Friday, July 6, 2012

Review of: The Amazing Spider-Man (In 3-D)

When I heard they were rebooting the Spider-Man film franchise, within 5 years of Sam Raimi's trilogy of films, I rolled my eyes.  Sure, Spider-Man 3 was moderately awful, with subpar interpretations of Venom and a shoehorned in Gwen Stacy, with the most interesting villain (Sandman) sidelined into a subplot that barely went anywhere. And "Emo Peter Parker" and his big dance number... the less said about that, the better. I originally had no intention of going to see the newest incarnation of Marvel's flagship hero franchise.  A few things along the way changed my mind, and I went to go see it yesterday, and I'm prepared to review it.  First, Andrew Garfield's introduction to the panel at Comic-Con, his gasping, stuttering speech about what the character meant to him as a fan made me interested to see what that actor could do with the character of Peter Parker.  Then, the announcement of the casting of Emma Stone came out.  Like most people, I'm most familiar with her as a redhead in film, so I thought "Oh. Mary Jane Watson."  When I heard that she was going to her natural hair color of blonde to portray Gwen Stacy in a fashion true to the comics, I was sold. I'd give The Amazing Spider-Man a shot.

Apparently, the reboot happened because Sam Raimi refused to
continue the franchise, not being allowed the time he'd need to not make Spider-Man 4 not suck.

I decided to see the film in 3-D, since the showtimes for that were most convenient for me, and my wife (who can't see 3-D) had no interest in the reboot. I'd privately hated the whole 3-D trend in blockbuster movies, but, to be fair, I'd never really given it an honest chance.  Now that I have, I can say from my own personal experience, that I despise the current 3-D filmmaking fad.  I hate the gimmicky shots that are included in otherwise decent filmmaking, I  hate the blurry, half-assed effect of some of the scenes meant to showcase the technology... I don't mind it so much when it is subtle depth-of-field stuff, but it rarely is.  If you already hate 3-D, this film won't change your mind.  On to the review of the film itself.

 The first film in any (re)launch of a superhero franchise basically is split into the origin story and the first fight with a supervillain. For anyone who just wants the quick 'n dirty summary of my thoughts on the movie, The Amazing Spider-Man knocks the origin portion of its story out of the park, and falls a bit flat on the supervillain battle portion.  The beginning two-thirds of the story are good enough that I recommend the movie overall, but this falls into the category of "couldn't stick the landing."  Andrew Garfield is flat-out awesome as Peter Parker. He captures the awkwardness and quiet geekiness of the teenager who feels out of place wherever he is.  He's the "outcast" sort of geeky kid who manages to get in trouble with authority without any sense of edgy rebellion, and still gets ignored by girls and beaten up by bullies.  Making him a skater would normally make me groan as an attempt to "modernize" a classic character, but it works for this Parker, and translates well into his specific style of acrobatic tricks once he gets his powers.

The best thing about the new Spider-Man is the great casting of the two leads.

The best parts of the film are when Peter gets his powers, but before any conflict with the Lizard. From his accidental use of spider-sense to protect himself instinctively to fighting street thugs while cracking jokes, he is the best representation of Spider-Man on screen in these moments.  The confidence he finds behind the mask, and the drive he has to do the right thing driven by responsibility and guilt are spot-on. There is an awesome article I read a few months back that makes the case for Spider-Man being an even better hero than Batman, with a point-by-point comparison between the two icons. I still prefer the Dark Knight, but the points made in that article (found here) regarding Spidey are proven through the excellent portrayal in the entire beginning/middle of the movie. You can get the rest of the film wrong, and get that right and have a very good Spider-Man film.

It is unfortunate, then, that the rest of the film just isn't very good.  Rhys Ifans is great as Dr. Curt Connors, but after he becomes The Lizard, special effects and style trounce substance, and much of the tragic quality of this villain is lost in the flash.  Denis Leary is wasted, basically playing himself as police Captain George Stacy, in contrast to Emma Stone who is great as his daughter Gwen.  The biggest shame is that the over-the-top, effects-heavy and video-gamey action sequences that dominate the last act of the story are predictable and without any charm or personality.  We're no longer shocked when Peter is beaten up, his costume ripped and bloody since we've seen it before. No longer inspired when normal folks come to his aid even though the city inexplicably seems to consider him a greater threat than criminals and supervillains, we've seen that, too.  I wanted more of the Spider-Man who I saw fighting crime at the beginning, being a total smart-ass. It is clear in the comics that Parker cracks jokes partially as a defense mechanism to hide the fact that physical confrontation with dangerous criminals is scary, even if you have super-powers.

I want to see more of this incarnation of Spider-Man, who has the web-shooters he built himself filled with cartridges of web-fluid, and whose origin is, in many ways, a truer vision than Sam Raimi's take on it ten years ago. I want to see more of Gwen Stacy, and I hope the franchise has the balls to lead her to her eventual tragic fate. I want to see less of action sequences meant to showcase 3-D technology or to preview how awesome the video game is going to be.  The Lizard was almost there in moments when the movie wasn't just showcasing his physical strength and agility, but the mark was missed, and I hope the same won't happen with the Green Goblin. Norman Osborn is mentioned, but not seen, in this film and the mystery of what, exactly happened to Peter Parker's parents bookends the film in setting up both Peter's childhood and the eventual sequel. Best Blogger Tips
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Anonymous said...

I agree with, didn't mix up the formula or bring anything new to the table to make it worth the redux. Garfield is a better fit in the role but that's about it. It’s just a film that didn’t really need to be redone, even if it is a well-done one. Good review.

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