Dave's Rating:

3.5

Turning off the dark.

That old thing you bought is old now. It was new for a while but now it's old. So you need a new one. You just do. And it's okay. You're helping the economy if you just go out and buy the new thing. Stop worrying that the old thing was just fine and you don't really have any interest in buying the new thing. Just go buy it. Don't you want something new? Sure you do.

I figured I'd get the big obvious objection out of the way first, because that's pretty much the only valid argument against rebooting the Spider-Man franchise mere hours after the old one wrapped up and minutes after the Broadway musical enjoyed its moment in the sun as the butt of hundreds of quickly stale jokes. It's a sometimes tiring fact of the entertainment industry that they recycle everything eventually and, in this case, sooner than eventually. If you're devoted to movies you learn to live with it, making sure to keep it all in perspective: every film doesn't weigh the same, some are art, some are commodities, some are both, some are outsider experiences involving Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves communicating across time with the assistance of a magical mailbox. It's up to you to delineate what's what. Personally, I'll call this one a really enjoyable commodity.

Do you need to know the plot? Do you live on Earth? Peter Parker (The Social Network's Andrew Garfield) gets bitten by a spider and develops special spider-like powers. With these powers he battles crime while involving himself with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). This time it's the Lizard (Rhys Ifans), a scientist who moonlights as a domestic terrorist bent on unleashing a biological weapon that will make reptiles of us all. Peter has to summon the moral courage, wisdom and web-craft to defeat the monster and the third act fact that he does so will only come as a surprise to you if you've managed never to see a movie ever.

So why bother? A cockier, more confident Peter for starters. Garfield has an acrobatic physical presence and a self-aware air of post-teen authority that makes Tobey Maguire's wide-eyed anxiety seem less appealing in hindsight. And as a partner in love and heroism, Emma Stone's Gwen is the kind of can-do beauty-nerd that any superhero could feel confident about leaving on her own for a bit while he's off saving the world.

As a visceral experience it doesn't pack the kind of blammo-punch of epic joy that The Avengers delivered earlier this summer, but it's solid and satisfying: a cool villain, an anti-Spidey counterpoint who's also thoroughly sympathetic in Denis Leary as Gwen's police chief father, staggeringly great 3D web-slinging sequences that provide both depth and a giddy sort of in-your-face gimmickry, a warm Sally Field as Aunt May and the single most inventive Stan Lee cameo yet.

No, you don't need it. You didn't ask for it. But here it is. You could do worse this summer. Way worse. And I know because I just saw Madea's Witness Protection.

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