There's just no getting around this.
Remaking Spider-Man on the big screen, barely a decade after the Sam Raimi version first swung energetically into cinemas, is in many ways pointless.
Needless to say, there are some compellingly pointy reasons for doing it relating to money and rights, but in artistic terms it’s a fool’s errand – there’s no new cultural context, no alternative storyline, no way to avoid retreading old ground.
So how on earth did director Marc Webb and co (mostly) get away with it?
Weird though it may sound, it’s Webb’s essential disinterest in Spider-Man the hero that swings it.
This is an origin story spanning roughly the same period as Raimi’s first film and hitting almost all of the same key beats – the bite, the metamorphosis, the face-off with a scientist turned superpowered megalomaniac – but Webb isn’t telling the origin story of Spider-Man so much as the origin story of Peter Parker.
Andrew Garfield’s Peter is less geek than loner; edgy and uncomfortable in his own skin, with an air of barely suppressed rage that’s set up in the film’s shadowy opening moments.
His parents’ abrupt abandonment lays out the rebooted Peter upfront: this is a very angry, very wounded young man, a far cry from Tobey Maguire’s hapless goof, played with compelling nuance by Garfield.
It’s fitting, then, that his arachnid transformation isn’t exactly an accident; rather than minding his own business on a school trip when he’s bitten by the radioactive critter, he’s intentionally sneaked into a restricted area at creepy corporate facility Oscorp.
By giving Peter a mission – to uncover the mystery of his parents’ disappearance – before he gets his abilities, screenwriter James Vanderbilt makes the superpowers almost incidental.
They’re an excuse for some visually stunning shots of NYC skyscraper-hopping and the odd 3D web-slinging indulgence, and that, in real terms, is about it.
Unsurprisingly given Webb’s track record, it’s the romance between Peter and whip-smart fellow student Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) that really sells his Spidey.
Far from the passive, unattainable dream girl (we’re looking at you, Kirsten Dunst), she’s goofy and nervous and as besotted with Peter as he is with her, and the pair’s sparky, spontaneous chemistry makes every interaction a joy.
Meanwhile, Peter’s initially antagonistic dynamic with Gwen’s cop dad (Denis Leary) unfolds into something more resonant than his underdeveloped relationships with either Sally Field’s Aunt May or Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben.
Elsewhere, Rhys Ifans gets short shrift in a too-familiar role (the ambitious scientist who ends up the victim of his own experiment), while the fallout from a pivotal character’s death is so mishandled you can’t help feeling it’s been included out of a sense of obligation to comic lore, rather than because it serves this story in any way at all.
Still, if Webb’s take borders on tonally confused – pitch-dark character study, romcom, full-on slapstick – its focus on the human over the superhuman pays off.
There’s a slew of extras covering both style and substance.
Features on the pre-visualisation process, production artwork and footage of stunt rehearsals will satisfy the technically-minded, while an insight-packed chat-track with Webb and producer Avi Arad is informative if overly earnest, and an exhaustive 110-minute Making Of covers every aspect of the project, from inception and casting through to post.