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The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

July 12, 2012

MY CALL:  Not quite amazing.  But exactly what I needed after that whole Spider-Man 3 debacle.  Ditch the old trilogy + new cast = Good choice.  Garfield is a confident and sensitive Spider-Man that all should enjoy. [B/B+]  SIDEBAR:  This is more of a comparison to the pre-boot than it is a review of the re-boot.  I deemed this appropriate since most are likely wondering how they compare.

The Amazing Spider-Man follows suit in the not-so-amazing franchise reboot trend.  One of the best things about the first Harry Potter or Matrix movies was that the audience got to be wowed by an unfamiliar world and characters that have never before graced the screen.  When you watch a reboot, you buy a ticket and some over-priced concessions and hope that “this time they get it right”; you catch all the things they “still got wrong” instead of those that should impress.  Even if the movie is great, we run the risk that our skepticism may negatively impact our enjoyment of the movie.  Being quite pleased with this movie, I feel that most ho-hum reviews are a product of this jaded, can’t-be-impressed mentality.

Everyone should know the gist by now—angsty teen is bitten by a radioactive spider, with great power comes great responsibility, hey check out that cute girl, ahhh a bad guy, blah blah blah—so I’ll skip the grand overview.  Fledgling action director Marc Webb does a fine job where I feel Sam Raimi (Drag Me to Hell)—who I LOVE as a horror genius—really just did okay or failed altogether.

1.  Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) came off with all the expected teen angst that Peter Parker should portray, but without the annoying quality that came with Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man 1-3).  I felt like Garfield’s Parker was a regular kid in that he felt the world didn’t get him whereas Maguire’s Parker was a kid that the world couldn’t get.

The Amazing Spider-Man Fresh HD Movie Stills Starring Andrew Garfield, Hot Emma Stone

2.  Parker’s relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone; Crazy Stupid Love, Friends With Benefits) felt natural.  They liked each other, there was no major conflict, she was much more the a damsel in need of rescue, and we accept the delivery and conclusion when Parker decides that he cannot be with her since it would place her in too great a danger.  All was the opposite in Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, wherein Parker’s conflict-overwhelmed romance with Mary Jane felt no more natural than passing a kidney stone and when they emotionally try to part ways it’s nothing but awkward and distracting.  And “no”, I don’t mean in an effective way.

3.  Amazing’s villain, The Lizard (Rhys Ifans; Anonymous), shifts from friend to foe in a manner no more dramatic than one should expect from a comic book adaptation.  Likewise, Parker’s relationship with Captain Stacy (Denis Leary; Rescue Me) evolves simply, but smoothly.  These characters, in combination, served the same role as The Green Goblin/Norman Osborn, which presented an over-complicated relationship with Parker exacerbated by the romantic triangle between his son, Parker and Mary Jane; what a mess.

4.  In Spider-Man, even though I thought the movie was a lot of fun, I never once felt myself rooting for Parker.  In Amazing I caught myself rooting for him all the time.  The action and effects in the franchise pre-boot were fine, quite good in fact, but Amazing injected a more effective personality dynamic from Parker, more plausible fight dynamics (if only slightly), and a less cartoony-ridiculous villain.  Amazing had a serious feelgood scene were Spider-Man saves a boy from a burning car; I actually believed Spider-Man might fail and was relieved and thrilled when (and how) he succeeded.  Amazing made Peter Parker just that, “amazing,” as a big-hearted hero should be!

5.  The character relationships worked—because there was a manageable number of characters.  Raimi got stuck with a character-heavy script with each of them exerting some sort of unique stress on Parker.

6.  Parker figures out the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing on his own, without Uncle Ben spelling it all out for him all the time in the pre-boot.  Garfield’s Parker is less vulnerable than Maguire’s, but has all the sensitivity necessary for the role and all the confidence that Raimi had Maguire suppress.

Gotta’ carb up, Uncle Ben.

This was a striking success that will pave a solid future for Spider-Man movies.  Decisions from casting to scripting were just right.  If I had to craft a complaint, it would be that I have seen this movie before…it was just much better this time; as if Spider-Man got a mulligan; a re-do; a reboot.  I’d add that Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Denis Leary (the supporting cast) all felt under-utilized.  If you have a small part, don’t fill it with a big name unless we’re going to feel an impact.

Is there a little bit of silly in all this?  Sure.  First off, The Lizard is really Jekyll’n’Hyde-ish and outside of insanity I cannot explain his motives (which are to “help” the world and harm no one).

Good make-up.  No muscles for the sake of muscles or rippled abs.  But more loose, neck-wrinkled lizard skin.  I dug it.

Gwen Stacy, a highschooler, has top tier security clearance at a private company researching morally questionable, world-changing interspecies genetic engineering.  Oh, and she knows quite a bit about it.  For example, if one were to, say, weaponize an aerosol species-hybridizing catalyst, no worries, because she could probably whip up a weaponized aerosol antigen for it in twenty minutes.  But whatever!  It’s a comic book adaptation.  This sounds stupid now that I’m 31, but sounded way awesome when I was a teenager.  I’m not saying don’t enjoy a giggle and roll your eyes, just remember that this is meant to instill a sense of satisfying fantasy to the younger generation.

Evidently she’s taking AP “PhD in all things science”!

I saw it in 2D.  Because of the large amount of fast-paced, closeup-filmed action I would discourage 3D.  I have never, NEVER, seen a 3D movie that could keep up with action like this without suffering to some degree of blurring or obscured detail.  That said, I didn’t see it in 3D.  So if you love 3D, maybe give it a shot.

Please go see this movie.  See it, love it and feel young again; feel the way you should feel after seeing a superhero movie.

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