Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Truly Amazing

  Not even one week after I said I was keeping these short... ay ay ay! And "The Amazing Spider-Man" comes along. A movie that by no stretch of the imagination was going to be a small splash this Summer, but had become sort of a small blip in my movie radar. I knew I was going to go watch it, mind you, just because I love me some Spidey; but there was something about this movie that didn't click with me during the trailers. And man, I'm glad my hunch was wrong this time. Dead wrong.

Also known as: The Quirky, The Flexible and The Emotional Spider-Man.

  Directed by Marc Webb (and no, I'm not going to make the obvious pun) this reboot/remake entangles (dammit!) one Andrew Garfield in the lead role of Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and the always lovely Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's first love in the comics. The cast is rounded out by Martin Sheen (!) and Sally Field (!!) as Uncle Ben Parker and Aunt May Parker respectively. Along the ride we have Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy, Gwen's father, and Rhys Ifans as the movie's villain Dr. Curt Connors (AKA The Lizard). I'm sure a lot of people are wondering why exactly we needed a reboot/remake of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy already, I'm not exactly sure myself since this is still a Sony endeavor, meaning it won't sync up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Thor/Cap America/Iron Man/Hulk/The Avengers) which is a darn shame since I think this is the best the character has looked on-screen since Spider-Man 2.

"Now kiss and make up."

  Yes, Andrew Garfield is the better Peter Parker, nothing against Tobey McGuire of course since he made that role his in both the original Spider-Man and the outstanding Spider-Man 2 but his stock certainly fell quite a bit in the third installment. There's something about both Garfield's performance, and the fact that this movie has a better script, that makes this version of Peter no only more fascinating but incredibly sympathetic. While both Tobey and Andrew play outcasts, Andrew's version and the events that transpire and how he reacts to them has more resonance and credibility. I recently watched the original Spider-Man for comparison and I don't remember feeling nearly as much as I felt for Uncle Ben's death (SPOILERS!?) as much as I did in this version. Could it be because I'm more of a mature person a decade later after the fact? Or is the relationship between Martin Sheen's Uncle Ben and Peter Parker portrayed on-screen that much more solid and the fallout therein has much more of an impact on the viewer? And man, don't even get me started on Aunt May's scenes, Sally Field's facial expressions almost made me want to call my own mother and apologize for the crap Peter did throughout the movie. I think I had something in my eye about three times during the movie...

  Another strong element is the casting as Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, not that I have anything against Kirsten Dunst's portrayal of Mary Jane, but I never once bought that her and Tobey had any real chemistry. Andrew and Emma have incredibly chemistry in this movie, perhaps the best on-screen chemistry for any superhero couple, and the list is quite long, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts is easily the best "relationship" in all the Marvel movies as far as on-screen personas go. That alone makes the usual contrived "romance" subplot that much more accessible to the audience, since you're not pondering about how hard it must've been for each actor to get in the zone for such a scene. You get lost in the scene with them, and that's good. If anything, it makes the inevitable tragedy of the character that much more hurtful, especially for those of us who see it a mile away.

"I'm just bustin' yo' balls, Petah!"

  Dennis Leary's Captain Stacy is both a refreshing character in the franchise and a hoot. It's basically Dennis playing his Rescue Me's Tommy Gavin (there's a scene involving Emma trying to hide Peter that echoes some of the situations found in that show with Tommy's many female co-stars) but with a small, and I mean small, dose of sweetness. His crusade against the masked vigilante and the ultimate payoff of his character arc are perhaps the best co-star arc in all of the Spider-Man movies (save for Doctor Octopus). I do consider it a shame that we won't be seeing more of the character in this planned trilogy.

  For all the good, there is one thing about the movie that doesn't quite click, and that's the villain, Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard. While the seeds for Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) are certainly planted, I can't help but feel the villain felt a bit too familiar, more of a Spider-Man's rogues gallery issue than a movie issue mind you. The doctor who happens to be a friend (?) of the family, the teacher/student relationship with Peter, the mutation, having dueling monologues with himself, etc. It also didn't help that the CGI used for The Lizard was utterly atrocious, almost as bad as Thor's frost giants. But that's nitpicking at what is otherwise the best "origin" story told for Spider-Man. It's not THE best Spider-Man movie, that title still belongs to Spider-Man 2, but if there's ever a prize for being second best, The Amazing Spider-Man should take it. And as far as reboots go, this is as close as we'll get to a "Batman Begins" type reboot for our Friendly Neighborhood's Web Crawler.   

SHR Rating

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