It turns out that even a profoundly unnecessary movie can be pretty darn good.
You know the story: Young Bruce Wayne is out with his parents in Gotham City when the trio is mugged at gunpoint. Father and mother are both killed, sowing the seeds for Bruce's later obsession with justice and retribution (and spandex) as Batman.
But wait. What if Bruce's father didn't really die? What if he somehow survived the shooting and disappeared? What if his wound festered over the years, twisting his mind and blackening his soul, until one day he came back as... the Joker! "I am your father, Bruce," he'd bellow, as he prepared to hurl the caped crusader down a well into the Bat-Cave.
Okay, it's a bad idea (though I'm copyrighting it, just in case). But is it really that much worse than the revelatory new backstory with which Peter Parker has been saddled in The Amazing Spider-Man? It turns out that when Peter was a boy, his scientist father was forced into hiding after engineering a brilliant breakthrough in interspecies genetic mutation. Once grown, Peter tries to unravel this family secret, which leads to his being bitten by a radioactive spider, which leads to—well, you know the rest.
It's no mystery, of course, why the filmmakers involved in this latest reweaving of the Spidey yarn felt obligated to add new wrinkles. The last iteration (Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, et al.) began a mere 10 years ago, and feels as though it only just finished stumbling across its trilogic finish line. And apart from this new version's paternal complications, it is assembled from terribly familiar pieces: lonely Peter, the class photog-nerd; decent, homily-prone Uncle Ben and Aunt May; the bite; the powers; the robber-with-a-gun whom Peter could have stopped but didn't; the subsequent grief and chance for redemption; the avuncular Oscorp scientist whose experiments go badly awry... and on down the line.