Posts Tagged ‘Spider-Man’

Review: The Amazing Spiderman (very light on spoilers)

Sunday, July 8th, 2012


The Amazing Spiderman is the Casino Royale of comic-based movies.

And now, I shall explain myself…

I went into The Amazing Spiderman with little info. I’d seen trailers. I knew the director and cast. I knew there was negativity in the online community. I read one review, Manohla Dargis’ mixed NYT notice. And I knew that Sony had screwed the pooch with the media in general by premiering the film in England while refusing to show it stateside, even under strict embargo.

So I went into a Glasgow multiplex, 5 days into the film’s run. 1:30p 3D show. RealD glasses at the cost of 80p (about $1.25) to the ticket buyer. The theater promoted “permanent” glasses one could purchase. The 3D bump was £2.10 (about $3.25), making the price £10.80 or with glasses about $18 US. The theater was about 85% full. The chain offered a 10% discount for buying online and also, a £14.99 ($23.25) a month (3D costs extra) all-you-can-watch pass.


I found the movie to be a revelation. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Raimi’s movies, mostly because of the villains (all lame and under motivated for my tastes) and the endless vamping around the central relationship. What I loved and respected about Raimi’s films is that he embraced the comic book completely. Raimi’s vision was more loyal to the books than any comic book based movie until that time. The great Tobey Maguire was perfect for Raimi’s Spidey vision. Maguire had played a lot of teens and brought an edge to them that added a layer. In Spider-Man, he was stripped down to being more vulnerable than we’d seen him… earnest. And Kirsten Dunst was a lovely object of his passion… unobtainable blonde Hitchcock girl trying to be an adult as Peter Parker tried to hang onto his inner teen. She was hot for the guy in the suit with the codpiece and the power.

Marc Webb didn’t “reboot” Spiderman. He reconsidered Spiderman the way a theater director reconsiders Shakespeare. From the evidence of the film itself, it seems that Webb and writers James Vanderbilt/Alvin Sargent/Steve Kloves looked at the idea of Spiderman – teenager of the moment gains power, gains ego, loses loved ones, falls in love, commits to doing good even at personal expense – and didn’t get caught up in the history of the book or movies… kinda like Frank Miller reconsidered Batman.

The Amazing Spider-Man’s Peter Parker is a nerd. But he has the natural anger of a whip smart kid in 2012. He isn’t a wallflower. He rides a skateboard because he does, not to be cool or to offer a plot point. He has a gift for science. And without making it into a Feminist Plotpoint, so does Gwen Stacy.

The casting of the actors in these two roles is perfect. Andrew Garfield looks like the Peter Parker of the original books, all neck and expressive hair. Add intense eyes and a lot of emotional acting skill in between and in spite of being too old for the role, he’s perfect. I hated the idea of Emma Stone wasting her time in this film… I guess because I thought to would be a dead end that she had to recover from, as Kirsten Dunst is still escaping Mary Jane. But Gwen is not just an object here. She has the blonde hair and I have never seen Ms Stone dressed to accentuate her height, legs, and comfortable sexuality as she is here. But she is also more than capable of keeping up with Peter on an intellectual level while being far more sophisticated on an emotional level. He grunts a lot when faced with emotional expression… like all teen boys and the vast majority of grown men.

Choosing Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben was another stroke of genius, though the script made the casting, that seemed off, make perfect sense. Sheen plays yet another version of his character from Wall Street… but he’s just so good at it. Yes, they have dumped “With great power comes great responsibility.” And they replaced it with actual scenes with Uncle Ben trying to teach Peter what that means, starting with having great responsibility if you have no power at all. I know some underpants have bunched up over this kind of thing, but Peter Parker isn’t Superman… he’s a young man figuring out his limited powers.

This is at the crux, I think, of whether you buy into this new version of onscreen Spidey or not. I don’t want oversimplify either side of the argument, but for me, this film’s relationship between Uncle Ben and Peter is the most real and emotional it has ever been. He is Uncle and father. His arguments to Peter are clear and not cluttered by some new power. There is something iconic and cool about “With great power…” But when Uncle Ben dies here, the message is stronger and the emotion is also.

Aunt May, like Gwen, is not a female who needs her hand held. She is a 60ish woman who works, who might not be safe on the subway at 9p at night, but who has enough of a brain in her head to figure things out as they connect to the real world, of which she is an active and conscious member.

I loved PP’s coming to understand his new powers. It was as good as Raimi’s and like the whole film, less cute/kitsch. The suit makes perfect sense to me. The mechanical web shooters fit the vision of Parker here and I like that the chance if scientific/mechanical failure opens dramatic/action doors.

Shall I state the obvious here? I don’t care about the tradition so much as I care about the movie. I don’t care whether Peter’s parents ever showed up in the comic. I don’t care about this like or that line. I don’t care if it takes an hour to get to the suit. Am I involved in this story? Do I care? Answer here: YES!

While most comic-based movies are about big action beats, the action on ASM is clearly the secondary consideration. A basis in real emotion always comes first. The best comparison, to me, is Bond. That series evolved from the straight-forward Connery films to an increasingly comic Roger Moore to a very serious Timothy Dalton to an oddly familiar but not overly exciting Pierce Brosnan. And then, they broke the mold with Casino Royale and a real actor in Daniel Craig. (God knows, Brosnan would have loved to play the Bond they wrote for Craig and might have been great.)

I can’t really think of a comic-based movie that has leapt so dramatically from obsessing on the original text… to make it better, decades later. The stupidest notion I have heard, now that I have seen the film, is that they didn’t need to do the origin story again. Well.. this is a more radical leap than Burton/Schumacher to Nolan. It clearly needs this version of the origin story to move forward. Nolan’s Batman also demanded a reboot, though less radically because the idea of Dark Knight was already so well defined by the books.

But the idea that a franchise needs to die (see: Batman & Robin) before being reconsidered is a bit of self- loathing from geeks. I think of all stories more like I do theater. There are too many Shakespeare rethinks, ultimately. Most are shite. But a good one is a glorious thing. And so, I am willing to wade through the others to get there. I don’t think Webb and Co consciously said, “Fuck the prior series,” holding out some of the classic notions in an act of arrogant petulance. None of the Spider-man dialogue was Shakespeare. ASM is as different from the Raimi films as Zeffirelli’s Hamlet with Mel Gibson was from Olivier’s… or Branagh’s Henry V from Olivier’s revered classic. Those films kept Shakespeare’s poetry, but did edit substantially… And changed meaning and subtext.

When Amazing Spiderman asks the basic questions, like how would a man behave after Spiderman saved his 4-year-old from a blazing car that’s been thrown off of the Williamsburg bridge by a giant lizardman, the writers didn’t look to old comics for answers. They sought a realistic emotional truth. And when they expand that particular bit, it speaks to the audience’s greater truth, that defeating evil is more compelling when we all reach for our best selves together, not just relying on one guy in a suit with special powers. This is radical for a superhero movie. It’s as though Hawkeye and Black Widow actually had something to do in the third act.

The movie is filled with these moments of unexpected true emotion. From Captain Stacy obsessing on what little he knows and refusing to show any imagination then figuring things out, to Flash being a human who understands loss, to C. Thomas Howell, to Rhys Ifans, whose serious performance here could change the rest of his career. (I hated the CG lizard at first… but thought it got to be quite strong in the last reel.). Gwen’s dramatic side was beautifully written and performed.

This isn’t Dark Knight at all. Batman is a much darker, much more adult character. But what does reflect Nolan is that the villain in the next ASM movie won’t – if things continue in this vein – be about spectacle, but character. Whatever the costume, the motivation will not be – mwah ha ha – killing everyone in midtown Manhattan for no real reason, but something personal… even intimate. You know, like desperately wanting your arm back but the cure making you insane or like how being a vampire gives you everlasting life, but you need to kill humans to sustain yourself.

I am truly shocked by what this movie is and how gutsy the choice by Sony and Marvel was. I am somewhat embarrassed by the knee jerk reaction of some who constantly scream about originality being dead, yet seem to want this film dead for being too original… or not seeing the originality for the history, the budget, expectations, and god knows what other distractions.

I am not saying you need to love ASM or that you are a misguided fool if you don’t. Reasonable, intelligent people can disagree about all art. But I was really moved by this film, more so than by any other comic-based film I’ve ever seen. (This doesn’t include graphic novel films like A History of Violence.) I was very, very impressed. And I love that it’s not like any other superhero film. I went down that road with Peter Parker. I believed him.

I like this Spiderman better than Raimi’s… Much as I prefer Indy 2 to the rest But one doesn’t have to choose. They are two different visions and you can care about both on their own scale. Embrace you truest, best feeling and embrace it. Don’t react because you expected this or that and feel like you gave to take sides. That’s what Uncle Ben would tell you… even if neither you nor I have great power or responsibility for the future of this series. And don’t be surprised if I hug you even if you just threw a basketball at my head… or this review.

Dissecting That Andrew Garfield Spider-Man Portrait

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Dissecting That Andrew Garfield Spider-Man Portrait

MW on Movies: Avatar, Modern Times, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Apocalypse Now/Apocalypse Now Redux

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010



Avatar (Three Disc Extended Edition Blu-ray Digital DVD Combo) (Four Stars)
U. S.; James Cameron, 2009 (Fox)

Avatar, James Cameron’s` planet-shaking, moon-rocking, eco-worshipping, dragon-riding new science fiction fantasy epic-and-a-half, may not be a perfect movie. But it’s sure as hell an incredible experience. It‘s a genre-movie knockout, a cinematic mind-blast and a technological marvel whose feats of 3D motion-capture and CGI pyrotechnics, and the spectacular and endlessly imaginative alternate world it creates — set on a distant Alpha Centauri moon called Pandora, where the natives are blue and the zeitgeist is green — all keep blowing you away.

Andrew Garfield First Played Spider-Man At Age 4

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Andrew Garfield First Played Spider-Man At Age 4