NEW YORK (Reuters) - He's been in comics, cartoons, on TV and in movies, but when Spider-Man swings into theaters next week for new film "The Amazing Spider-Man," its makers bring out a more brooding and human web-slinger than fans have seen before.
Director Marc Webb, known for low-budget film romance "500 Days of Summer," explores not just the origin of how Peter Parker becomes crime-fighting superhero Spider-Man. He and the writers craft a tale that is as much about Parker - a 17-year-old filled with angst, independence and desire for love - as it is about action, adventure and catching crooks.
"I am a huge Spider-Man fan and I am an even bigger fan of Peter Parker, and I love this idea that there is this kid that has the same problems we do," Webb said.
Spider-Man's famous blue-and-red suit doesn't even appear for much of the first half of the big-budget 3D movie, which debuts in theaters in most of the world on July 3 after a Thursday red carpet premiere in Los Angeles.
The new tale reboots the modern film series that began with 2002's "Spider-Man" starring Tobey McGuire as the comic book crime fighter over three movies. The Sam Raimi-directed trilogy netted around $2.5 billion at the box office for its makers Marvel Studios and distributor Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The fourth installment puts Andrew Garfield, 28, into the Spidey role. Relatively unknown when first cast, the Los Angeles-born, British-raised Garfield showed his acting chops in 2010 Facebook film "The Social Network" and this year was nominated for Broadway's Tony award in "Death of a Salesman."
TEEN ANGST, FIRST LOVE
"The Amazing Spider-Man" begins with Parker as a 7-year-old as his parents place him with his aunt May (Sally Fields) and uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), then mysteriously disappear.
Ten years later, Parker is an outcast - a bullied, skateboarding high schooler with a chip on his shoulder and an eye for classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). The pair share a love of science and soon begin to fall for each other. One problem: Stacy's dad is a New York City police captain.
Stone, a star of 2011 civil rights drama "The Help," said she has done love stories before, but this one was different.
"This kind of swept me off my feet because (Gwen) is truly in love with him, and ... I wanted again to experience that feeling of first love before you know what it's like to get your heart completely shattered - that life or death love," said Stone who, in real life, is dating Garfield.
Evil is afoot too, of course, and as Parker transforms into super strong, web-slinging Spider-Man, a clue from his family's past leads him to his dad's former scientist partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).
Events soon transform the seemingly benevolent scientist Connors into Spidey's first adversary - a 9-foot tall lizard that terrorizes the Big Apple and inadvertently helps Parker find a sense of purpose as Spider-Man.
Most reviews have been positive. "The Amazing Spider-Man" is a "mostly slick, entertaining and emotionally involving recombination of fresh and familiar elements," said Boyd van Hoeij of showbusiness newspaper Daily Variety.
While the movie is winning fans for its focus on characters and the romantic heat between Parker and Stacy, played by Emma Stone, there is plenty of action as Spider-man flies through the air on his sticky web strings, fights common criminals in the streets, and battles villain The Lizard in the city's sewers and atop its skyscrapers.
Garfield, who surfs and snowboards when not making movies, said the physicality of the role was challenging.
"I wanted it to feel like Spider-Man and not just a guy getting through a stunt, so every time I was pushing myself to make it eloquent and balletic and not just rudimentary," he told Reuters.
(Reporting By John McCrank; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Leslie Gevirtz)