The Peter Parker we find in this film is grittier, more real than one in Sam Raimi's previous trilogy. He's kind of a spaz and he looks it. The kind of guy you could easily imagine geeking out with all his geeky friends, playing World of Warcraft between hits on a bong. Not that there's anything like that in this movie (where's Harry Osborn when you need him?), but you get the idea. It's this more "real" take on Peter Parker, not quite so perky and preppy as Toby McGuire's version, that's the thing I liked most about this movie.
Other than that, there's not a huge amount to say. Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy is cute but utterly unremarkable, and so too for most of the other performances. Sally Field injects more than we are used to seeing into Aunt May, but that's about it. I'm not entirely sure that Martin Sheen was even trying. For long time spider fans, or even just those who've watched a handful of superhero summer blockbusters, this isn't a film with too many surprises. Or even, dare I say it, any surprises. It's an entertaining extravaganza, but it's not the kind of thing that very many people over the age of 15 will feel the need to see more than once. You may want to bear that in mind when making the decision whether to rent or buy.
It is worth noting that this film is clearly designed to set up a sequel, and more than likely a trilogy. There are questions raised and themes presaged that are then just left hanging within the scope of this individual movie.
The only thing I would say actively went wrong in this film was its attempt to have Spider-Man spout the kind of witty banter he uses when fighting his comic book battles. You may be able to get away with that kind of thing on the printed page. But in this medium the pace of the banter was totally out of sync with the blitzkrieg action of the fighting itself. For this reason it came across as completely forced, and to be frank, as a rather poor and awkward voice-over. Fortunately, although glaringly obvious, this flaw was rather minor and forgivable in the scope of the movie as a whole.
Finally, I might as well make my own prejudices clear. I personally am quite sick of the endless reboots that plague the genre. I think things at least have the potential to get far more interesting when the universe is left running for longer periods. There is at least the chance for writers to move beyond endless recapitulation of the same basic storylines - a form of writing that once again I believe is a plague upon the genre. I know that Bruce Timm's work in the DC Animated Universe was far, far more interesting back when all the shows made up a definite continuity: a true universe with scope and depth and history and a future that the viewers and the writers got to explore together.
What I personally would most love to see are productions that allow for real development and change. That don't require all the principles to be treated as such valuable pieces of intellectual property that they must be preserved forever in aspic. Or perhaps, to go with a more apt analogy, treated like action figures who must never be removed from their packaging because to do so would annihilate their value on the collectables market.
A hopeless dream, I know.