Tuesday, July 3, 2012

movie review: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Going in to see The Amazing Spider-Man, I wanted to avoid comparing it to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. But that is going to be hard to do, since the new movie is kind of like watching a rerun. After only a decade, we get to see the origin of Spider-Man again, but this time its on a somewhat smaller scale.  The Amazing Spider-Man lacks some of the epic nature of Raimi's version. The story takes place over a couple weeks, where the Raimi original covered a couple years.  The new movie veers off from the comic books, into a made-for-cinema direction, where Raimi was very loyal (with the exception of mechanical webshooters) to the comics, even taking great care to duplicate many classic Spidey poses into live action.  The new director, Marc Webb, only does this a couple times, most notably in the final slow motion shot of Spidey. The movie has some good moments, while also seeming a little redundant by retelling the origin.  There are some scenes of Peter's childhood and a background for his father as a trailblazer in human-animal mutation that slows the film down. You get the hint the plan may be to reveal in the sequel Peter's father experimented on an infant Peter with some mutant spider gene, which is why the spider bite activated Peter's spider powers. Marc Webb could have easily made a full-fledged Spider-Man 4 which would have made a much better film.  Especially when you consider Raimi introduced Gwen Stacy and set the stage for the Lizard in Spider-Man 3.

Andrew Garfield, who takes over the title role from Toby Maguire, turned out to be a very good choice.  Maguire was a little more likable as the character, and had the Spidey poses down better than Garfield, but Garfield conveys a gloominess Maguire did not have, and focuses his portrayal on Peter's intelligence (opposed to Maguire, who took more of a dorky nerd approach).  Garfield's Peter is more of a loner, missing the friendship of Harry Osborn. Unfortunately, Garfield also lacked Maguire's comedic timing. The attempts at humor in the new movie seem forced and fall flat.  The movie's only genuinely funny moment is Stan Lee's cameo. 

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy (replacing Bryce Dallas Howard) is more likable in the role than Howard was, but in this movie, Gwen is supposed to be more intelligent than Peter (as she teases him for being second best).  But Stone exhibits too much of an airhead personality to make it believable Gwen is so intelligent.

Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben is all right, but phones his performance in. Literally, at the end of the movie, where Peter plays Uncle Ben's final voice mail, it sounds like Sheen is reading it cold from a script with no emotion or feeling at all. Sally Field is kind of forgettable as Aunt May.  Then there is Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy.  Imagine if washed up racist comedian Michael Richards was cast as Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movies.  While Leary isn't quite that bad, the role would have been better served by an actual actor rather than a smug stand up comic.

Rhys Ifans is good as Dr Curt Conners, but The Lizard suffers from looking a little fake.  OK, admittedly it would be very hard to do a character like The Lizard without looking a little fake. However, many aspects of this version of Conners/The Lizard seem to be a carbon copy of Alfred Molina's portrayal of Dr Octopus from Spider-Man 2.  Its the same dynamic, where he becomes a mentor of sorts to Peter, then becomes the villain, only to have a redemption in the end.

The action sequences are very good, but its the script that kind of drags the movie down.  Overall, if you are not a major Spidey fan and are debating whether to see this movie, I'd advise you just wait until it airs on cable.

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