spoiler or not, please tell me.
Neutral Stuff: There’s no J. Jonah Jameson in this one, and only the Daily Bugle name gets into it. There’s nothing about Peter being a photographer, except for one bit where he has his camera set up to take pictures of a fight scene.
I paid the extra for the 3D (as I had to; there weren’t showing a 2D version), but after the first few minutes of 3D, I never notice it anyway, so I could watch this movie and never miss it.
I thought it was worth a brief smile that the director of a Spider-Man movie is a guy named Marc Webb, and I’ll bet he heard that joke about a thousand times since getting involved in this project.
Overall, this movie is worth seeing, and worth seeing on the big screen.
Go see it. Report back.