Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

­‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is a lot of things but it is certainly not “Amazing”.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), a nerdy teenage photographer struggles to fit in at high school where jocks like Flash Thompson are forever humiliating the unpopular. When Peter discovers a briefcase that belonged to his father he begins to reevaluate the disappearance of his parents and seeks to uncover the mystery that plagued them. At home Peters surrogate parents, his aunt May (Sally Field) and uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) worry about how their nephews search for answers will impact him emotionally whilst at school Peter grows close to Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) an intelligent classmate whose father is the captain of police. Peter’s search for answers leads him to the mysterious Oscorp and closer still to his destiny of becoming Spider-Man.

I’m going to try and refrain from addressing the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy in this review since it’s only been 5 years since it finished which means that this movie was never going to be truly standalone, I’d like to just consider just this movie and the new direction it’s trying to take the series rather than being simply a remake.

When I first heard that Marc Webb (perfect surname for this movie right?) was directing I was quite pleased, his motion picture debut ‘500 Days of Summer’ is one of the best films I’ve seen in the past ten years and easily one of the best romantic comedies I’ve ever seen. This anticipation clouded me from the thoughts I should have been thinking though such as the most important question: would he be any good at doing a Spider-Man movie? Well, it’s complicated. ‘500 Days of Summer’ was great for an introspective look at a persons experience with a relationship over its course, in other words it’s a very emotionally charged, quirky ROMANCE film. Spider-Man whilst possessing an important romantic subplot is NOT a romance film. Webb ignores the title of the movie for the first hour or so where he instead focuses the story into a teen rom-com following Peter Parker.

The love story sadly dominates the film but is very well done.

A number of moments of super heroism are cut short or not elaborated upon in order to make more room for the awkward dialogue and blooming romance of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. For example the formation of Spider-Man’s suit is about a 20 second sequence where Peter draws a picture of it and then suddenly it cuts to him just having made it, no process of it, no testing different ideas, nothing. This seems like I’m trying too hard to nitpick until you realise the fact that in this same film where the formation of the iconic suit takes up a paltry 20 seconds of screen time a montage where we see Peter Parker skateboarding over objects to pop-rock music takes up a solid minute and a half, not the most ideal setup for a superhero movie I think you’ll agree.

I suppose my main problem with this film as I've said earlier is that they really made Peter Parker’s segments of the story into that of a teen rom-com, I don’t understand why they felt the need to do this when his connection to the story as Spider-Man is already so compelling, the duality of personalities between Parker and Spider-Man is what has kept this character interesting for so long and in my opinion didn’t require the transformation into an insufferably brooding walking pool of awkward in order to better craft the film’s love story.

By far my favourite aspect of this film was how they handled the scenes with Spider-Man; the action was a great translation from the comics and also shared similarities with previous animated incarnations of the web-slinger, which I thought was fantastic to see. Every scene involving web-swinging and acrobatics is beautifully shot and is great to watch, the movement of Spider-Man as he weaves his way through New York from web to building and back to web again looks just as iconic here as it always has in comics. Although this film’s Peter Parker is a whiny, brooding douchebag, Spider-Man was more akin to his appearances in the comics, a wisecracking humourous hero to New York City. His personality is along the right lines but I felt that even here they overshot it and ended up with a mouthy do-gooder instead of a lighthearted one, this is minor though as I did enjoy his humour all the same.  

The Classic Spider-Man pose.

The cast of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is at times exceptional and at others shoddy. Andrew Garfield is a good actor, there’s no denying it, but I find him difficult to watch sometimes just as if his socially-awkward self slips into his portrayals a little too much, nevertheless though he did a great job as Spider-Man overall considering what he had to work with. Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, a somewhat bland and relatively undefined character in the comics, Stone brings her usual charming energy to the role and really brings it to life, I felt more for the character than I thought I would going in and that says a lot about what Stone has accomplished. The villain of the piece, Dr. Curt Conners is played by the very talented Rhys Ifans, Ifans brings his brooding intensity to a role that desperately requires it and does very well as The Lizard, Dr. Conners is a character I’ve always loved because of how tragic his story is, he’s a good man trying to help mankind through science but his insecurities and grief cause him to take drastic actions to repair his broken person. Martin Sheen and Sally Field play a fantastic aunt May and Uncle Ben, undoubtedly the best on-screen iteration, Sheen is so gifted an actor that he makes the famous role his own within minutes and gives what I felt was a much needed change of direction to Ben Parker, changing his character from the feeble old man into an aging man who cares deeply about the nephew he sees as a son. An honourable mention has to go to Denis Leary who is fantastic as police captain George Stacy, his character is the definitive embodiment of a true law enforcement operative devoted to the protection of his city, Leary’s great comic timing and no-bullshit attitude made him a very personable and relatable character.

Rhys Ifans is terrifc as a desperate Dr. Curt Conners.

The problems with the film can primarily be traced back to the script and how it was written. The major plot of the film is written well for the most part, I did take issue with the fact that the writers seemed to be going for the type of story where everything that happens was connected, when done correctly this can improve a film but in this case it seemed that the writers thought the audience too stupid to follow separate plot threads without having them all be part of one, for example the setup of Oscorp as the source of all the movies villainous themes is amateurishly executed and ended up sounding like one conspiracy theory after another. The writers also seemed to lose their focus halfway through the movie when numerous plot threads such as the hunt for uncle Ben’s killer simply disappear without another mention. If you do a little research you’ll discover how many rewrites by different writers and complete changes of story this film went through on its way from the 4th Spider-Man film to the start of a new series, you can see the shadows of various rewrites within the movie through scenes that could lead to something different than is shown on screen, most likely they are remnants of a previously written draft of the film which included additional plot. All of this is probably explanation enough for the flaws in the writing, pretty much meaning that the philosophy “Too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the broth” rings true.

There are big plans in store for this franchise, already a sequel is being written having been commissioned even before this film was released. Marvel is certainly planning ahead since they’ve stated that this is the first of a new trilogy and of a series that will consist of “at least 3”. Spider-Man has plenty of options for sequels; they will most likely continue to pursue the mystery of Peter’s parents and their connection to Oscorp. The host of villains for Marvel to choose for the future is vast; it looks as if the villain of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ is going to be The Green Goblin, who no doubt the crew will do as good a job with as they did with The Lizard. Possibilities for other villains could range from the master of illusions Mysterio (who would be great on the big screen) to the insane symbiotic Carnage.

The more I think about it the less I hate this film and the more I understand that its mistakes only seem so irritating because they are made using Spider-Mans name. I can’t honestly recommend you see this film because of its quality but I would still say consider it, because as this series goes on I have a feeling it will it amount to a lot more than this misguided first outing.

No comments:

Post a Comment