Whatever you may think of Willem Dafoe's performance as the Green Goblin (I thought it was pretty awful), you have to admit that the first hour of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man film—the origin sequence—was perfect. With an appropriate sense of humor and remarkable economy, it established Peter Parker as a nerdy outcast with a deep-seated sense of responsibility inspired by his doomed uncle Ben. By the time Peter is accidentally imbued with spider-powers and puts on the Spider-Man suit, you're ready to follow him anywhere, because you like him a whole lot.
The biggest—but by no means the only—mistake the Spider-Man reboot makes is throwing out Raimi's origin sequence and starting all over again. Repeat after me, Hollywood: You don't have to revisit the origin every time. How important are origins, anyway? James Bond has been in 23 movies, and how many times has his "origin" been told? Exactly once, in 2006's Casino Royale.
This time, Andrew Garfield plays Peter as, well, a nerdy outcast with a deep-seated sense of responsibility. (You don't get to create a vastly different interpretation of your character if your character is owned by Disney and is worth billions of dollars.) His enemy is Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, a one-armed scientist who, in an effort to create "a world without weakness," transforms himself into a huge lizard-creature—named The Lizard—that looks like an unfinished CGI effect. It's all a tepid rehash, which means there's absolutely no excuse for the filmmakers to waste about a full hour of our lives before they get Garfield into the spider-suit and send him out looking for a fight. There's just no reason to care.
Almost everyone involved in The Amazing Spider-Man is in over their head. Webb can't manage to find a coherent tone outside of a failed attempt at Christopher Nolan–lite. Ifans is maybe the blandest cinematic supervillain ever, complete with a generic sewer base that looks like a movie set and a generic plot to climb a building and set off an evil device. The only moments with life in them are when Emma Stone, as love interest Gwen Stacy, shares the screen with Garfield. They have some real chemistry, even if their characters are nothing more than deflated bags of clichés. Some plot threads are teased and then deferred for what the producers smugly believe to be the inevitable sequel, and other plot threads are apparently forgotten for no reason. (At one point, The Lizard exposes a SWAT team to a toxin that transforms them into an army of well-armed lizard-people. Those lizard-men with automatic weapons completely disappear from the movie until the denouement, when they reappear just to be cured.)
Spider-Man, maybe more than any other superhero, evokes a strong emotional reaction in his fans. People respond to the fun, funny swashbuckling sense of humor surrounding his core of earnestness. The biggest crime of this movie is that The Amazing Spider-Man's emotional heft is as shallow as the crappy 3-D effects. By the time you get to the lame, perfunctory superhero-movie mid-credits stinger that hints at future installments, you'll be actively wishing for the franchise to fail.