My Ten Cents On: The Amazing Spider-man

It’s been a while, I know. Sorry about that. Apart from traveling, and getting into my job, and focusing more on my health, I’ve found less time to write than ever before. On some level, my life’s been a little emptier, so here I am in the middle of the night, churning out one of these reviews. I could write about the Avengers, but I enjoyed that movie WAY too much to see any of the flaws. By the time of this writing, I still hold it to be a 10/10, and the perfect blockbuster movie, but that may just be the geek in me. So I decided to set my sights on the next super hero flick to jump out on the screen, The Amazing Spider-man.

This film is a reboot of the Spider-man franchise, and one that sought to play up an element of realism, and bring Spider-man down from the slightly more cartoonish version of Sam Raimi. The film follows the story of Peter Parker, a mild-mannered geek, who has to live with his uncle and aunt as his parents are forced to leave him and mysteriously die off-screen. He then grows up to become a teen who, curious about his father’s work, sneaks around a secret scientific research facility, accidentally getting bitten by a radioactive spider and blah, blah, blah, you know the rest. This movie is in a unique position because the other Spider-man film came out just a decade ago. Can you imagine someone redoing the Matrix with an all-new cast and film style but keeping the same general structure of the narrative? I still find this reboot a little ill-timed and odd. But its here, so I’m gonna dive right in!

+ The Cast

Have you ever wondered why people cast stars for millions of dollars? Yes, big names draw big numbers, and big bucks, but they serve a literary purpose as well. Sometimes, when you have an actor play a role, it saves the film makers from spending time building a character. When you see Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, all you need to know is he his one bad-a$$ motherf&^%$#. Boom, back story done, because he’s done it many times before. If you see Woody Allen, most probably his character is a neurotic mess with control and self-esteem issues, because, again, we’re used to seeing him like that. There are a lot of people who get work because they could fit character types and do all the character introductions you need by their look, and by their last performances.

Awwww…… Aren’t they cute?!

Andrew Garfield is arguably a male version of Zooey Deschanel, he’s the cute, quirky geek, absolutely perfect for Peter Parker. Emma Stone is great as the cute and intelligent Gwen Stacy. They have fantastic chemistry, so much so that nearly every friend I know of the female persuasion comments on how cute they are together (doesn’t hurt that we know they are a real couple of set). Martin Sheen and Sally Field, class actors with mountains of accolades, take Uncle Ben and Aunt May and give them so much depth for the screen time. The emotional power of their performances made Spiderman’s story so much stronger.

Brilliant actors, the both of them

Dennis Leary as Police Captain Stacy was a no-brainer, one look at this guy screams New Yorker with authority, and Rhys Ifans did a great job acting as the good-hearted, yet desperate Dr. Connors, and the furious Lizard. These actors were practically perfect for the roles they had to play. They made the job so easy for the screenwriters, which I think, they may have taken for granted.

+ True to the source material

I’m gonna go slight comic book geek on this one. Marvel Comics has made its bread and butter out of what they call: “street level” heroes, heroes who deal with very human problems, to extra-ordinary degrees, while DC would make heroes who were more representations of philosophical ideals. While Batman would represent the peak of human capability, Green Lantern would be that of courage, and so on, Marvel’s heroes would be based on much more realistic problems. Iron Man battles with excess, Thor represents the superiority complex, and Spider-man represents the teen passage into adulthood.

In that sense, this movie hugely succeeded in capturing who Spider-man is, and what he is meant to be. Peter Parker’s high school experience, his relationships with his uncle and aunt, the nice yet rebellious kid who still puts his light-hearted, less-important interests version more serious responsibilities was really captured. There is one time where he is so enamored by the science experiment of Dr. Connors, that he ends up forgetting to pick up his Aunt May, who had to walk home through the streets of New York alone. He comes home and suffers the anger of his Uncle, and storms off, thinking it unfair that he’s chastised when nothing happened to his Aunt. This one scene, and the inevitable sorrowful scene to follow was incredibly powerful in conveying the lesson of “responsibility”.

These scenes, along with the romantic scenes between Peter and Gwen, I am sure spoke very well to the target teen audience, and to the movie’s credit, it captured Spider-man’s origin in such a powerful way (in no small part due to the amazing cast). This is where I see a lot of people absolutely loving the movie, as I did too. The problem is, I can see where a lot of people hate the movie as well, because I hated other areas as well.

– This chick flick’s pacing

This scene plus a song is all most people need to believe. I need a wee bit more.

You read that right, chick flick. The Amazing Spider-man is a chick flick disguised as a superhero movie, and to be frank, though I didn’t love the emphasis on the romance, I understand why they did it, and actually think it was a good idea. As a comic book reader, I’ve always known that I’d come to outgrow Spider-man. I didn’t think it would be so soon, but it has come. This movie is perfect for a youth culture that loves Justin Bieber, One Direction, Miley Cyrus, and a generation that voted Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Hunger Games, and Twilight as the best movies of the last few years through the Teen’s Choice Awards, a culture that I am no longer a part of. Thus it didn’t hit me as strongly as it did others.

The real problem I had with it, was that the filmmakers seemed to rely on the chemistry between Garfield and Stone to develop the relationship. They are awkward for the first thirty minutes of the movie. She invites him to dinner, and later on after the dinner he reveals he’s Spider-man and they make out and suddenly are together, and that happens in a two-three minute stretch, then the film has like almost an hour of them being together. But it works for most people, because of the chemistry, they could let the lapses go, because “Hey! It makes sense that they got together”. But the fact is, as a romance, it was long and lacking at the same time. I’m not gonna say it was particularly horrible, but it is a sample of the lazy story-telling that a lot of people bash Hollywood for.

The romance sweet, and completely devoid of all the complications a real love story would have, and it appeals to the fantasy that many puppy-love struck teens and young ladies still hold out hope for. I understand it, but I am not entertained by it. I still would have loved to see a Spider-man whose conflict tied in more closely with the cathartic need to avenge what happened with Uncle Ben vs being so engrossed with the love interest, but again, this movie isn’t aimed for me.

– Sewer Syndrome or Down the Drain of Darkness

I know spiders and lizards love the dark, but I’m a man, damnit!

If any of you are old school gamers, you’d know of the trope: Down the Drain, maybe not by name, but you’d know it. Basically, the trope is when, somewhere in the middle of a video game, you have to pass through a sewer level, and it kills any fun you had in the first place. This article goes into it in more depth, but it suffices to say that sewers are characterized by dull color palates, darkness, confusing mazes and annoying radioactive monsters. This movie, especially in the sewer scenes, has 3/4. The coloring of this film was much more bland than previous incarnations of Spider-man, and much darker too.

The Amazing Spider-man had intense action scenes that would have been nice if they weren’t so dark, and if the camera weren’t so close such that I had no idea what the hell was going on. The first time Spider-man fights with the Lizard, it is in the sewer, and the camera was so in-close (probably a tactic to make the audience feel how cramped the space was), and the lighting so dark, that I honestly found myself bored and un-involved. Don’t event get me started on how choppy most of the cuts were. The quick cuts disoriented me much more than I would have liked. I’m a fan of flowing fight scenes, but this one had occasions where the next cut would be at a different angle that makes it hard for me to re-orient myself to what’s happening on screen, and this makes it even more forgettable.

This was one fight scene I really loved though

In fact, remembering the movie two days later, I can honestly say that the only fight that sticks out in my mind is the one where the Lizard attacks Peter’s high school, not to mention the absolutely awesome cameo of Stan Lee. Now that fight scene was fantastic, it was well planned, and well executed, and the best part, it was well shot. I would like to bet that the other fight scenes would have been awesome too, but the color tones, darkness and tight camera work diluted whatever the amazing choreography would have been there for me.

My Cent’s Worth: 5/10
For teens, people who love chick flicks, people who are more comic book geeks than movie watchers: 8/10

I haven’t been this polarized by a film in quite a while. I didn’t like it, and yet I kind of get why so many other people would like it. My problems with The Amazing Spider-man are problems an adult male who loves movies would have. This movie is good but fails to hit my specific tastes. I give it huge negatives because of the unmemorable, dark action scenes, and the boring pacing that didn’t have to take that long. I respect that they tried to deepen the character development through the interaction and dialogue, and they did succeed, but I’ve seen so many movies succeed much quicker. I loved the acting, but I hated the jump cuts, and dark color palate. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers had that huge night siege at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, and yet they lit up the people well enough so you could see every detail of the fight, Spider-man didn’t do that as well.

Its the “dead of night” and you can still see everything clearly.

But despite that, I honestly did enjoy the real take on Spider-man’s origins. But don’t let my review take the experience away from you, this is one movie where I really have to let you guys be the judge. You may like it much more than I did, I’d still recommend it, if you aren’t as much of a cine-phile as I am.


Posted on July 12, 2012, in Film Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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