When Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man was released in 2012, it had a lot to live up to. The Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire had just wrapped in 2008, but was still considered the gold standard for a superhero franchise. Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was coming to an end (The Dark Knight Rises was released a week after The Amazing Spider-Man), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was beginning to take shape with the release of The Avengers. At the time, The Amazing Spider-Man was a difficult movie to place and it premiered to mixed reviews. Metacritic approved reviews ranged from a low score of 30 to a high of 100, with a final Metascore of 66.
For years, The Amazing Spider-Man has been viewed as a bit of an outlier of modern superhero films. Unlike other successful franchises, The Amazing Spider-Man never got past a sequel, and Peter Parker was quickly re-imagined for the MCU in Captain America: Civil War, with Amazing Spider-Man star Andrew Garfield replaced by Tom Holland. Recently, The Amazing Spider-Man has earned more of a place in the Spider-Man canon, helped in no small part by Garfield's recent reprisal of the role in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which solidified his place in the MCU once and for all.
A recurring critique of Amazing Spider-Man was that it was simply too soon for another Spider-Man adaptation. The Maguire Spider-Man trilogy had only just been completed five years prior. It was, at the time, the most successful superhero trilogy in Hollywood (Nolan's Batman trilogy ended in the summer of 2012 and Marvel's Iron Man trilogy would not be complete until 2013), and had set the tone for the modern superhero genre. That trilogy's existence was the main point of contention for reviewers of The Amazing Spider-Man. For example, the film's lowest Metascore (30) was given by the Austin Chronicle's Marc Savlov, who wrote, "The Amazing Spider-Meh is a better-suited title for Marvel's reboot of Sam Raimi's original, far superior trilogy."
Across the board, reviews asked the same question: Did the world need another Peter Parker? Even positive reviews, such as the one from The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, which earned the movie a Metascore of 75, couldn't help but question the film's necessity. "A case could be made," he wrote, "that this is not exactly a story that needs to be told, no, not again." This critique is more than fair then, and would still be fair in 2022, but it would be slightly less effective. The superhero genre has grown exponentially in the years since the film's release. In 2012 The Amazing Spider-Man was one of three studio superhero films released in theaters. In 2019, there were 10. The over-saturation of superhero movies makes this critique a little less meaningful today, as it could arguably apply to every single studio superhero movie released in 2022.
In fact, were this movie to come out now, the question would be asked with a different intention. The critique wouldn't be about if the story is worth retelling, but what story is not being told in favor of retreading familiar territory and focusing on the journey of a white teenage boy. This shift is reflected in the one aspect of The Amazing Spider-Man that not even the lowest-scoring review mentioned at the time: the lack of diversity. The main cast only featured one actor of color, Irrfan Khan, who played Rajit Ratha in a handful of scenes. The film is otherwise strictly white and very male. If the film had been released today, this blinding whiteness would have, at the very least, been mentioned by reviewers. And then there's the film's depiction of limb difference and disability. The villain in The Amazing Spider-Man Dr. Connors is obsessed with finding a way to grow his right arm and hand back and describes himself in one scene as "crippled." He is also played by Rhys Ifans, an actor who does not have this limb difference, which is also something that would potentially be discussed in reviews if the film had been released today, an era where authenticity is crucial.
But, what endears The Amazing Spider-Man to fans today is not the plot or the supporting characters, it's Garfield. At the time of the film's release, fans and critics loved him. Many of the positive User reviews on Metacritic specifically mention his performance. (The film has a total user score of 7.1.) And even less enthusiastic reviews, including one from the The A,V, Club's Keith Phipps with a Metascore of 50, praised him. Based on the reaction to his return as Spider-Man in Far From Home, Garfield still makes a beloved Peter Parker. That's one thing that will never change.