It was the third time Andrew had experienced an SMRT breakdown.  ©Columbia Pictures

My verdict: Three out of five stars. What do you think?

I have something to confess: I never really liked Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. Consequently, I didn’t have all that much love for the first three Spidey movies.

Yes, director Sam Raimi did some great work on the franchise (crappy third movie notwithstanding) and stayed (mostly) true to the spirit of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s creation. But there was always something off about Tobey, fine actor that he is. For a life-long Spidey fan like me, he never quite seemed to embody Peter Parker: too emo, too wishy washy and too, well, old.

Which is why I was rather happy when he and Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane pursing Peter? yeah, right) were replaced by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. I’ve always liked Garfield, especially after his performances in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go. As for Stone, the only movie of hers I’ve ever seen is Zombieland, but she was rather impressive in that.

So: does this reboot, coming just five years after *shudder* Spider-Man 3, deliver? Yes, and no.

If you watched the original trilogy of Spider-Man movies, you will know the story: boy gets bitten by spider, gains superpowers, unwittingly causes death of beloved father figure, vows to live by the creed that with great power etc etc. This new version stays largely true to the storyline, albeit with one key shift in mythology, by making the disappearance of Peter’s parents the key event in his life.

Garfield and Stone, as Parker and his first love Gwen Stacy, make a fine pair, and their sizzling chemistry is the best thing about the movie. Denis Leary and Martin Sheen put in fine turns as Gwen’s father and Uncle Ben respectively, but Garfield and Stone overshadow everything else. It is to the duo’s credit that their on-screen romance, the first blossoming of teen love, feels sweet rather than cloying, and Marvel has struck gold in pairing the talented Brit with Hollywood’s current It-Girl. While this Gwen Stacy is worlds apart from the ice queen of the comics, Stone is a lively and very likable presence. In some ways, she’s more MJ than MJ.

He knew he shouldn’t have webbed their foreheads together ©Columbia PIctures

As with all superhero portrayals, it is always rare to find an actor who can embody the character in and out of costume. In this case, Garfield excels as both Parker and Spider-Man. For the former, the broody, angsty teen bit comes dangerously close to spilling over into Twilight territory, though he makes up for it with a natural charm. But most importantly, Garfield nails the sharp wit and constant banter of the costumed character. In one stand-out sequence, Parker discovers his powers in bull-in-china-shop fashion on the New York subway, with Garfield displaying a surprising talent for physical comedy.  It seems rather telling that Garfield, at 28 a year older than Maguire was when he first took up the role, embodies the teenage Parker so convincingly.

The movie has more than its fair share of weaknesses, with sub-plots such as the search for Uncle Ben’s (Sheen as a rather ruffled President Bartlet) killer taken up, then swiftly jettisoned. Gwen takes to Peter’s powers rather too easily, while he has a strange habit of taking off his mask, considering that he has a secret identity to protect. Most of all, it fails to keep up the momentum, so that by the time the final showdown with the Lizard takes place, it almost feels tired and predictable.

But I am greatly heartened that the producers didn’t go with a conventional happy ending, but instead adhered to a recurring theme in the Spider-Man mythos: that Peter’s abilities are as much curse as blessing, and more often than not, end up driving away the ones he loves the most. I’m interested to see if they keep up the light tone in subsequent sequels or go darker, especially considering Gwen’s eventual fate.

Wait for the sequel! ©Columbia PIctures