The one-armed scientist is obsessed with “cross-species genetics,” combining human and animal DNA to regrow tissue; in his case, an entire arm. Connors has no qualms about playing God. “I long to fix myself,” he says. “Imagine a world without deformities, without weakness. Why be human at all when we can be so much more?”

Poking around in Connors’ lab amid genetically-engineered critters, Peter gets bitten by a spider, and before long is crawling up walls and tingling with “spider-sense.”

As Peter gains confidence – and arrogance – from his new powers, he neglects his family and schoolwork. When Uncle Ben is killed by a gunman Peter could have stopped, Peter becomes a vigilante in search of the killer. Along the way, he embraces Uncle Ben’s advice to do good — and help others in need.

Meanwhile, Connors decides to test his new reptile-based serum on himself. Poof! He grows a new arm – as well as a whole lot of scales in a transformation straight out of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

Clearly, it’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature, and Connors – aka “The Lizard” – goes on a rampage, chewing up the sewers and suspension bridges of Manhattan. Peter, now sporting the moniker “Spider-Man,” finds his inner hero as catastrophe looms.

At times “The Amazing Spider-Man” takes itself too seriously, feeling like a Shakespearian drama on steroids. Fortunately, however, there’s enough levity on hand to bring it back down to size.

“What am I, the mayor of Tokyo?” cries Gwen’s father, the chief of police (Denis Leary), as “The Lizard” stomps its way through the city like the petulant son of Godzilla.

The film contains intense action violence, including gunplay, and some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.