Let’s settle the debate. Did we need a Spidey reboot five years after his last outing? Nope. This Spider-Man‘s solid script and capable effects simply aren’t vibrant enough to warrant rehashing high-school shutterbug Peter Parker’s life-altering spider bite. The performances, though – now those are extraordinary.
Start with the supporting cast. For gravitas, Martin Sheen and Sally Field play parental figures Uncle Ben and Aunt May, with Sheen giving Ben the fiery righteousness needed to orient Peter’s moral compass in darker days.
Rhys Ifans adds nuanced edge as mad scientist Curt Connors, while Dennis Leary stiffens his spine as police captain George Stacy, out to nab a certain web-slinging vigilante.
For magic, though, look to the stars. Andrew Garfield is beautifully expressive as Peter, that bundle of teen angst on a steep learning curve about what he can – and should – do with his new powers. Emotions flit across the actor’s face like quicksilver, a keen intelligence shining through.
Equally impressive is the soulful Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, the captain’s brainy daughter and Peter’s first love. The real-life couple have brilliant chemistry, making even the occasional pointless scene engaging.
Sometimes, like when Peter is desperate to save a boy from plunging to his death or reveals his secret identity to Gwen, the movie meets the actors on their level. If that doesn’t happen quite often enough it’s because these two set the bar so high.