Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Love: The Amazing Spider-Man

So, they went and rebooted Spider-Man. It's a move that many have opted the deride as a money-grabbing attempt by the studios, which seems fair considering that the first two Sam Raimi outings are frequently cited as among the very best comic book adaptations ever put on screen.  Yet, I'll be perfectly honest: while I liked the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, I never loved them.  There were too many elements that just didn't gel with me, and I was fully on-board for a new take on Spidey.  The Amazing Spider-Man seemed like a logical step: upgrade the effects, pick up a slightly darker timeline, replace the weak Mary Jane with the much-loved Gwen Stacy, and reboot the series the way Christopher Nolan had with Batman.  I'm sure everyone behind The Amazing Spider-Man thought that was exactly what they were doing, and while in some aspects they've certainly succeeded, in others the film falls disappointingly short.  Spidey's biggest problem is this: if you've never seen the Raimi films, this origin story is perfectly fine.  Good, even. You'll probably enjoy it and it has enough to offer.  If you're familiar with the "old" ones?  Well, this is alright but a little unnecessary, entertaining but not enough, and likely to leave you with an overall 'meh'.   
I've been trying to sort out my feelings on The Amazing Spider-Man for a week now and for every element that I really liked there's one I didn't particularly enjoy at all.  As mentioned, this is sort of my feeling on the Raimi series as well, but when the slate has been wiped clean, it seems more pressing that the errors haven't been completely corrected in the retread.  Ironically, the place where The Amazing Spider-Man is generally the strongest is in its basic origin story.  Andrew Garfield makes a great Peter Parker.  He probably fits the role better than Tobey Maguire ever could have, in fact, and for the first hour the story spends its time establishing the relationships between this slightly awkward kid and the most important people in his life.  Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) are given more dimension in this retelling. We get to meet them as flawed influences who are trying desperately to be the best version of the accidental parents they've become, imparting small bits of knowledge at the same time that they don't quite know how to deal with Peter's sudden recklessness.  And he is reckless.  We're introduced as much to Peter's potential for accidental amorality as to his general good nature, and it's interesting to see him not as the castrated geek he was to Mary Jane, but as a troubled, well-intentioned kid whose outsider social status is perhaps more related to his own quiet self-esteem issues than anything else.  This is the Peter Parker who swipes some kid's chance at an internship simply so he can meet his dad's former colleague, the guy who egotistically taunts the cops and who spends his time beating up all the wrong small-bait criminals in an attempt to get one particular guy.      
Try to disregard the dreadful scene in which Peter skateboards and chain swings to a moody Coldplay song (it's not like the music in the other films is any better), try to completely suspend your disbelief when teen boy Peter quickly pieces together his spandex suit, and if you can do that then you'll see the drawing of Peter the person is stronger here than it ever was in the Raimi pics.  The love story, too, is superior.  Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is generally the preferred lady in the Spider-Man mythos, and she's a great match for him here as well.  Gwen has brains and personality in addition to those comic-book looks.  She's not a self-centered damsel in distress, but an accomplice and willing partner in crime, which is great to see after all of MJ's mopey-eyed mishaps.  Stone and Garfield have natural chemistry, and though they're both quite a bit older than the teens they're playing, they read on-screen as fairly innocent and somehow surprised by the things they're feeling.  It's cute.  What's not so cute?  Oh....yeah, that would be the Lizard.
Had The Amazing Spider-Man continued to be simply a story about a boy named Peter Parker, it would have been solid.  Eventually, though, it has to give you your money's worth and amp itself up to the constant web-slinging, villain-battling Spider-Man story you came to see.  When it gets there, it's largely a mess that feels dramatically rushed in contrast to the film's first half.  Pacing is a problem, as we spin suddenly away from any semi-logical place towards out-and-out genetic chaos.  In a flash, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) turns away from decades of helpful scientific research and promptly loses his mind.  Anyone who saw the trailers should be able to tell you that this is the guy who transforms into the Lizard: an absolutely ridiculous looking monstrosity with CG that sets the film's technology back to the 2004 sequel.  Why'd they go for the Lizard?  I have no idea.  As a villain, he completely overrides everything the story works towards and provides a deus ex machina of an enemy.  It seems that it was simply too late to bring anyone in from the outside or to allow Peter to simply focus his energy on small time crooks, so they decided to rapidly create something out of nothing.  Had they allowed the Lizard to merely exist as a menace, perhaps that would have worked.  The film does not, however, and instead invents a ludicrous premise that places the entire city at risk.  It's a frustratingly desperate move that should have been left for the sequel, and unfortunately it's also what you leave the theater carrying.  As the credits roll, you're left wondering whether you actually liked what you saw.



4 comments:

  1. Ha! I forgot to mention that awful skateboard scene on my review... I was like "please don't happy-scream, please..." and he did. It was quite dreadful. But I liked it more than you did. I mean yeah, the Lizard looked pretty bad, and the Dr.Connors story was a bit rushed, but I don't know, everything else seemed so good and refreshing. It reminded me why I like Spider-Man. And it seemed very real, too (for a superhero film), something that Raimi's trilogy never did. And in the end, at least for me, there was no doubt that I liked it. Though I wish it was a bit longer, so that it could take its time to develop the Dr. Connors part. I'm really looking forward to the sequel.

    Anyway, I'm glad you're not one of those who just loathe The Amazing Spider-Man because it's a reboot, or because it resonates Raimi's in some parts, what whatever. Also, you explained wonderfully the aunt and uncle relationship with this different side of Peter, how they're all flawed. I felt that was a strong part of this film.

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    1. Yep. The more distance I get from this, the less I know how to properly evaluate it. It's SO HARD to answer someone who asks, flat out, whether or not they should see it. It's like...yes? no? how did you feel about the other ones? are you burnt out on spandex?

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  2. Great review again! I have yet to see this one, but the idea of a reboot seems really rushed - Spiderman films were fine, not the best, but entertaining. I'm sure though that Garfield and Stone are improvement, I will definetly check this one out on DVD.

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    1. Look forward to reading what you wind up thinking about it, I definitely had a tough time evaluating this thing...

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