Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (Film) - Review

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy is fantastic - especially the stellar second film - but when I saw the trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man, I started to question why I even enjoyed Raimi's films. The trailers for the new film, from director Marc Webb, promised a sweet new suit, a potentially enthralling subplot about Peter's parents, a Spidey who's more spry and cheesy than Toby McGuire ever was, a villain who felt missing from Raimi's universe, and the beautiful Emma Stone as the love interest.

I had very high hopes going into The Amazing Spider-Man, and I wasn't disappointed. The latest obligatory superhero flick is tons of fun and serves as a better start for inevitable sequels than Spider-Man did back in 2002.

Spidey's new suit looks sweet.
The Amazing Spider-Man takes basic Spider-Man plot threads and makes them much more contemporary, delivering a relatable Spidey for the current generation of kids and an interesting take for those already familiar with one version of Spider-Man or another. The lives of his parents before they passed away, the rise of this film's villain, and how Peter gets the powers of a spider all cleverly intertwine, forming a strong basis for this new universe. The brilliantly written and impressively acted characters takes that basis and runs with it.

Peter Parker - played by Andrew Garfield - is still a science wiz and a photographer but he's really more of a hipster than a nerd, considering his skateboard, arrestive glasses, tight jeans, stupid haircut and youthful good looks. He's a great character but he simply oozes with charm during the romantic scenes with his love interest Gwen Stacy, played by the aforementioned Emma Stone. The progression from awkward spurts of conversation to holding each other in their arms is gold.

The romance is very strong in this film.
Peter's lovable Uncle Ben sets the thematic framework of the film. The classic "With great power comes great responsibility" line is further explained in this movie, when Ben says that Peter's father lived by the notion that anyone with the potential to do great for the world has a moral obligation to do so. It's no wonder that just about every take on Spider-Man uses this motto: It's an excellent angle for a superhero movie to take.

This motto is of course what compels Peter to make use of his new-found superpowers when he eventually is bit by the spider and becomes a masked vigilante. We see Peter defend what he has become with his Spider-Man persona through arguments with Gwen's dad, who also happens to be the Chief of Police. This leads to a compelling relationship between a man who believes in order versus Peter who merely values good. Garfield under the cowl as this film's Spider-Man is more-or-less flawless: He's sarcastic, funny, heroic and looks great in his yellow-eyed, spandex costume. There's a hilarious scene in which he mocks a crook he finds on the street and completely dominates him, showing off how fun he is, and a touching scene in which he removes his mask for a scared little boy in danger before saving him, which shows off the more nuanced emotional angle of the character.

This is all great, and I think they nailed Spider-Man as a character, but my biggest issue with this movie can be seen through two scenes pertaining to his origin. These two scenes show Peter using his new found abilities in public, unmasked, turning what could have been clever ways to introduce his powers into frustrating scenes that had me scratching my head wandering how these didn't lead to him being discovered. One of these was so bad that I was practically praying in the theater for it to be a dream.

The villain in The Amazing Spider-Man is Dr. Curt Connors, played by Rhys Ifans. He begins as a scientist who follows more-or-less the same motto as Peter, attempting to use cross-species genetics to the medical benefit of the world. Connors crosses himself with the genetics of a Lizard, seeking regenerative powers to fix his crippled arm. The side effects are too strong and he soon becomes corrupted by his new reptilian influence and attempts to evolve the city past humanity into the monster that he has become. It's a typical mad scientist character, but it still manages to be absolutely entertaining due to Ifan's endearing performance as the human that turns into the hulking, creepy monster.

Curt Connors before his transformation into Lizard.
The action is never as thrilling as the final act of The Avengers or the train sequence in Spider-Man 2, but it's still very impressive. Spider-Man flinging himself about, fwipping webs at his foes, as well as Lizard throwing himself around, smashing walls like they're made of paper never disappoints. The set pieces displaying Spider-Man and Lizard duking it out are all entertaining, but none particularly blew me away mostly due to their lack of creativity. What did blow me away, however, was the very striking stereoscopic 3D, which looks especially good when Spider-Man is swinging around the city.

The Amazing Spider-Man nails pacing. I don't remember a single part of the movie that isn't important, and never did I feel like they dragged anything out. The movie masterfully balances drama, comedy, and action, make me choke up, laugh, and smile respectively. 

The movie ends with a series of well-done dramatic scenes followed up with a clever last-line that introduces a dilemma that will no doubt be tackled in future films. I would prefer a more positive spin than what was provided, as this was, throughout, more of an exciting film than a serious one, but it does a great job of opening up for a new film on a very dramatic note. 

The Amazing Spider-Man succeeds as a fun superhero flick that's more than dramatic enough to keep viewers invested in what's going on. Spider-Man's secret identity isn't protected as much as it should be, and the ending is a little harsh for what is mostly a vivacious ride, but the movie remains successful. The characters are excellent, the action is entertaining, the drama is moving and the romance is lovable. What's almost certainly going to be a series of films is off to a solid start.

--edited on July 9th, 2012--

1 comment:

  1. This is a very entertaining film but the whole time I was watching it, I couldn’t stop thinking of the original series that was still bright and fresh in my mind. Then again, how couldn’t you think of Tobey, Kirsten, James, and Willem when you have a story that seems like it was written for the screen, just for them? Either way, it’s still a good movie. Good review Matt.