After all the special effects, freaky villains and James Franco, only one thing from the "Spider-Man" trilogy sticks with me. It's the first film's dream-come-true sequence, with a newly bitten Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) scooping up pretty Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), then flattening the bully Flash Thompson. Those rousing three minutes are the heart of the story, and it kept beating even through two hollow sequels.
There's nothing nearly that fresh, fun or emotionally satisfying in "The Amazing Spider-Man," a much-hyped, expensive-looking and ultimately soulless reboot. It spends a lot of time improving Spidey's gear -- textured Spandex, stronger webbing -- but fails to do the one thing it was created to do: bring something new to a familiar tale.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" sends Peter back to high-school, but Maguire's replacement, Andrew Garfield, makes for a sullen, sour Peter. He uses his new powers to humiliate people -- my heart actually went out to Flash (Chris Zylka) -- and his idea of repartee is nasty and inane. While fighting Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a one-armed scientist transformed into a giant reptile -- Spidey stoops to schoolyard taunts: "Ooh, somebody's been a baaad lizard!"
Director Marc Webb, of the indie charmer "(500) Days of Summer," seems overwhelmed by the unoriginality of it all. He never strikes the right pace: Peter's search for his uncle's killer (Martin Sheen and Sally Field play Uncle Ben and Aunt May) goes on forever, while his courtship of Gwen Stacey (a sparkling Emma Stone) succeeds too quickly. The climactic battle on a giant office tower is remarkably stale, as old as "King Kong" and as recently recycled as "Marvel's The Avengers."
"With great power comes great responsibility" went the still-quotable line from the first "Spider-Man" film. "Responsibility, not choice" is the new, far less musical version. It's a pretty poor substitute.
PLOT Peter Parker, newly transformed into Spider-Man, meets his first villain, The Lizard. RATING PG-13 (intense action)
PLAYING AT Area theaters, some in 3-D and IMAX; opens Wednesday with some midnight showings Tuesday night
BOTTOM LINE A disappointment on every level, from Garfield's sullen performance to the dull script that plods old roads. Decent special effects, though.