Friday, July 6, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man, The (2012)

Director: Marc Webb (no that's not a fake name)
Notable Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen

If you follow Blood Brothers often enough, you might already know how we feel about "unnecessary" remakes... or reboots in this case. If not feel free to see my review of "Let Me In" for some insight. Going into "The Amazing Spider-Man," I had similar hesitations. Only a decade ago had we seen a film chronicle the origins of our favorite web slinging hero and Sam Raimi and company did it just fine. Yet here we are with another slightly different origin story and a whole new crew to bring us Nu Spidey. Oddly enough, I was pleasantly surprised with the results of this "unnecessary" reboot as it really takes different focuses to its story telling that make it it's own entity.

After his parents disappear under mysterious circumstances, the life of Peter Parker (Garfield) has been a tough one. He's an outcast at school and despite his smarts and strong sense of moral stance, he finds talking to the girl of his dreams Gwen Stacy (Stone) awkward and standing up to bully flash painful. This changes though when a clue to his father's past sends him to Oscorp to find Dr. Connors (Ifans), where he finds a new destiny when bitten by a radioactive spider...

Remembering to pee before putting on the leotard...priceless.
Perhaps the best part of seeing "The Amazing Spider-Man" in theaters was seeing it with my wife. She had never seen a Spider-Man anything and seeing her reaction to the origin story was uplifting. Even though she tends to heatedly dislike comic book films, she actually enjoyed it and this allowed me to step away from my normally over-informed self and see the film through eyes I have never known...and see that the film does indeed succeed on many levels.

One of these levels is how director Marc Webb and the script really boil down and focus on solid character development and the interactions between Parker and his love interest Stacy. His only previous film was the quirky romantic comedy "(500) Days Of Summer", so he notably knows how to handle this arena of the story. He does it damn well. With strong casting of the only impressive Andrew Garfield and the charming Emma Stone in the leads, he really does take the "Spider-Man" franchise to some new and realistic levels. This matches the darker and more realistic tone of the film as it places all of its focus on Peter's growth and his interactions with his loved ones. It's a very human look at the franchise and even though it doesn't go to quite the dark atmosphere that others have, it works as a character piece.

Who knew that the best part of a "Spider-Man" film would be the romantic plot?
So if Webb and his cast ably navigate the emotional side of the "Spider-Man" universe with rather well paced and focused character development, that does mean there is sacrifice from other areas. Those mainly being the actual over-arcing plot and action set pieces. One of my worries about this film was having The Lizard (or Dr. Curt Connors) as the villain. This worry was only validated as the credits rolled. Where "The Amazing Spider-Man" really succeeds in building a strong hero, it fails in building a strong villain. His decent into madness is quick and dirty and the massive use of CGI to develop the finale (and its very comic book motivation of turning the whole world into lizards! Mwhahahahaha!) gave it a very cartoonish feel that sat awkwardly with the character realism of the rest of the film. Not to mention the connection between Parker, Connors, and the police chief was weakly built for the resolution to fully have the impact it needed to sell the film. Webb does his best to handle all the action pieces, adding in some Spidey POV shots that are guaranteed to have 3D audiences vomiting with motion sickness, but it is rather basic and pulls heavily from what we expect from a "Spider-Man" film.

Not a scene from the upcoming "Step Up: Revolution."
So to place it all in prospective I was pleasantly surprised by the unique ways that this film differed from the original trilogy in tone and focus, but was disappointed by its lacking action set pieces and villain. Although I am anxiously looking forward to it's sequel (which already has a release date set for summer 2014), this film was a mixed bag in the end for this long time fan. Granted, its only the beginning of a new franchise so there is plenty of time to fix the little things and take it to that next level I so desperately wanted from the film.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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