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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: July 6: The Amazing Spider-Man

Friday

July 6: The Amazing Spider-Man

"Peter Parker finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors, his father's former partner."
Directed by: Marc Webb, Rated: PG-13, 136 minutes

The Amazing Spider-Man is just that- amazing. Sure, the movie seems a little unnecessary, with Spider-Man 3 still stale in our minds, coming out just five years ago. But nonetheless, this reboot is a fine re-introduction to the friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. Keep in mind, it's far from perfect, as the film relies heavily on the fact that there will indeed be sequels. As a stand alone movie, the only big differences from the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire 2002 film are the cast, the visual style, and the villain. The story is the same, and while it's a fresh take on Spider-Man's origin, all of the advertising for the film highlighted the fact we'd see "Peter Parker's Untold Story". The commercials and trailers heavily emphasized on the fact that the story would not be what we already know, with twists and turns and further reveals pertaining to Peter's parents. This is a little disappointing, as I was really hoping to see something new. I understand that a lot of these plot points could be better used in a sequel for big reveals, but one of the things I hate most about big, studio tent pole blockbusters, is the heavily relying on the fact that there will always be more time and more movie. I would love to go into a big budget movie where the story has its own beginning, middle, and end, without having anything left open-ended or ambiguous. 

No!

The Amazing Spider-Man tells the story of good ol' Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), a genius and somewhat loner who, after being bitten by a radioactive spider, transforms into the aerobatic Spider-Man. That's the story we all know, but moving back to the beginning, we see Peter's parents (two characters completely omitted from the previous franchise) having to leave him at his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May's (Sally Field) home. His parents are scientists at Oscorp on the brink of a breakthrough study in genetics and biology. Their departure leaves a lot of questions, and it's only in a little tid-bit on the computer that we see they died in a plane crash under mysterious circumstances. Years later, Peter simply goes day to day, skateboarding, taking pictures for the year book, and trying to blend into the stream of teenagers that busy the halls. He is happy living with his aunt and uncle, but he struggles with the fact that his father is gone and you can tell it's damaged him emotionally. Garfield's Peter Parker is much more angrier and angst-ier than Tobey Maguire's and this plays much better with the grittier style of the film, as well as more of what his character is actually like in the comics. Enter Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), an even smarter student and daughter to New York police chief George Stacey (Dennis Leary), who has a thing for Peter and the two begin flirting and eventual fall for each other. Gwen works at Oscorp as an intern, under the tutelage of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a one-armed scientist who's a world renowned herpetology expert and former colleague of Peter's father. Connors is on the verge of discovering a way to regenerate cells in the human body. Parker discovers the key to this breakthrough in some of his father's old things and after presenting it to Connors, the two create a serum that could have the power to save lives. In a desperate move, Connors uses the serum on himself and turns into a giant lizard as a result. As Peter is discovering his powers and prowling the streets for the man who killed his uncle, Connors grows stronger as the Lizard, and plans on releasing the toxin on all of New York, "saving" the people from the weakness of being human. Thus, Peter feels responsible for the creation of the monster and sees it as his duty to save the city from mutation and destruction.

Kind of creepy, but nowhere near movie monster legends creepy. 

Directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), The Amazing Spider-Man's biggest strength is in the love story between Peter and Gwen. The first hour or so of the film focuses heavily on the two's blossoming romance and it's hard to deny the perfect chemistry between Garfield and Stone. The scenes showing them flirting early on in their relationship bring a smile to your face, and Webb captures the awkwardness of being a teenager in love with ease. Webb is first a storyteller, then a filmmaker, and it clearly shows in the first part of the film. There is a lot of character development for Parker and his friends and family, and even though we know what happens to everyone, the genuineness of Garfield and co. make it feel fresh. Andrew Garfield is perfect as Parker and later as Spider-Man, and I am so happy to see him finally get the recognition he deserves. He's incredibly talented and makes the role completely his own, adding a mix of humor, vulnerability, and courage to the character. He's not the puny little nerd we saw with Tobey Maguire, and while he is somewhat a social outcast, he's not just dismissed as a nobody. He has a life, people know his name, and he is incredibly smart. Emma Stone, who is the perfect example of what is sexy and fun (I love her), is great as Gwen and she's not your standard damsel in distress who needs saving. She handles her own perfectly, and Stone does a great job at showing Gwen's strength, wit, and kindness. Rhys Ifans is very good as Dr. Connors, but I believe his motivation and back-story to be rather lacking. It's a shame, because Ifans is a tremendous actor, and I feel he was held back from truly stealing the film. Another part of the film that I find interesting is the use of a soundtrack. While the original Raimi Spidey's used a lot of songs and had huge soundtracks, The Amazing Spider-Man uses only a couple of songs, all to great effect (shout out goes to the amazing use of Coldplay's "Til Kingdom Come", while Peter is discovering his powers). 

Go watch: The Social Network, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and The Red Riding Trilogy

Obligatory.

Overall, I would certainly recommend The Amazing Spider-Man. I saw the film in IMAX 3D and it was a terrific movie-going experience. Visually, the film is superb, and much less of a life action cartoon like Sam Raimi's versions. It's grittier, darker, and uses New York beautifully, with most of the action lit by the city lights and the moonlight. The film is clearly inspired by Batman Begins, and the darker approach feels much more realistic. The 3D effects are some of the best I have ever seen and I never was distracted or induced with a headache like I have with other 3D films. The cast alone warrants a viewing, and the chemistry between the two leads is beautiful to watch. Andrew Garfield puts the amazing in the title and I cannot wait to continually see him as Peter Parker. Though, even with that, my biggest complaints of the film are the fact that it really uses the idea of a sequel as a crutch and it never tells the full back-story we were promised in the advertising. I feel that the studio took over in the editing process, and hacked away at the film, making it more of a buildup than a stand alone movie. I feel bad for Marc Webb and I hope that if he returns for a sequel, he is given more creative control in post-production. Regardless, The Amazing Spider-Man is one of the best movies of the year and I'm glad to see a blockbuster focus more on the characters and not just the spectacle. 

The Good:
a somewhat fresh take on the origin story we all know, told with a darker style and a more realistic approach
The Better:
3D effects that make you feel like you're Spider-Man (especially in the great first person shots) and the great use of New York City at night
The Best:
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, two actors made for their roles and clearly made for each other

Overall: 8.6/10

Trailer:
Re-watch? Yes
Buy? Definitely

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7 Comments:

At July 7, 2012 at 9:11 AM , OpenID dtmmr said...

Totally unnecessary re-boot, but it was still very fun and entertaining. Also, Garfield was a nice choice for Peter Parker even if I do miss Tobey Maguire just a tad bit. Just a tad, though. Good review Nick.

 
At July 7, 2012 at 9:43 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Honestly, as much as I liked the other Spider-Man movies, I really didn't like Maguire's Peter Parker as much as I thought I did. I thought Garfield nailed it, and when comparing the two, it made me really dislike Tobey Maguire's. I know that's somewhat blasphemous, and I even feel bad for saying so, but maybe that's just Spider-Man 3's bad taste still lingering in my mouth. I'm eager to see where this trilogy will lead and maybe after its conclusion I can look back and compare the two a whole lot better.

 
At July 8, 2012 at 10:21 AM , Blogger Film Flare said...

If I'm being honest, Garfield made me think Maguire was all wrong for the part as well. But I'm not sure if it's because Maguire was bad, or because Garfield is that good. I'm obviously hoping for the second alternative, as I hate to dismiss an actors job.

But one thing is certain, I've never been this pleased with a Spider-Man film. And that was due to what you mentioned: Garfield and Stone, Webb really focusing on his personal life, a little darker, more believable. I too thought that Dr. Connors needed a bit more development. And the 3D was great.

Overall, it was highly entertaining and moving, and it left me craving for the sequel. Much, much better than I expected.

btw, nice good-looking blog.

 
At July 8, 2012 at 11:01 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Thank you for the compliment on the blog appearance. I literally just changed the whole look when I found out I was finally becoming an official LAMB. I really like the new look and glad you like it too.

I'm glad you saw eye to eye with me as well on The Amazing Spider-Man. I knew that the story would be pretty solid, especially between the two leads because Marc Webb made the amazing 500 Days of Summer. He actually went to school for English, so having a storyteller make a film is always better than just a regular ol' filmmaker making one. I do wish there was a bit more substance, but I don't find that at the fault of Webb. Regardless, can't wait for more.

And yes, 3D was great. Wasn't distracting or headache-inducing.

 
At July 10, 2012 at 8:27 AM , Blogger Two Tickets For... said...

Totally agree that in hindsight, Tobey Maguire wasn't a great choice for Peter Parker when you commpare him to Garfield. Maguire certainly fits the slight goofiness that Raimi was shooting for, but Garfield embodies the classic, comic book version of Spider-Man.

Love the layout of your review, btw, Nick. Particularly the "Good, Better, Best" section, that's a nice little summation of things. Great review.

 
At July 10, 2012 at 8:29 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Thank you. For some of the more eh movies, it's also "Good, Bad, Ugly" lol.

 
At July 12, 2012 at 9:37 AM , Blogger Two Tickets For... said...

That's just as cool. Well played, sir.

 

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