PaulRom Reviews: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Sony Pictures' controversial Spider-Man reboot swings onto DVD and Blu-Ray today, and the film has received mixed responses since its release in theaters this summer. What did this long time Spidey fan think of the Webhead's latest big screen outing? Hit the jump for my review.
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Dennis Leary, Sally Field
Director: Marc Webb
Running Time: 2 hr. 16 min.
MMPAA: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
Release Date: (Theatrical) July 3rd, 2012; (DVD/Blu-Ray) November 9th, 2012
The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr Curt Connors (Ifans), his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.
Ever since Sony Pictures announced a reboot of the highly successful Spider-Man film series nearly three years ago, many fans were very skeptical about this new take on Marvel's most popular character. This film was released a mere ten years after Sam Raimi's first movie and five after his third, which led some to believe that this reboot was rushed (probably just to have Sony keep the film rights). As a huge fan of Raimi's first two outings, I wasn't originally keen on the idea of a reboot so soon. The much maligned third movie had plenty of issues, but I think a fourth film could have redeemed the series. However, The Amazing Spider-Man slowly won me over with its impressive cast, excellent trailers, and the fact that this Spider-Man would be much closer to the comic book version than Tobey Maguire's. But when it was released this summer, many comic book fans gave it mixed responses due to some pretty drastic changes to Spidey's origin story, among other things. As a life long fan of Spider-Man, what did I think of the Web Slinger's latest big screen outing?
Right off the bat, it's clear that this take on Spider-Man is darker, more contemporary and more realistic than Sam Raimi's version. The Batman Begins influence is obvious, all the way down to the extensive focus on the origin. While I originally wasn't big on the idea of retelling the origin story step by step again, Amazing Spider-Man does an OK job making this version somewhat different from the 2002 film's. That being said, I really like some of the specific differences in retelling the classic story (such as his building web shooters and learning how to swing).
Marc Webb (who has only previously helmed the excellent (500) Days Of Summer) takes over the reins of directing Spider-Man, and he does a fantastic job doing so. While Raimi's directorial style was on a large and epic scale, Webb's is much more down to earth. The cinematography is beautiful, and while I was hesitant to see a director with only one film shooting big action sequences, Webb does a marvelous job shooting every scene. The CGI is also excellent. James Horner (best known for composing the scores for Titanic and Braveheart) tackles score duties for this film. While not a bad score by any means, it occasionally doesn't fit in with certain scenes, and overall, has absolutely nothing on Danny Elfman's excellent work on the first two movies.
One of the things that has received plenty of hate was the change to Spider-Man's costume. Personally, I think the suit looks great in The Amazing Spider-Man. While Tobey Maguire's Spidey suit was flashier and bulkier, Andrew Garfield's costume is more realistic and thinner. Also, many fan have been hating on the villainous Lizard's appearance in the movie, which is closer to the Steve Ditko Lizard than his more popular look that has the longer snout, lab coat, etc. I would've preferred to see Lizard with the signature look, but I can see why they made the changes that they did to make Lizard a little more believable.
The acting in this film is some of the best I've seen in a comic book movie. Andrew Garfield is phenomenal as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I still think Tobey Maguire was a terrific Peter Parker, although I can't say the same about his Spider-Man. Here, Garfield turns in a stunning performance in both roles. In fact, many scenes of his Spidey are exactly what I'd imagine a live action Spider-Man to be like (the "someone's been a bad lizard" line was priceless). It's clear that Garfield is a fan of the character; I can't say enough about his performance. While I would've loved to see her as Mary Jane Watson, Emma Stone is excellent as Gwen Stacy. Stone is one of my favorite actresses, and it's great to see her in a big CBM like this. Rhys Ifans turns in a fantastic performance as Dr. Curt Connors/Lizard. While his motives as a villain are rather cliche and predictable, I've always wanted to see Lizard on the big screen, and seeing him battle Spider-Man was rather epic. Dennis Leary and Martin Sheen are both great as Captain George Stacy and Uncle Ben, respectively. And Stan "The Man" Lee delivers what is possibly his greatest Marvel cameo yet in one of the film's most memorable scenes. I hope he gets his wish and has a bigger role in the sequel.
However, if there was one performance/character depiction I didn't like, it was Sally Field's Aunt May. May is one of my favorite characters in the Spider-Man mythology, mostly due to Rosemary Harris' wonderful performance in the Sam Raimi trilogy making her such a lovable character. In The Amazing Spider-Man, however, May is a very unlikable character. I think Field was a total miscast for the character. Her relationship with Peter isn't near as developed as I would like it to be, and she often comes across as a nuisance.
While we're discussing flaws, I'd like to mention a few in this movie. The script definitely wasn't perfect, as it randomly dropped a crucial subplot in the form of Peter searching for his uncle's killer. It would be interesting if they revisit this in a sequel, as long as they don't make the killer a super villain (a la Spider-Man 3). Also, why did Spider-Man leave the bridge after saving that little boy, but not anyone else who could be in those cars hanging? And let's not forget the "Untold Story" plot. While I'm confident that the sequels will provide answers to the questions asked here, it's a bit frustrating to see a theme so strongly depicted but isn't fully answered yet. Fingers crossed the sequel's script will be more focused, and will give us some answers.
Now for the big question: Is The Amazing Spider-Man better than the original Spider-Man? Yes and no. Those who have wanted to see a wise-cracking, more comic book oriented Spidey on the big screen will more than likely rejoice. However, the changes to the origin story will understandably alienate many comic book fans. I still prefer the way Spider-Man told the origin story over Amazing, which goes over a lot of the themes and plot points of the first film, and that's one of the bigger flaws here. It didn't do a terrible job retelling the story, not at all; despite the changes, it's still the same basic story.
When all is said and done, The Amazing Spider-Man doesn't quite meet my high expectations. While boasting some amazing (pun intended) action/visuals and a mostly terrific cast, the story could've been better. Despite its not reaching the heights of other reboots such as Batman Begins and Star Trek, Amazing Spider-Man is still a good film that could've been great. Now that the origin story is out of the way, the sequel (which is currently dated for a May 2nd, 2014 release) has potential to be truly spectacular. I'm looking forward to continuing Peter Parker's "Untold Story".
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