Wednesday, July 4, 2012
The Amazing Spider-Man, a review
Peter Parker has gone through the meat grinder, being reborn a mere five years after Raimi's train wreck Spider-Man 3. With a new director, new cast and franchise direction, does this new origin story still have the same magic?
You've all heard the story. High school nerd struggles with bullies, beautiful girls out of his class, and getting nibbled on by mean super spiders, wakes up, powerful enough to skeet web everywhere and flex like he's been working out in Venice Beach.
Onto the review!
Much of my critiques run the gamut of "been here, seen that."
Made a decade after Raimi first spun onto the scene (hah), the special effects of The Amazing Spider-Man are surprisingly similar to the first Spider-Man. Namely, the motions of Spidey running first-person pov over rooftops are jerky, and there is very little flair in the choreography. The fight scenes are a mix of bland and poorly timed.
A fight scene in a subway when Spidey first finds his powers had awesome potential: a guy with epic powers figures them out while in a speeding tin can on wheels. A recipe for awesome. However, the scene attempts to go for laughs, eschewing the gritty nature of the sequence and instead offers Jason Statham-esque fighting previously seen in Safe, and done quite better in Safe. The concept is great, but it is not well executed.
The sound design is strong, and often I did find myself ducking when webbing was shot out near or past the screen. The editing however, keeps small scenes around for far too long, outstaying their welcome. We came for Spidey to kick some major ass, and those scenes are over far too quickly. A critique this Spidey films shares with the first one.
Overall, nothing you haven't seen before, save for a few attempts at innovation that don't work for me at all. Conceptually rich, sub-standard execution.
This is where the film falters the most. It takes over an hour for Spidey to make an appearance, which means Peter Parker has to sustain us. Garfield makes for a great Spider-Man, but a decent Peter Parker. He plays the typical cliche rebellious teenager who really needs to grow up, and is forced (walks into?) a rough situation.
The acting is as diverse as a batch of McDonald's' french fries. Garfield and Emma Stone have decent chemistry, but Stone looks far too old to be in high school. My girlfriend even pointed this out before I noticed it. Sally Field's either has the worst dialogue in the film, or she cannot act. I'm leaning towards the first option. Martin Sheen is criminally underused and is gone before he can even give a decent speech about taxes and foreign policy.
Rhys Ifans is actually outstanding as Dr. Curt Connors, showing off hidden bravado and deep remorse throughout most of the film, except when he's covered in scales and bearing vampiric fangs. Honestly, he is my favorite part of the story, and the one scene where he is at home and observes his stump of an arm is actually quite potent. Alas, it is over too quick and we have moved on to watching Peter Parker meander around until Connors flips his wig.
The pacing never quite takes off, and the second half of the film suffers. The highlight is watching Spidey fight off the cops, but that only lasts a few minutes and then we're back to meandering around, waiting for the stakes to rise. Which they never do.
Though the themes of responsibility are touched on, they take a back seat to the love story. The love story itself is at points awkward and cute, touched up by various different writers with varying results. At the very heart of Spider-Man is the concept of great power and responsibility. I'm all for messing with concepts and reworking them, but they fundamentally missed the very point of Spider-Man, and that is that power, without responsibility, is deadly.
Though The Amazing Spider-Man had a bevy of great writers to work with, the ultimate result is flat and thematically weightless.
There are some excellent parts to The Amazing Spider-Man. Rhys Ifans is great, Garfield is decent, the gritty tone (though poorly executed) was indeed welcome. But, the most disappointing thing about The Amazing Spider-Man is not that it falls under the shadow of Raimi's original, but that it falls beneath both Whedon and Nolan's superior comic book offerings and gives us very little to truly be amazed by.
2 out of 5.