Thursday, July 12, 2012

"The Amazing Spider-Man"

Directed by Marc Webb, written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves, starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifans - Rated PG-13

The pointlessness of this film (much like the pointlessness of Bruce Banner's dad as a villain in Hulk) is just too much for me.

When I first heard about the reboot of Spider-Man, I reacted the same way many fans did: I wondered what the point was.  After all, it had only been ten years since the superhero franchise had started and it had been a mere five years since the last entry in that trilogy.  Why on earth would they need to tell this origin story again?  As the hype built and footage was released, I started to lighten up.  After all, the Batman franchise had rebooted eight years after the last entry.  Maybe this Spider-Man (with the vastly different title, The Amazing Spider-Man) would try to reinvent the hero and tell new stories in a different style.  As it turns out, my initial fears were legitimate.  The Amazing Spider-Man is extremely similar to the Tobey Maguire-Sam Raimi film in terms of plot and action.  It truly felt like a less fun remake rather than a daring reimagining. 

Is it really fair to judge a movie based on whatever form of a “re-“ it is?  I suppose not, but how can you ignore how pointless it all is?  Sure, people were upset with the third Spider-Man film, but did they need to start over and tell the exact same origin story?  I’ll try to judge this film on its own merits as much as possible, but this film kind of has to be judged in comparison to the original. 

Origin stories in general are a little boring, especially when you already know what’s going to happen.  Look at the popular consensus of the latest Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man films.  The first films are well-received because they are necessary.  Even though most people know the backgrounds of these decades-old heroes, we accept that they must be introduced.  The second film in all of these franchises has been regarded as the best because we can just enjoy the character and not have to deal with that first hour of the character figuring things out.  The point of all this is that Spider-Man didn’t need to be introduced again.  It hasn’t been that long so people could probably handle the idea of Peter Parker already being Spider-Man. 

The Amazing Spider-Man hints at telling a new story only to devolve into identical territory.  We get glimpses of Peter Parker’s parents, but it’s a missed opportunity.  Instead of delving into the mystery of his parents, we see Peter in high school…again, taking pictures…again, getting bullied…again, and…well, everything you saw ten years ago…again.  Why?

The Amazing Spider-Man would also have you believe that this is a different, darker Peter Parker.  Nothing against Andrew Garfield; he makes for a fine Spider-Man, but the character isn’t written differently.  Sure, the tone of this film is a bit darker, but it’s not a major shift.  Peter still has moments of depression, anger, and happiness.  If anything, I thought Peter was a bit quicker to get over death in this version, which is odd. 

Okay, so the story and the tone are not different enough, then what about the action?  Once again, the small changes simply don’t warrant the existence of this film.  Sam Raimi did a fine job of filming Spidey as he swung throughout New York City.  Director Marc Webb dabbled with some first person point of view sequences for this film.  But even though an early trailer contained a full first person sequence, the final film only used bits and pieces.  Perhaps that was because the early footage was awful and looked like a subpar videogame rather than a big budget film. 

All of the above complaining is not to say that this is terrible movie, though.  Just a pointless one.  The acting is fine, though no one really stands out.  The film has some intense sequences and a few laughs, including the best Stan Lee cameo yet.  Honestly, if this film had been released back in 2002, I probably would have really liked it.  But compared to the film that did come out in ’02, it is definitely the lesser effort. 

This film pales in comparison to the original for many reasons.  First, the villain.  It’s all well and good to bring out the Lizard in the first film, especially since he was only hinted at in the previous films, but there’s a reason he was never truly introduced: he looks goofy…and he’s downright ridiculous when he talks.  The Lizard might work in the comic books, but he’s just too cartoonish for film. 

Next, the romance.  I kind of bought the chemistry between Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), but it is paper thin.  They basically get together in this film because they are both awkward around each other and just have a “feeling.”  That seemed lazy to me while the Peter and Mary Jane relationship in the original had a bit more meat to it.
Finally, the tone.  This film wants to be the darker, more realistic of the two franchises, but it just ends up being messy.  Peter goes from funny to depressed to vengeful to righteous in about ten minutes.  At least the original knew what it wanted to be and it was all the more fun because of it.

You may read this and completely disagree with me.  Maybe I am wrong and people really wanted a new Spider-Man.  If that’s the case, enjoy it while I just put in my Maguire-Raimi Spider-Man DVD.  I think quite a few of you will agree with me, though.  I would tell you to avoid this obvious studio cash grab, but it doesn’t matter.  The film has already made plenty of money (including some from me).  Maybe you can find solace in the fact that you’re not alone in disliking this film.  Or better yet, you actually did skip it and I’ve just confirmed your fear that this movie would be pointless.  I hope that’s the case, then at least I can feel some satisfaction from having sat through this unfortunate movie.
Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

Just to ease up a bit, this movie isn't bad, it's just so unnecessary.  I was glad to see that they didn't attempt to bring a new Jameson, since J. K. Simmons was so great in that role.

I also liked that they went with the web pellets rather than making it a weird bodily secretion.

And finally, this movie does look better, but only because it's ten years later, not because the filmmakers were more skilled.

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