This could be the moment that comic book superhero screen adaptations ascend to the level of stage Shakespeare - if audiences accept a new Spider-man just five years after the last Tobey Maguire effort.

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Soon it will be a legitimate inquiry of a rising young thesp as to when we can expect to see his Batman, or if he intends to give us his interpretation of The Hulk.

Or it could be the moment the world decides to tire of costumed heroes being taken quite so seriously? Either way I have to say I very much enjoyed Andrew Garfield’s take on Spider-man which struck a nice balance between tortured teen angst and joyous youthful exuberance, even though Marc Webb’s production didn’t offer up a distinctive take on the material.

It is slightly darker, comparatively stripped down and moderately more character-driven than Sam Raimi’s 2002 production, but, while there are some nice touches overall, it simply tweaks with the original rather than give it a complete overhaul.

This isn’t Batman Begin; it’s simply Spider-man Again.

Maybe it’s an issue with the character. While The Bat can happily encompass such diverse but equally compelling interpretations by Bale, Keaton and West, the web-slinger seems hemmed in by his mythology.

It’s nearly an hour before Spider-man first appears and having to sit through the whole story of how high school nerd Parker got bitten by a radio-active spider feels like being made to redo homework you already got a high grade for.

Better surely to have down with it in a five-minute pre-credit sequence. It does it well enough and the moments when Parker comes to terms with his freakish transformation have a sense of body horror similar to Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.

Rhys Ifans plays villain Curt Connors/The Lizard with the voice but not quite the swagger of Peter O’Toole. Emma Stone makes an appealing love interest as Gwen Stacey but you have to suppress hoots of incredulity when she delivers the line: “Honestly, I’m 17 years old.”

There isn’t a performer in her early 20s less suited for being cast as a high school girl; she may look wholesome but there’s something about her throaty laugh and knowing smile that suggest a soul as experienced and world weary as a bar-room Mae West.

As you would expect of a director whose only previous film was rom com 500 Days of Summer, the film is stronger on character than action; most of the action sequences seem to end abruptly without reaching any conclusion and there is something a bit Harryhausen about The Lizard.

It is bold of Sony to position a summer blockbuster that doesn’t rely on spectacle but the story-telling doesn’t really grab the emotions.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (12A)

Director: Marc Webb

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emily Stone, Rhys Ifans, Dennis Leary, Sally Fields and Martin Sheen

Length: 136 mins

***

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