The bigger disappointment is Peter Parker. Raimi’s Spider-Man opened with a poor schmuck (Maguire) running for the bus. Terrorized by bullies, lost, rejected and hopeless – an outcast. Maguire, emotionally shaky despite rock-hard abs and the ability to look in eight places at once, crashes into walls after getting his newfound powers and never really recovers his footing; he always seems disconnected from his alter ego. Garfield’s Spidey struts around in spandex, roguishly confident, playing Spiderman instead of Peter. We only know he’s undergoing a tortured battle with himself because his Bambi-esque eyes continually well with tears and the dialogue takes us by the elbow– “Are you having trouble finding yourself?” asks a preternaturally savvy secretary.
The first Spider-Man was thrilling, cartoonish, and affectionately campy. It had drama – the lightning flash that exposes Uncle Ben’s killer in the warehouse – and moments of real feeling – James Franco’s rage, Maguire’s poignant renunciation of Mary Jane to ensure her safety. We were simultaneously sucked into the story and tickled by the breeze from Raimi’s heavy wink. Trying – presumably – to be different, The Amazing Spiderman glosses over parts of Parker’s transformation and rise to heroism, losing most of its charm and dramatic narrative. We’re left with a plot where the main villain maniacally schemes to turn everyone into a lizard-person. Near the end of the movie, Spider-Man, having sustained a gunshot wound to the leg, quickly sprays it over with web, hoping the improvised solution will heal him. Maybe it’ll work for Peter Parker, but not for the Spidey franchise.