Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man: some thoughts

So I finally caught The Amazing Spider-Man and I enjoyed it enough. That might not sound like a ringing endorsement but let me put it another way: it didn't disappoint me. That's probably because I had no expectations going in. It wasn't as amazing as the title suggests, in fact its worst transgression is that it's just unnecessary.

The previous batch of Spider-Man movies started 10 years ago, Spider-Man 3 having come out just 5 years back, so why was it necessary to reboot the character so indecently quickly? Did we all have to sit through the origin story again? I get the feeling that the filmmakers knew that we all know the drill and rushed through the salient points: Peter's parents are gone, his aunt and uncle take care of him, he neglects to stop a crook who ends up killing his uncle, so he devotes himself to helping others. He gets web shooters (mechanical this time, which is an improvement) and a costume. All these things happen so quickly, though, with a few changes in detail as if to make it different for difference's sake.

I very much get the feeling that most of the story was a recycled script from the aborted Spider-Man 4. The previous series was building up to having The Lizard as a villain, mentioning or showing Curt Connors in each film, and introducing Gwen in the last one. With a few minor tweaks, this story could have been a fourth in the existing series. I feel it would have been a better movie had they continued with Tobey and company, rather than restart.

I think movies should be judged on their own merits and I try not to compare them relative to others, but rebooting so quickly makes doing so a near impossible task. If The Amazing Spider-Man were the only Spider-Man film in existence, then sure it's a fine movie, not great, not terrible. But I couldn't help but think how much more engaging and funny Spider-Man (2002) was, how it had this wow-factor of finally seeing Spidey in the flesh. In fact, I'd say I liked each movie from the original series more than this one (yes, I go against the shrill, reactionary Internet grain to proclaim that, while flawed, Spider-Man 3 wasn't the worst movie ever made). Peter as portrayed in those movies was the nerdy underdog, a likeable dweeb. Peter this time is just a moody punk. Which is fine, I suppose. Teens are like that, but it's not really the way the character should be. I'm fine with changing source material when adapting for film, but only if it's for the better. I wasn't rooting for him. I won't go so far as to say he's a stalker, like I've heard in some corners of the Web, but he's just not...right, as portrayed here.

I also thought it was peculiar that they didn't include anything about Peter's financial difficulties at home, which is a major component of the original character. And no Daily Bugle? No JJJ? Come on, now. There was also no emotional impact when Uncle Ben gets shot. It was like the movie was just running through the bullet list of "things to cover in Spider-Man's origin story" before getting into the movie proper, making the runtime unduly long.

While it sounds like I'm endlessly trashing this movie, I did enjoy much of it:
  • The costume (which he miraculously designed and made in a matter of seconds on-screen) looked fantastic.
  • The Lizard's size and scale was also perfect, but they couldn't at least give him the snout? Also, he kept taking off the white lab coat. Grrrr, he should have kept it on like the classic character's look in the comics.
  • The action sequences were interesting (but too few).
  • Gwen Stacy was really good here, unlike the "Gwen Stacy" they put in Spider-Man 3.
  • The best part of the "new" origin story was involving Peter's parents in some OsCorp scientific conspiracy. They worked this angle in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and it was great. Hopefully, they follow that line and it ends up with a bad-ass Venom, like in the comics.
  • I loved that at the OsCorp tower, there was a big, obscured face of Norman Osborn on the wall. Typical movie trick to "include" a future villain in a movie before casting him.
  • Stan Lee's cameo was solid.
If you're a big Spider-Man fan, you're probably going to see this movie regardless. If you're on the fence, I'd say go see it on cheapie-Tuesday (like I did) or the equivalent where you are. Or wait for the blu-ray. In fact, I think people who are relatively unfamiliar with Spider-Man might enjoy this more than those who know the character well.

P.S.: What's a "Science" high school and why is Flash Thompson enrolled in one?

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