I get it. The director of your franchise, which grossed more than 2.5 billion in box office receipts, and the studio couldn’t reach a deal on the fourth film. Honestly, it’s probably better that way considering the way the third film shit in my eyeballs. Stayin’ Alive and a Spiderman film have nothing in common, but apparently Sam Raimi thought the web-slinger needed more music. So yeah, fuck that guy. And honestly, if you’re going to reboot a franchise, your window is wide-open. Brooding teenagers are “in” and so are reboots, prequels, and whatever the fuck THE THING film was last year. Reboot this bastard and hold it up high like Mola Ram holds a heart. Make it your summer tent-pole, take the bad taste of the third film out of our mouth and find a director who can own this film like Christopher Nolan owns Batman.
What this all means is that once again we are going to have to sit through the overly familiar Spiderman origin story, sit through the “discovering your powers” action scenes, and walk through another love story. THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN isn’t breaking new ground, but it is a very solid film that stays (for the most part) true to the world created in the comic book. I think it’s better than Raimi’s first SPIDERMAN, not even close to SPIDERMAN 2, but its CITIZEN KANE compared to SPIDERMAN 3.
The biggest complaint I had with the Raimi films was Tobey Maguire, he just never worked for me as everyone’s favorite web slinger and was about as far from Peter Parker as you can imagine. Spidey is a smartass, a showoff, and at times overconfident, everything that Peter Parker isn’t. Peter is insecure, shy, and never trusts himself to put one foot in front of the other. In THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN our hero is played by Andrew Garfield fresh from THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and once the mask is on, he becomes the Spiderman we’ve all wanted to see. He tosses out one-liners just as quick as his manufactured webbing. When the mask is off and it’s back to Parker, he is awkward, bullied, and curious.
There are times he pouts too much, moments when he cries a little too much (and loudly) when he should be kicking-ass, but Garfield is really good in both roles. In fact, I think the “discovering your powers” moments in the film are the best scenes in the picture. He’s not the reason why the film works so well though. For a film that takes nearly an hour to deliver the origin story, it’s the supporting cast which really delivers.
First things first; Emma Stone is fucking amazing as Gwen Stacy. She is so good in this that it makes those creepy Jim Carrey videos where he professes his love to her (Google it) a little more understandable. I remember seeing her in EASY A and being convinced it wouldn’t be long before she delivered some performances we wouldn’t soon be forgetting and she’s turning me into one smart motherfucker with that declaration. She has a real sense of control as Stacy, she has scenes of real heartbreak, real courage, and Stone also gets a few moments to use her comedic timing.
Next we have Uncle Ben and Aunt May played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field (you guess who plays who). It’s unfortunate that Sheen never gets to say “with great power comes great responsibility”, this is one of the biggest flaws in the film from a fans perspective, but his performance is touching and he deserves all the accolades he is sure to get from it. Field is good as well but she doesn’t have a lot of screen time, plays the role a little too young, but she’s very effective even if she doesn’t nail the character like Rosemary Harris in Raimi’s films.
Now for the two actors who I can’t stand in their roles: Dennis Leary, and Rhys Ifans. Dennis Leary is Captain Stacy, the tough talking cop and father of Gwen. Leary is not a great actor but he’s serviceable. I dug his work on RESCUE ME but he has a really tough time connecting to anybody in this film. I think the fault may be one of the three screenwriters because Leary has some terrible dialogue including a moment near the end where he talks about “many masks” that ends up sounding like some kind of eastern philosophy bullshit.
But let’s get rough, I am ready to rip Ifans to shreds. He plays Dr. Curt Connors /The Lizard, and his scenes are fucking terrible. In fact, when he’s in the movie, everything I love about it stops and I just want him to disappear. When he’s Dr. Connors he is either crying about his stump of a right arm or trying to regenerate it. Somewhere in between he tosses in some science jibber-jabber and speaks with tones that range from professorial to dire but that’s about it. This has to be one of the weakest villains we have had in a superhero film since Kevin Spacey went chrome dome in SUPERMAN RETURNS. His motivations are almost as bad as his look which is almost south of a Toho monster. This is just a really poor and unfortunate part of this film.
THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN is good, but it isn’t great. To be great you needed a strong villain, you needed someone that stands their own ground against Spiderman, not just on a physical level but on an emotional one as well and we just don’t get that. There are three or four scenes that Spiderman and The Lizard share together and one of those scenes is on a bridge where Spidey sees him for the first time. They don’t interact with each other but it’s the film’s best moment. The action on the bridge is one of those hold-your-breathe moments that we live for. It doesn’t say much about your villain when every other fight is boring and forgettable. And while we’re on the topic of things that I didn’t like about the film, the 3D sucks. It doesn’t add anything to the experience other than a bigger gouge to your wallet. I understand what director Marc Webb was thinking with the attempt to use it. He was trying to give you the first-person experience of being Spiderman but it doesn’t happen often enough and when it does it is just kind of jarring.
I am not sure how you go from directing a couple music videos to a breakout indie hit (500) DAYS OF SUMMER to gigantic summer action film but Marc Webb did it and he did it with enough skill that I am genuinely curious to see what round 2 looks like (also curious to see if he can top the Stan Lee cameo which now is officially the best one to date). Webb may not be on the level of Nolan, but the shirt fits and he wears it well. The few missteps are more attributable to the writing of the film than the directing. This is a film that knows when to let the characters develop and when to fight, even if some of those fights don’t always work. There is some tremendous chemistry between these actors, even if some of the actors aren’t as developed as we would like. This is a very solid, successful reboot and a franchise that is in good hands with Webb, Garfield, Stone and the others. Hopefully with all this get to know ya stuff outta the way we can beat some bad guys for a good 120 minutes. Whaddya say web-slinger?
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,
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