R eviewed By Matthew Scott.
Thoughts on The Amazing Spider-Man. (I assure you my dear, there are spoilers within)In a year when The Dark Knight Rises, The Expendables II, Bullet in the Head, and The Avengers are hitting the cinema, The Amazing Spider-Man, was a film not high on my radar. Don’t get me wrong, I love Spider-man. Have read the comics since the late 80’s. (The Maximum Carnage storyline from the early 90’s is still one of my favorite Marvel storylines). But in regards to films, Sam Raimi had already delivered 2 amazing Spider-Man adventures.
The first film was a lot of fun, but the 2nd film took it to a new level. Spider-Man 2 set a new bar in a combination of fun, heart and adventure. Spider-Man 3, however, left an ill feeling in the stomach. My qualms with that film are pretty much the same as everyone else’s (the butler saw it, MJ is hostage again, emo Peter Parker, “that 70’s show” as Eddie Brock,etc). Although, unlike another franchise killing sequel (Batman & Robin), Spider-Man 3 still has some fun moments that warrant me owning the dvd (the birth of Sandman, the fights between Spider-Man and Sandman, and….that’s about it). BUT, I didn’t think it was bad enough to warrant a reboot of the series.
I was getting all excited at the news of Raimi, Maguire and Co, regrouping to make Part IV (with Malkovich onboard as The Vulture!). But due to a tight deadline, Raimi took a pass and the film folded as result. Rather than hire another director to come aboard, Sony went with the hip choice to reboot the series. (also being a huge fan of the Evil Dead trilogy and Darkman, was disappointed to see Raimi leave the series.) Then, info starts to get released for the newly christened “The Amazing Spider-Man” and to my surprise, a fair amount of the news I was reading, I was actually liking (no MJ, The Lizard, darker in tone).
But there is always a flipside to that coin, so then came the dreaded news that it was indeed going to be another origin story. Spider-man is like Superman. Ask any single person on the planet the origins of either character, and there is a better than average chance that they are going to be able to relay the exact back story, or some condensed version of it. Also, the obvious thing was that Raimi’s original film had only come out in 2002. Not even 10 years had passed. Way too soon to reboot a series! Especially one that had been as popular as the Spider-man trilogy.
So the reboot goes into production, and promotional pics are released to start getting the fanboys onside early in the game. It was looking ok, but nothing had me so excited that I had to put it on my “must see” list. Knowing what I do now, having seen the film, I can honestly say the film would have gone to the top of my must see list!
First up, my main concern (and a lot of the people I have spoken to) was the “untold story”. The rewriting of the back story of Peter Parker’s parents. Why was that a concern? Because I don’t care about Peter Parkers parents! I want to see a Spider-man movie for Spider-Man, not Peter Parkers parents. I thought we were going to get the first 30 minutes of the movie telling us what the Parkers got up to in a past life. I can thankfully say, only a couple of minutes into the movie, Peter’s parents are gone. They are out of the film. They are mentioned again, quite a few times, but it is no way a first act Parker family story. So that gets a pass with me. Second concern was casting. Andrew Garfield looked WAY too skinny to play Spider-Man, but I don’t know if it was because of the clever lighting or the fact that I had gotten so used to seeing him in the costume already, this didn’t bother me. I’ve seen Garfield in a few films, (Dr Parnassus, Lions for Lambs, and Social Network) and thought he was really good in them, but I still wasn’t sold that he could pull of Parker/Spider-Man.
Maybe it was because I associated Tobey McGuire so much as the character, that I couldn’t see anyone else playing him. However, I was surprised to find that within 30 minutes of the film, I was totally invested in the character. This time around Parker is not such a loner as Maguire’s and it’s good to see the character stand up for himself and others. Garfield also handled the heavy hearted scenes really well. Giving it just enough emotion that you felt for him, but didn’t want him to clam up and move on.
Emma Stone’s “Gwen Stacey” character didn’t really have a lot to do (here’s hoping she was put in for a Goblin/George Washington Bridge plotted sequel) but I found her more interesting to watch than both Kristen Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Gwen Stacey. She looked cute and made me root for Parker to end up with her, and isn’t that’s all that’s required of the hero’s potential love interest? Another character who really stood out in the reboot was Sally Field’s “Aunt May”. Taking on the role of the Mother figure, she is Peter’s voice of reason. More importantly, she is the person who will always be there at the end of a long day, always ready to welcome him with open arms.
Visually, I thought Rosemary Harris pulled of Aunt May in Raimi’s trilogy, but I was never a fan of the way the character was portrayed. Where as in the comic books, the character always seemed to be cuddles and apple pie, I kept waiting for Rosemary Harris to snap at someone. I didn’t get that with Sally Field. Granted, it is Sally Field so she could have pulled this role off in her sleep.
Martin Sheen was great as “Uncle Ben”. I really felt the heart and the emotion from the character, and was dreading his inevitable fate. Not knocking Cliff Robertson’s take on the character, but Sheen just took the character and made it his own.
Although I’m sure Dylan Baker is off crying into a beer glass somewhere, Rhys Ifans was well cast as Dr Connors/The Lizard. Convincing as the desperate scientist, longing to perfect a formula to re-stimulate the growth hormones where his right arm used to be, I totally forgot this was the comedy sidekick from Notting Hill (maybe the only other film I’ve seen him in?). Playing the character straight, you’re not sure if you are meant to hate or empathize the guy (perfect formula for a villain). Not sure if I was really a fan of the whole Jekyll and Hyde persona (Connors changes into The Lizard only when he injects himself with the trial formula). I think I would have preferred him stay the Lizard upon first transformation. Not a huge gripe, just with him morphing back in to Dr Connors, it makes it harder to want to see the Lizard fail.
Story wise, you’ve pretty much seen it all before. Villain wants to harm the city-hero has to overcome personal issues in order to defeat him. However, the film still flows really well due to Marc Webb’s directing and a tight script. It gets a little pacy in the middle, but the inclusion of awkward and dry humor (nailed by Garfield) and some heart to heart moments, makes sure that you are not twitching in your seat and getting bored. The special effects are faultless. The CGI Lizard is convincing as a savage best tearing up the city, and Spider-Man webbing from building to building looks amazing (a rare occurrence of RealD actually making a difference in the viewing experience).
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the heck out of The Amazing Spider-Man. Yes, it was a rehash of a story already told, but it was fun! It has some “amazing” over the top action sequences, memorable score (not up there with Elfman’s yet, but give it a film or two to sink in), great characters, heart and humor. For a film I was only going to see because it’s based on a comic book (as a long time comic reader, I will see anything based on a comic) I can honestly see myself going back to the cinema to watch this at least a couple more times. Easily more enjoyable than Spider-Man 3, and maybe even more than Raimi’s original. Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield and co, bring the goods and keep you entertained for the 2 plus hours running time. Bring on the sequel!