Friday, July 6, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)

Unlike in previous films, this relationship works....
"Your boyfriend is a man of many masks.  I get that."

1) I don't mind Andrew Garfield as the new Spidey; I think he gets the gawkiness of the character down cold, especially in the scenes where he interacts with Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy. The only real problem, although not a fatal one, is that the film is working so hard to distance their Peter from Tobey Maguire's Peter that he comes off as too cool. We never quite buy him as the put-upon nerd who needs Spider-Man to escape into.

2) Denis Leary rocks the house every time he walks onscreen as Captain Stacy....and one of the strengths of his performance is how the script takes advantage of Leary's onstage persona to define him, while allowing Leary himself to infuse the character with a degree of intelligence and respect. My only regret is that the script chose to saddle him with the role usually assigned to J. Jonah Jameson, which robs him of what made him compelling in the comics--namely, that he was smart enough to figure out that Peter and Spidey were one and the same long before Peter suspected.

"Raaaahr!  I's a monsta!"
3) Okay, I like that this film chose to take a page out of the Raimi films in casting character actor Rhys Ifan as The Lizard. And I acknowledge that many of the elements in his story arc are elements taken directly from comic stories regarding the Lizard. However, this script cannot seem to decide whether Curt Conners starts out his story arc as a corrupted individual or if his intentions are pure, albeit twisted by the influence of the Reptile serum. The story and his motivations tend to be muddled with every plot point that is introduced about the character, which robs the film of a proper narrative flow. That being said....

4) The collapsing of The Lizard's origin into Spidey's works a Hell of a lot better than the tinkering that connected The Green Goblin to Spidey in the Raimi film. Overall, the changes to the origin as a whole make the film tighter and more logical in its pace. Even the way the script chooses to dispense with the wrestling angle while still making wrestling a part of Peter's inspiration streamlines and strengthens this section of the character's arc.

5) This film has no sense of New York geography whatsoever. This is the kind of topsy-turvy world where apparently Forest Hills is recognizably Brooklyn (Peter even takes the Q train home, a line that never stops in Queens). Hell, the flick so fetishizes the Oscorp Tower that no other place seems to exist in its world....

6) ....and while we're on the subject, I call for a ban on action scenes on New York bridges in super-hero movies. As good as the scene is where Peter has to save a boy from a car suspended from the 'Williamsburg Bridge' (obviously the Queensborough Bridge, incidentally), the stuff that happens before and after is dull and uninteresting. It's become a trope that desperately needs to be retired.

Of course, after seeing what Chris Nolan is planning to do to our spans in the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, I see this is a futile effort.

7) That being said, I like how Spidey's saving of the boy Jack pays off during the climax, with Jack's Father (played by C. Thomas Howell) actually using his position to help him get to Oscorp Towers. This little subplot makes the same point that those scenes of New Yorkers sticking up for Spidey in the Raimi films did, but in a way that keeps the narrative flow moving rather than pausing it.

8) It's obvious that Columbia has seen the success Marvel Studios has had with the creation of its movie-verse and wants to make one of its own....but it's doing so clumsily. The rather hamfisted mentions of Norman Osborn throughout practically scream out 'this is for another film! Green Goblin here!', and the post-credit scene is horribly mangled. You know, if you want us comic geeks to recognize the presence of a new character, it might be a good idea to actually give us something of a clear shot of him!

While Andrew Garfield and Sally Fields are in the scene,
Martin Sheen has flashbacks to trying to raise Charlie....

9) The interesting thing about the use of Martin Sheen and Sally Fields as Uncle Ben and Aunt May is how the film once more goes out of its way to try and make them nothing like the Raimi versions of these characters--and yet here it works. You get a definite sense of what these two people were like in the past, and how their strength and sensitivity manages to inform and support the person Peter is. I certainly get the impression that the stories we'll be getting with Fields will be the kind of thing we couldn't get with Rosemary Harris....although I could have done with a little more subtlety as to their hinting at May knowing Peter is Spider-Man.

10) I get that Peter feels responsible for Conners' transformation into The Lizard....however, I do find it peculiar that the first half has Peter searching for the robber who killed Uncle Ben pretty incessantly, only for that whole aspect of his character drop once the actual super-villian-y aspect of the film kicks in. One of the primary things Peter learns in catching the robber is that revenge is not a proper motivation...and this iteration of Peter never learns it. It's a strange, strange thing to have disappear during the narrative.

Overall...even though it spends far too much time establishing that it's decidedly not the Raimi films and is confused about what it ultimately wants to accomplish, it's okay for what it is, thanks primarily to strong central performances.

Went to The Atlas again. Since I hadn't been at the theaters for a while, most of the trailers were new to me save for the one for The Dark Knight Rises, which continues to fill me with ennui. Oddly enough, the one that got me the most excited was the one for Pitch Perfect, a comedy about the collegiate acapella scene. And I will not mention the Firstlook speil about Elementary that only served to make me mad with every mention everyone in the cast makes about how this idea of a modern day Sherlock Holmes has never been done before...

Fuck you, CBS.

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