Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Amazing Re-Boot

SONY Pictures swings a pretty decent franchise reset with The Amazing Spider-Man

ARTH VADER (AV): If anyone had any misgivings about the Spider-Man franchise,  you can breathe a sigh of relief. Especially if this summer's The Amazing Spider-Man is any indication of things to come. Fans and story purists will not be thinking happy thoughts as this movie attempts to spin a wider arc of the life of Peter Parker that includes the mysterious disappearance of his parents. And while The Lizard is a long-time spidey adversary, actually appearing in Spider-Man #6 way back in 1963, he is hardly well known. However, with so many reboots to the Marvel universe in recent years, its no wonder that SONY (note Marvel Studios) runs willy-nilly with the story line. That said, the motivations of Dr. Curt Connors (played by Ryas Ifans) to harness reptilian DNA to re-grow his lost arm is very much in line with the original Lizard's motivations.

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Continuity...? What’s that...? That’s what I envision the writers of this film thought as they wrote this film. It doesn’t directly correspond to any iteration from the comics, nor does it continue from the previous silver screen showings. The genetically altered spider is straight from the Ultimate Spider-Man origin (along with the mystery of Peter’s parents), but similarities end there. It looks like The Amazing Spider-Man is starting it’s own continuity, and we’ll be comparing the second film to this one for consistency. 

AV: I am NOT going to be well-liked on my views for this movie's casting, Pontificator. Andrew Garfield is a talented, witty and extremely charismatic guy–and he is definitely NOT Peter Parker. Parker is supposed to a be small, frail, nerdy introvert with a big brain and even bigger insecurities. He is not supposed to be a six-foot cool hipster skater-punk, with awesome hair, a leather jacket and a skateboard, who clearly already has the eye of the hot girl. And while I am waxing opinionated here–Sally Field as Aunt May? Really? Sure Sally is well into her 60's but, still a bit too hot (yes I said it) and worldly to play Peter's frail, white-haired aunt. The rest of the cast more less worked but these two–just not right. But hey, what do I know, I'm just a fan writing a movie review blog. 

TP: I thought the casting was good Vader. I had some reservations with Andrew Garfield, but they were quickly dispelled with his Peter Parker as he brought his own flavor to the role. I was surprised and pleased at the depth he brought to the character. Emma Stone played a good Gwen Stacy, although there wasn’t much range in the script for her character or for Rhys Ifans role as The Lizard, but this isn’t a “Grammy” type of movie. I enjoyed Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy even though Denis Leary is...well...Denis Leary no matter what role he plays. The film kept a great pace as it alternated between heavy bouts of action and drama.

AV: I will say this movie delivers in this category. I had heard that the majority of Spider-Man shots in the film were effects shots to ensure fluid, seamless consistency  especially during the fight sequences with the Lizard. I am delighted that the technology these days is so sophisticated that our eyes no longer know the difference between live action and CGI shots. As it should be. The sewer battle(s) between Spidey and The Lizard was some of the best I have seen. Also, as an additional bonus this movie did introduce a new shot/camera technique that showed Spidey's web-slinging from his point-of-view. Especially effective in 3D, the web-swinging sequences were breathtaking. 
TP: Simply fantastic. It’s tough to do something new in films and doing old effects in a better way has become the norm...and this film certainly capitalized here. The CGI was done very well with particular kudos to the flawless action sequences. I was especially pleased with the new take on “perspective filming” as I felt what it might be like traveling the city as Spider-Man. This was just another example of how far the technology has come from the very first film. Makes me excited to see what will be showing ten years from now. 


AV: So I have already beat this film up on its re-imagined portrayal of Petey Parker and the proposed miscasting of Aunt May, but the movie has many hits and misses. For starters, I personally didn't need to see Uncle Ben's death (again). The spider-bite scene in the lab seemed hurried and unimportant and the notion that 17 year-old (?) Peter Parker was able to solve–or offer-a formulaic equation Dr. Connors spent more than 10 years on was ridiculous to me. The movie never established Peter Parker as a smart science geek. It assumes we know that from previous stories but that was a mistake to me. Still, the film showed a lot of good story pacing, the action scenes were some of the best Spider-Man action scenes ever and world of Spider-Man is now open with a dashing–if not misrepresented–new young, actor. And with a laugh-out-loud appearance by Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, I for one, am hopeful!

TP: I was very critical while watching this film, looking for where I might be let down...and not finding much in the way of subtractions, although I do agree with you Vader about the spider-bite scene. Without question the performance of Garfield carried the film and the action and special effects filled in the rest...which brings me to what was missing. The first Spider-Man was a well rounded film having something for everyone...comedy, drama and action. This film was not. It had ample action and was very top heavy with drama, but I noticed I hardly ever laughed. The comic relief sequences provided by J.Jonah Jameson in the first film was missing... and Garfield’s serious performance didn’t fill this void. Not a very bad thing, it’s just the best films have a complete package in my opinion. Apart from that, I was irritated watching the rescue on the bridge scene because the physics of fire and heat were completely ignored.


AV: SONY (Pictures) has already revealed that this film is the first in a new Spider-Man trilogy. So sequels, baring any world wars, planet-killing meteors or Zombie apocalypses aside, we should expect future Spider-Man films of this calibre. While not on par with Marvel Studio's quality, this movie is a far sight better than the disastrous Spider-Man 3. The film implied that the serum was meant for an ailing Norman Osborn and the mysterious man in Dr. Connors cell during the teaser at mid-credits is unknown to me. I guessed Mysterio or the Illusive Man but hopefully my partner-in-penmanship will be able to shed some light on this matter. Pontificator? 
TP: Vader, I have no idea who that was. I was even speculating that Connor’s is having a Gaius Baltar moment, talking to his hallucinations. As for a sequel, of course there will be a sequel since the mystery of Peter’s parents needs to be revealed...and Spider-Man will never be just a one picture type of endeavor. I can only hope they continue to explore other rogues in his gallery...but with Oscorp looming in the background, something tells me a reinvented Green Goblin isn’t far behind. 


ARTH VADER rates The Amazing Spider-Man: While there are a handful of unanswered questions and a host of small, but significant concerns, overall this is a really good movie, folks. Lots of fun, with definite chemistry between Garfield and real-life smooch partner Emma Stone, a host of great effects and obvious set-ups for future installments helps shed some redeeming light on what was an otherwise faltering franchise. Fun, fast-paced and a genuine good time, The Amazing Spider-Man swings into this summer's movie line-up with a solid eight (8) busted blocks. Ponty? 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates The Amazing Spider-Man: A great film, although I’m not sold on it being better overall than the very first...the action was stellar and the characterization of Peter Parker was taken to a new level, swinging in and webbing up eight (8) busted blocks.

The Amazing Spider-Man: 8/10 Busted Blocks

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