Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man review, another worthy reboot

The Amazing Spider-Man is the reboot to the incredibly popular trilogy directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey Maguire as the web slinger.  It's only been 5 short years since Spider-Man 3, Raimi and Maguire's final crack at the superhero.  Sony decided to start a new, and here we are today.  Marc Webb became famous after 500 Days of Summer; he was tapped to direct this reboot.  Sony's decision had fans scratching their heads.  They doubted what the director of a romantic comedy could bring to the table of a big budget action film?  I'll get to that in a moment.  Then came the "you can't win" casting of Andrew Garfield.  I PERSONALLY was excited because I knew the calibur of actor that Garfield was.  Also cast was Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's love interest.  Rhys Ifans plays the villain in the movie, Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard.  Denis Leary plays Gwen Stacy's father and the captain of the police department.  Rounding out the cast are Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
Our New Spider-Man
Andrew Garfield; I hate to say 'I told you so', but damn it I told you so.  The actor is terrific.  Physically, Garfield is more like the comic book hero than Maguire was (tall and skinny rather than short and ripped).  In my opinion, his take on the character was more grounded in reality than the previous trilogy.  Then again, everything in this movie was more grounded in reality than the previous trilogy, except maybe the villain.  Garfield gets to show off his acting chops in some great scenes with Emma Stone, Martin Sheen and Sally Field.  You believe the pain he feels about losing his parents and the mystery behind their leaving him.  Garfield's Peter Parker is not as big of a nerd as Maguire's, and that's a good thing.  Again, staying grounded in reality made for a better film I think.  Nice job.

The Rest of the Cast
Emma Stone is one of my favorite young actresses today (and I have a bit of a crush on her too, don't tell anyone).  She plays the Gwen Stacy character pretty straight, with touches of vulnerability here and there.  The filmmakers used the Gwen character and not Mary Jane Watson, made famous by Kristin Dunst in the previous incarnation.  Gwen is equally as smart as Peter Parker, maybe even smarter.  And thank goodness they didn't take the damsel in distress act too far like ALL THREE of the previous Spider-Man films before it.  Dennis Leary didn't have much screen time but was really really good.  He has some awesome scenes in the movie I don't want to spoil here.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field made for great parental figures to our hero.  They were caring, loving and tough when they needed to be.  I liked how they were kept out of the action.  Unlike the time aunt May was swung around New York in previous films, come on!

James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves wrote a superhero film within a love story.  That's what some of the best superhero films have been able to do.  Take for example Superman (1978); director Richard Donner has gone on record to say, if he could convince the audience that Superman and Lois Lane were in love, he could convince them an actor could fly.  Garfield and Stone's real life relationship shined on screen, their chemistry was undeniable.  The writers also chose to go the Batman Begins route, and focus on the man behind the mask.  And like Batman Begins, it's not until half way through the movie do we even see the character in spandex.  Like I've stated above, I liked how much the movie was grounded in reality and how it was about the people, not the action.

The Score
James Horner (Avatar, Titanic) wrote a beautiful score.  Soft and caring when the movie was too, then grand and epic when it needed to be.  And also stealing from Batman Begins, Horner doesn't reveal Spider-Man's new theme until the climax of the film.  When scoring Batman Begins, Hans Zimmer stated that the character hadn't yet earned the theme, until the very end.  I thought that was an amazing way to use music to reflect the growth of a character.  Awesome.

The Special Effects/Action 
The special effects and the action look different than any of the previous Spider-Man films.  The hero is acrobatic, and doens't rely on martial arts to defeat his attackers.  This is another way to stay grounded in reality.  Peter Parker is a nerdy kid, why would he know how to fight?  Instead he uses his speed and abilties to defeat his opponents.  Also important to note, Spider-Man's web shoots out of a device created by Parker, unlike the organic origin used by Maguire.  Another thing I enjoyed: the physics in the movie are accurate.  Spider-Man doesn't just magically swing from one building to the other without logical reason.  There's even a line in the movie explaining the physics.  Spider-Man has to swing forward while hooked to SOMETHING!  Sam Raimi ignored that tiny little fact.

Marc Webb
I was a doubter.  I doubted "what the director of a romantic comedy could bring to the table of a big budget action film".  I was wrong.  His vision was the right one.  The one Sony should have used back in 2002 at the launch of the original franchise.  His new cast, the tone, the style and even his new camera use was awesome.  There are a few point of view shots that will have you wishing you were the hero.  He also opted to keep out the campy junk; like the wrestling, and the specifics of how Peter Parker created his costume.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Villain
Hold up, hold up, hold up.  Rhys Ifan did a wonderful job as Dr. Curt Connors.  The actor's turn to the dark side was great, he was very believable.  The motives for the change were my only gripe about the character.  Would the need to help millions push someone to do what the villain does in this movie?  Maybe not.  Is it a deal breaker?  Not at all.  The odds had to be great for our hero to be challenged, and the filmmakers did what they had to do to make it so.  The only other dislike is, I wish there was more of Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben!  I think the filmmakers could have treated the character with more care than they did.  Small price to pay for such a great film.

The Verdict:
I Finally Care About Spider-Man
Thank you Marc Webb for finally making me care what Spider-Man is up to.  As you can tell, I was never a fan of the original trilogy, much less the character himself.  Webb, Garfield and company have created a new world for the character to live in that far exceeds the previous.  This is a tough tough world we live in, and our movies need to reflect that; not the campy world Raimi projected through his films.  Even if you're not a comic book fan, you will very much appreciate this movie.  And lastly, The Amazing Spider-Man offers up the best Stan Lee cameo to date!

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