Sunday, May 11, 2014

"The Amazing Spider-Man": two-paragraph review

Like a lot of people, I went into my viewing of 2012's "The Amazing Spider-Man" feeling rather skeptical: why do a reboot of a reboot? The three efforts by director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire were perfectly serviceable... and this new film purports to go over Spider-Man's origin story again? Directed by the appropriately named Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary, and Rhys Ifans, "The Amazing Spider-Man" covers many of the same plot points as did Raimi's 2002 effort: Peter Parker's sad-sack existence at school (now a school for science nerds, so even the bullies are nerds), his fateful encounter with the spider that bites him, the death of his uncle, and his troubled love life—this time around with Gwen Stacy (Stone) instead of with Mary Jane Watson. Differences include the conspicuous absence of J. Jonah Jameson, a greater focus on Gwen's father—Captain George Stacy of the NYPD—a more pronounced conflict with New York cops, a Spidey whose webs are artificial instead of natural excrescences, and our chosen villain: the Lizard, a quick-regenerating mutant version of one-armed Dr. Curt Connors of OsCorp. The plot is simple enough: Connors, a former partner-in-science of Peter's missing father, Richard Parker (not a reference to the tiger in "Life of Pi," despite the fact that Irrfan Khan can be found starring in both "Pi" and this movie), has been trying to eliminate human weakness for decades; his cross-species mutagen promises to turn us all into self-healing, super-strong reptiles, so it's just a matter of dispersing the mutagen cloud across all of New York City, and Spidey has to stop him. That's really about it.

Spidey's exploration of his powers, in this new film, isn't nearly as exhilarating as it was in Tobey Maguire's version, and Andrew Garfield, with his overly poofy hair and a face that looks like a vertically crushed version of Jason Bateman's, doesn't make for quite as appealing a Spider-Man. But there are moments of humor and hubris that keep the movie from falling completely flat. The special effects, meanwhile, are not at all a quantum leap from those of the 2007 "Spider-Man 3," which again left me wondering why the hell I was watching this film. The Lizard just doesn't look all that impressive. On the bright side: I liked that Gwen Stacy is smarter and more empowered than either Kirsten Dunst's eternally hapless MJ (Dunst actually complained about MJ's victimhood in the DVD commentary for the third movie) or Bryce Dallas Howard's Gwen Stacy from "Spider-Man 3." The trajectory of her romance with Peter, while roughly following the Peter/MJ path from the Raimi films, shows a bit more promise. The musical score was a big disappointment: I generally enjoy the scores of James Horner ("Star Trek II," "Star Trek III," "Aliens," "Apollo 13," "Titanic," "Avatar"), but for this film he seemed both to crib from his own previous work (he's been guilty of that in the past) as well as from the much more memorable work of Danny Elfman, whose scores for the Raimi films were superb, albeit Batman-tinged. Overall, I found "The Amazing Spider-Man" to be watchable; as a different version of the Spidey origin story, it had its moments. That said, this was less of a true reboot and more of a mere retread. I'm not convinced the film should even have been made.


1 comment:

John from Daejeon said...

This "reboot" is/was a hell of a lot closer to the Web-head's original comic book story-line than Raimi's version which is probably why it isn't appealing to as great of audience, especially as it really stuck to the comic book story-line in the latest film (I won't give away the spoiler--even though any real Spidey fan would have known it was surely coming).

I wasn't as blown away by this new retelling as I was by Raimi's version, but we should come to expect these "reboots" to come every few years as new generations of movie goers need to be taken to the cleaners (as well as older fans) by the money hungry corporations in the movie biz. Why else would we see those old geezers reprising their roles (why can't they just be computer generated images of their young selves) in the new "Star Wars" saga and Ben "freaking" Affleck as The Batman?

Luckily for me in this high-tech age, I can always drown my sorrows by watching better versions of my favorite Wall-Crawler like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (well, better in terms of impacting my childhood) and the best/definitive version of Spidey to date, The Spectacular Spider-Man.