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Amazing Spider-Man, The (3D) (DQ)


Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Zylka

Director: Marc Webb

Haven't we been here before? 17-year-old orphan Peter Parker (Garfield), a star science student but bullied at school, is bitten by a spider while visiting his father's old research partner, the one-armed Curt Connors (Ifans), who is still working on a formula for regenerating lost limbs.

Meanwhile, Peter soon finds himself able to swarm up tall buildings and throw out adhesive web from his fingertips (they must have picked the director for his surname), as well as being endowed with superhuman strength and lightning reflexes, After his uncle (Sheen) is killed by a store robber Peter could have stopped, the latter takes it on himself to tackle the city's muggers, bandits and ne'er-do-wells.

At the same time, he has fallen for fellow student Gwen (Stone, seemingly rather too mature, even though five years younger than Garfield) who, this time around, is soon privy to his secret. As his widowed aunt (Field) points out, however, there's a price to be paid for secrets and Parker is soon hunted by police, coincidentally led by Stone's straight-arrow father (Leary).

Back at the research lab, Ifans, threatened with closure by nasty Khan, takes a dose of the unproven formula (Peter has given him his father's conclusions) and 'casting off flesh wherein I dwell confined', finds himself with scales, claws and a tail, terrorising the traffic on a bridge.

'It's not a dinosaur,' shouts Parker to anyone who will listen. 'He's transformed himself into a giant lizard.' The lizard is actually a bit of a laugh, so it's just as well the film often emphasises its underlying comic content. Especially funny is the brief scene where a music teacher, headphones clamped, carries on with his work, oblivious to the fact that Spidey and Lizard-Man are trashing the empty classroom behind him.

Even at 28, Garfield is so young-looking and gangly, this might well be The Amazing Spider-Boy instead, but he's more than OK in the role, wisely leaving the homilies and platitudes to Field and Sheen as his surrogate parents. Action is efficiently done, if perhaps without quite the snap of the Tobey Maguire original from 2002, now already consigned to Reboot Hill.

Here, individual scenes - the heroic rescue of a boy from a blazing car stands out - are often more attractive than the routine story itself. Incidentally, the actor playing the boy's father in this sequence is C Thomas Howell, once a teen favourite, who, 25 years ago, would have made an ideal Spider-Man himself.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by deluxe.
136 minutes. Widescreen (3D). UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 29 Jun 2012