The basics remain the same – teenage boy gets bitten by radioactive spider, develops super arachnid powers, learns that 'with great power comes great responsibility' in the most painful way possible, before wooing the girl and defeating a super powered foe. However, Webb has cleverly crafted enough difference within and between all the characters that it never becomes overly familiar – the fun after all is in how a story is told, it's not often we truly go in to the cinema doubting that the hero will turn out victorious.
The most immediate difference is in the character of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) – now, fittingly for an orphan, more Emo - a skater with trendy ruffled hair. He's still a scientific whizz, but not quite the picked upon geek of yore, instead challenging bullies head on, and once he dons the suit his wisecracking is believably playful. He's even confident chasing the girl, because, of course, there is a girl – and the film's main strength lies in Garfield's chemistry with Emma Stone. She plays the equally brainy Gwen Stacy, daughter of Police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary in suitably stern mode) who you just know will have a problem with anyone messing with his daughter, let alone a masked vigilante. Parker and Stacy are immediately flirtatious, and the whole thing has an authentically teenage feel to the nascent relationship. And for once when the costume comes out, and the web is flying in 3D (fans will be pleased to see from home made slingers) Stacy is far from the shrieking damsel in distress, playing an important role in the film's denouement.
It takes a good while for the spandex to emerge, with a slow build – which is all for the best as we're introduced to the characters and their relationships. There's his loving Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), worried as there previously well behaved charge starts to return home with bruises, and the shady Dr Curt Connors, an ex-colleague of Peter's mysteriously deceased father. It's not all action, but it never feels like it drags with the strong cast building convincingly engaging relationships together and Webb's flair for dialogue shining through. It must be past the half hour mark before Garfield actually begins his transformation – handled with as much humour, but in a more public fashion than Raimi's private 'wet dream' sequence in that origin. When the swinging does begin it's handled well, with swooping New York vistas, and a couple of the first person perspective shots hinted at in the trailers really drawing you into this new, acrobatic lifestyle. The 3D isn't as obtrusive as I'd feared, keeping up for the most part with the fast moving sequences and allowing for death defying leaps to feel even more treacherous.
Where it falls down slightly is in the characterisation of its villain, Rhys Ifans' Connors. As anyone who's read the comics or seen a trailer knows he becomes the Lizard – a rampaging mini-Godzilla. His arc should be a Spidey retelling of the classic Jekyll and Hyde character, the problem is that right from the start there's something off with Ifans' Connors – he's creepy, clearly up to something, and seemingly involved with both Norman Osborn, ultimately Spider-Man's most fearsome foe, and the death of Peter's parents. Basically, there's rather too much of the Hyde and not enough Jekyll to make for the compelling and sympathetic villain that the Lizard should be. The fights are visceral and smartly handled, with one particular scene, where Spider-Man constructs a web through the sewers to locate the Lizard, a particular stand-out. The CGI for his beastly alter ego even looks good and isn't as distracting as some may have feared - there's even a few nods to the comics for the fans, with the appearance of the fearsome reptile decked out in his Oscorp lab coat.
But that's another problem – there are so many nods to future storylines that it can at times feel like an extended set-up for sequels. It is of course - but it would be nice if they hid it a bit better. There's plenty of references to Oscorp and Norman Osborn, but no appearance from the man himself, the mystery of the Parker parents' death is touched upon, but left hanging for future instalments, and even the romance between Gwen and Peter feels like it never really gets off the ground. It's all good foundations for future films, better even than those that Raimi laid in his plain old Spider-Man, but it is foundations nonetheless and sometimes gets in the way of telling a well-rounded stand alone tale. There's even the now obligatory after-credits snippet to hint at what's to come.
That shouldn't be read as condemnation – with The Amazing Spider-Man Webb has managed to pull off a better film than I think anyone had a right to expect. He's brought together a fantastic cast, handled the action with aplomb, and managed to combine that with engagingly realistic portrayals that make you actually care about the fate of the characters. The story, while obviously not entirely fresh, has enough new in it to be worthwhile, and certainly suggests that as the franchise continues we could be in for the best Spider-Man films thus far. The stage is well and truly set – now we can move away from the origin and into the meat of the story, which will have all Spidey fans waiting with baited breath.