Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Movie Review - The Amazing Spiderman

We should just get this out of the way but I have been of the mindset that the Marvel/Sony reboot of the Spiderman franchise was done too soon and all about merchandising.  Both I believe are still true but after seeing The Amazing Spiderman  I have to admit, it doesn’t bother me as much as it once did.  I know this is going to hurt all the die-hard fan boys out there who view Sam Raimi’s Spidey trilogy as the Citizen Kane of superhero flicks but as enjoyable as those films were, they weren’t without their own flaws.  I do get it; Sam Raimi set the bar pretty damn high.  Marc Webb with his take on this classic character pole vaulted it Olympic style and I’m pretty sure soiling the Russian judge’s underoos along the way.

When I first heard that the director, Marc Webb, was going to take a “darker” more intense look at the character I immediately went into eye-roll mode.  Here we go another “dark” superhero movie dripping in angst and then somewhere along the way I found out that Peter Parker would be this brooding, hoodie wearing, teen struggling with the weight of the world on his shoulders – bearing it all on Facebook with witty quotes of course.  All I could see in my mind’s eye was a total screw job by the studios with the suits deciding Spiderman meets Twilight.  Just what we need an Emo Spiderman.  This was my first mistake.

Webb took a bit of artistic license with the backstory of Spiderman and for some of the die-hards that’s totally sacrosanct.  I’m not going to say they’re off base because if Spidey’s your guy and you’ve enjoyed the history of the character, this movie does change things completely but trust me in a good way.  I feel it will be revealed over however many sequels the studio can squeeze out of this version but it should be interesting.  In this version Peter Parker’s parents are missing (or are they?) and have close ties to Oscorp – the company founded by Norman Osborn who in the comics became Spiderman’s arch-enemy the Green Goblin. 

Instead of feeling betrayed by that change I think it’s enhanced this story in ways Sam Raimi’s didn’t in terms of Peter’s father/son relationship, which was never really touched on.  It opens up a whole new level of emotions that you’ll see throughout the film as Andrew Garfield who plays the Parker/Spiderman role flawlessly.  As much as I enjoyed Tobey Maguire’s take on the character he never did physically come across as the wall crawler to me.  Garfield is physically gangly, embodying the lean look that was made famous in the comic book.  If The Social Network introduced us to Andrew Garfield, The Amazing Spiderman will make us not forget him any time soon. 

Peter’s love interest in this film isn’t Mary Jane Watson, made famous by Kirsten Dunst in the Raimi films.  Instead we have Gwen Stacy played very nicely by Emma Stone.  Now for those of you who DO know the history of Spiderman, Gwen was Peter’s first love and was killed by none other than Norman Osborn.   I totally see where Webb is going with this and I have to say I’m impressed.  He’s absolutely building an emotional crescendo with – I hope – a huge payoff in the end.  I’ll get into that a bit later but as someone who wasn’t a fan of Miss Dunst’ sometimes annoyingly clueless attitude, the writers of the Amazing Spiderman, James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Cloves have begun to weave a solid story with fantastic character dialogue that will OVER TIME connect with everyone.  Again, I’ll get into that later…patience.

Rhys Ifans plays the dual role of mentor and adversary to Parker as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard.  It seems Connor’s and Peter’s father, Richard,  were colleagues at Oscorp, researching ways to combine human and animal DNA to find cures for diseases, etc.  It looks as if Webb is going down the Island of Doctor Moreau road when it comes to supplying enemies for Spiderman.  Some of Spidey’s enemies from the comics were The Vulture and Rhino.  Can we say potential sequel villain?  Ifans does the role justice and the CGI to create the Lizard wasn’t as horrible as many had been saying leading up to the film. 

Speaking of CG I can now see how incredibly different it is when a film relies heavily on CGI as the Raimi films did and how this film opted for more realistic action scenes that required real people doing stunts the old fashioned way.   Sometimes less is more and filmmakers like Webb and Christopher Nolan who decry the use of CGI should be modeled after.  The CGI in The Amazing Spiderman flowed perfectly and wasn’t overdone, making for a more “real” look and feel to the film.  Having just seen the Raimi films on FX recently, I could point out the differences easily.  The idea of doing things digitally just because you can is quickly losing steam in Hollywood.  Sorry George “Jar-Jar” Lucas. 

Overall this was one of the finest superhero origin based movies I’ve seen.  In spite of the deviations from canon, which if handled by the writers properly, will make for at least 2 more really solid sequels that will give the audience a real sense of who Peter Parker really is.  What I alluded to earlier was in regards to the writing and if you’re going to see this film, just listen and watch the relationship Peter and Gwen have throughout.   If Mary Jane is Peter’s true love and Gwen does actually meet the same fate as she did in the comic, then this film was what Casino Royale was to James Bond.  Peter has to know loss beyond that of his parents to know love and I have a feeling that’s where this is headed over time.  Time is the key to these types of films and it seems the studios are finally learning that they don’t have to cram every single idea and emotion into a two hour block.  Doing so only cheapens the payoff – if any – for the audience. 
The Sector gives The Amazing Spiderman 3 out of 4 stars.

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