In many ways, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is an example of what's wrong with Hollywood. It's a quickie reboot of a well-known property, it rehashes a story we've seen multiple times in multiple forms, using the latest trends (in this case, 3D) to put a new shine on an old tale.
For those reasons, and more, I expected to dislike "The Amazing Spider-Man". But when I saw it, I found myself not disliking it, then, at some point, actually liking it. It's a fun movie marked by good characterizations and incredible action, one that sets the tone for a new "Spider-Man" trilogy that could surpass the original.
But let's put aside comparisons to the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films for a second and measure "The Amazing Spider-Man" on its own merits.
The heart of the movie is the burgeoning relationship between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy. In perhaps the biggest change from any previous Spider-Man continuity, Peter tells Gwen that he's Spider-Man, and does so relatively early on. That's the kind of change that could ruin the whole movie, but Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have such good chemistry and get into their characters so well that it works. In fact, much of the strength of the movie is in the depth Garfield brings to Parker/Spider-Man, covering the full range of the character. Stone exceeds all expectations as Gwen Stacy, almost to the point that I don't want to see her suffer her character's inevitable fate.
The big action scenes in the movie come between Spider-Man and The Lizard (the mutated form of Dr. Curt Conners) and take advantage of all the improvements in technology over the past decade. The 3D, as it's used here, enhances the movie, and director Marc Webb uses every angle possible to bring the hand-to-hand battles to life. Putting it as simply as possible, it just looked really cool.
I had my concerns about Denis Leary's Captain Stacy, but the character was used pretty much exactly how he should have been, right down to his death (oh, spoiler alert). I thought his death in this movie was actually more powerful than Uncle Ben's, though that could've been because I knew 100% that the latter was happening and wasn't certain that they'd cover the former.
A lot of the marketing of the movie centered around the mystery behind Peter's parents, which concerned me, but the movie itself doesn't get bogged down in that. It's what connects Peter to Dr. Conners and The Lizard, and plays a role in the climax of the movie, but it's not like every five minutes Peter is saying "I need to figure out what happened with my parents." I'm assuming it'll play a bigger role in subsequent movies, which will be fine, since they've laid the groundwork here.
Really, I ended up only having two significant complaints about "The Amazing Spider-Man". First was that I didn't buy Sally Field as Aunt May at all. In a movie that otherwise had really great casting/characterization pairings, that one failed on both levels. Secondly, I thought Peter revealed himself as Spider-Man or used his powers in public sans mask/costume a little too frequently. By the end of the movie, Gwen and Dr. Conners know he's Spider-Man (as does the late Captain Stacy), it's hinted that Aunt May suspects it, and tons more people should be able to piece it together if they think about it.
But in the end, if you get caught up in comparing every little thing that happens in "The Amazing Spider-Man" to its movie predecessors or even its comic source material, you might not enjoy it, but you're also missing the point. It's a worthy entry into the Marvel movie canon, and I look forward to seeing what these creators and actors bring to the series next.