I liked it a lot and thought it nailed both Spider-Man and Peter Parker as characters, but the film around them really fell flat and was just kind of bland. This is a big contrast to the previous trilogy by Sam Raimi, which were astoundingly entertaining films that completely ruined the characters from the comics. At some point somebody will finally tell a great, entertaining story that perfectly captures on-model depictions of Peter Parker, Spider-Man, and the rest of the supporting cast. Oh wait... somebody already did that: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in the comic books. But as adaptations go, this was a lot of fun and mostly respectful of the source material.
This movie is about, well, Spider-Man, so I don't think I need to recount the plot since the character's origin story has been told and retold so many times that by now it must be as well known as Superman's flight to Earth as a baby or the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. Geeky high school outcast gets bitten by a radioactive spider, gets super powers, fights crime. Considering how this is a reboot of one of film's most popular and successful film trilogies, it was a bit odd how it was almost an hour before we actually saw the character become Spider-Man, but it's ok because this was really more of a film about Peter Parker anyway. But still, did we really need to spend that long retelling the same origin story once more?
But once Parker finally did put on the Spider-Man costume, the action got pretty great and mostly non-stop. There was a bit too much CG (or, at least, a bit too much CG-looking CG, if that makes any sense), so I was never sure if there was ever a guy in a suit at all of if it was all digital, but the fights were still great and the scenes where he swung on his webs through New York City were astounding. I honestly regret not having seen this in 3-D in the theater because I bet it would've looked phenomenal.
Our star was Andrew Garfield, who was as perfect a casting choice as I could've hoped for. One of the reasons I never enjoyed the previous films was that I thought Tobey Maguire -- a fine actor -- was all wrong for the character. He was bland, flat, and lacking in any real charisma, but not so with Garfield, who just nailed it. I've never seen or even heard of this actor before, but now he's one of my favorites if only because he just captured the character I grew up reading. He was awkward when he had to be, but still charming and quirky, creating a perfectly believable high school pariah whose character arc has him becoming a hero. Oh, and he was funny too. Spider-Man should be funny.
The supporting cast was pretty great too. Emma Stone played the love interest Gwen Stacy, and she was very lovely and very charming. Dennis Leary showed up as her father, and he did his usual performance as Dennis Leary. He's ok. Peter's Aunt May and Uncle Ben were played by Sally Field and Martin Sheen, both of whom were great, but only Sheen was given much to do. Field was mostly wasted, but maybe she'll be given more to do in the sequel, I dunno.
Then there was our villain, Curt "The Lizard" Connors played by Rhys Ifans. I don't know what to say about this character or this performance since it just felt so disjointed and weird. Ifans is a wonderful actor who did a great job, but the Lizard was all CG so it almost felt like two different characters, and we never really got a sense of his motivations nor did I really understand his plan or what threat he posed. And, frankly, the CG was pretty weak and just looked fake. I hate to say it, but this wasn't a great villain, which is a shame because a villain is really only as good as the threat he's facing, so this kind of made the film fall apart slightly, at least on a emotional level during the climax.
But I still liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot. Director Marc Webb did a great job with the human characters, but maybe the action and the monsters kind of fell flat and eluded his talents as a director. The action scenes were neat and fun, but they often felt a little out of place, as though they were awkwardly inserted into a quieter, character-driven film. I still recommend it and I look forward to the sequel.