Nov 28, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Young Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is left in the loving care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) when his secretive parents feel their family is in danger. Peter's parents disappear, but he comes to learn bits and pieces about them and their secrets. While chasing the truth, Peter falls in love with high school classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), helps her boss Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) break a scientific algorithm and finds superpowers on the other end of a genetically altered spider's bite. As if that wasn't enough to balance, he's got his role as a son to live up to and his responsibility to reel in the monster known as The Lizard he inadvertently creates by helping Dr. Connors.

I didn't anticipate liking this film because I was so fond of the 2002 film, Spider-Man directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco. This reboot of the franchise had some things I liked about it but also some things the original did better.

The casting of The Amazing Spider-Man was fantastic and I can understand why they'd want to start the franchise earlier in Spider-Man's life than the 2002 film did. Everyone asks "why they didn't just do Spider-Man 4 rather than reboot the series?" Well here's a shocker - Tobey Maguire's pushing 40, and the first film starts Peter Parker off going to college. So if they wanted to do Spider-Man 5, Peter Parker would be middle-aged. They would have had to gradually or suddenly recast everyone in order to keep the characters fun for all ages. Also, there's ample source material to steal from and potential greatness in Peter's early years. Sadly, The Amazing Spider-Man lacked Kirsten Dunst's see-through shirt, Bruce Campbell, Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, J.K. Simmons and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. For those reasons alone, I will always see the two franchises as different trilogies and hold love for Sam Raimi's. The Amazing Spider-Man does feature great chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield who are currently a real life couple budding from their work in the film, Dennis Leary kicking butt as he always does, Martin Sheen being a sympathetic Uncle Ben, and Sally Field adding a lot more depth to Aunt May. There's no inspirational speeches or level of sympathy as Rosemary Harris, but the writing for Aunt May went in a different direction this time.

Spider-Man is a pretty different guy in this film, which was the desired result by the studios. Many people thought Sam Raimi's trilogy featured Peter Parker too sad and mopey, when in the comics, Spider-Man likes to be a smart allec and mock his enemies with jokes as he's beating them up. The Amazing Spider-Man hits that area more in this film than the others, but hopefully in the sequel will be amped up even further. Also unlike the Sam Raimi trilogy, police treat Spider-Man like a serious threat and actually hunt him. This is also more in line with the comics as opposed to giving Spidey the key to the city. But my favorite part that they drew from the comics was that Peter Parker now uses web-slingers he's designed as opposed to jetting them out of his skin. There are some criticisms to Marc Web's 2012 reboot. Spider-Man frequently removes or loses his mask during the course of this film. It was reaching a point of "why bother wearing it?" There were also disorienting point-of-view shots as Spider-Man is scalling walls, leaping roof to roof and web-slinging. Fun idea, but I wasn't a fan of it in delivery. In the grey area is Peter Parker being a skateboarder, which is an original idea from the studio. Some hardcore fanatics may think that's a silly addition to an already rounded character, but I can see how in this modern day and time it could make the character more relatable to kids today and in the future.

The fight scenes were gripping and fun. Fast-paced martial-arts style and web slinging is Spider-Man all over. The Lizard served as a lot of fun as the villain but seemed to kind of taper off in the second half of the film. He's where the trilogy should start in terms of villains before escalation but for a film that put so much emphasis on hinting what's going to be in the sequel, I didn't get very excited about who the next villain (kept a complete mystery) was going to be. Really dropped the ball here. Speaking of fight scenes, sadly, no wrestling match at all in Marc Webb's version.

What really hurt this film was the run-time. There were plenty of changes in backstory and plot from the 2002 film, but this was still an origin story for Spider-Man which we all knew the basics of. Scenes could have been cut or condensed, and important plot points could have been integrated in much more minimalistic ways while still holding the same impact. Much of Flash Thompson's bullying in the beginning of the film hurt the overall film for me as well, as it didn't feel like directing/writing really captured what bullying was. It went from 1950's cliche bullying to actual violence in the drop of the hat and bothered me. By the end of the film I did like Flash Thompson as a character, but they really could have perfected him and his story.

Overall Rating: With the original Spider-Man setting the bar very high in everyone's minds, The Amazing Spider-Man probably was never going to live up to those standards. Standing just on it's own though, while still holding a lot of kinks to work out in the future, this was a fun film that fans of the Spider-Man character, or just the cast alone should check out. It's not as sad and mopey as the Sam Raimi trilogy if that bothered you. Overall rating...