Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man Movie Review

As a life-long fan of Spider-Man I had a duty to see The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) in theaters. If I didn’t, my inner child (who still carries his Spider-Man coloring book everywhere he goes) would be upset with me. Still, I was very skeptical about a Spider-Man reboot only 10 years after the original Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movie, and only 5 years after Spider-Man 3. Did we really need a reboot that soon? I’m still not sure we did, but wow, did I ever enjoy this one!
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents at the age of 4, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and impress the cute girl at school, namely Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). After helping Uncle Ben salvage boxes from a minor basement flood, Peter discovers an old fashioned suitcase that belonged to his father. Using the information he finds inside, he begins a quest to understand who his parents were and their disappearance. It leads him to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), the former partner of his father. Dr. Connors is working on cross-species genetics, in an attempt to regrow his missing arm. Peter is bitten by one of the spiders in the genetics labs and begins to develop spider-like powers. Meanwhile the information from the suitcase that Peter provides to Dr. Connors helps complete an equation Dr. Connors has been working on. In desperation, Dr. Connors tests the formula on himself, but it slowly turns him into a giant lizard. Donning a mask to hide his identity Peter Parker goes by the alias Spider-Man and takes on the bestial maniac, The Lizard, who is bent on forcing the citizens of New York to undergo the same process he did.
First and foremost, what does The Amazing Spider-Man have to offer that the previous three didn’t? The special effects weren’t all that different; it’s the same kind of web-slinging we saw in the Sam Raimi’s movies. It’s not like special effects have made huge leaps and bounds in the last 10 years to show us something new that Spider-Man can do. Spider-Man’s origin story is probably the best known of any super hero. The thing that stands out the most in this movie, though, is the characters.
At the age of 28, it’s hard to believe that Garfield is actually a teenager. But a lot of Hollywood movies do that. Anyway, Peter is an outsider by choice, not because he is disliked. In the original comics, Peter Parker was an outcast because he was a nerd. The concept of a nerd has changed a lot in 50 years, though. Today, nerds are running the world. So even as a science wiz, that’s not what makes Peter an outcast. Being left by his parents has given Peter abandonment issues and he’s afraid to get close to people. What was important in the original comics was that he was an outsider and that has been modified for this new version of Peter Parker in a contemporary context. Spider-Man was always a wise-cracking character, taunting his enemies with sarcastic, witty remarks. We see him do that more in this movie than the previous ones, but here we understand that it’s sort of a defense mechanism. Peter really lets his personality out once he is able to hide behind a mask, almost like how internet anonymity rids us of our inhibitions. Spider-Man practically becomes an internet troll in face-to-face interactions with thugs. Uncle Ben’s famous advice isn’t as prominently repeated as it was in previous films. It even takes a while before Peter starts to understand the philosophical idea Uncle Ben is trying to teach Peter. But still, Peter’s character isn’t defined by an obligation to be a good guy in memoriam of Uncle Ben. Peter is his own character, not the result of someone else’s expectations. I really liked that aspect of this character.
Most people don’t know that Mary-Jane Watson was not Peter’s first and only love interest. I’m glad we got to see Gwen Stacy in this film. And unlike Mary-Jane in the previous movies, Gwen isn’t there just to scream and beg Spider-Man to save her. Gwen is a strong female protagonist who was both cute and independent. She isn’t the damsel in distress character; in fact she helps oppose The Lizard, and not in a small token sort of way. She plays an important role in the overall plot. She also offers Peter a sense of stability. Peter comes from a sort of broken family and she offers him an environment free of parental loss. This isn’t to say the movie insists that the atomic family paradigm is the best. Peter simply wants to see parents present, and the Stacy family is able to show him that. Gwen and Peter form an intellectual bond that is beyond physical allure, and emotional connection. It’s great to see that kind of a relationship in movies as there isn’t enough of it.
Finally, The Lizard was a great pick for this story. Dr. Connors and Peter are like thematic equals. The theme is that we all have missing parts. Dr. Connors has no arm and Peter has no parents. These make each character feel incomplete. Both Peter and Dr. Connors are seeking to fill the void somehow, causing the story to become a kind of cautionary tale about choices. The Lizard isn’t the embodiment of evil, but rather a good man who made a poor decision. Connors genuinely wants to help people, but his reasoning becomes muddled as The Lizard takes over, almost in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of a way. My only complaint is that unlike in the comic books, there wasn’t a real separation of Dr. Connors and The Lizard. In the comic books, it’s all about stopping The Lizard and saving Dr. Connors. We don’t see enough humanity in Dr. Connors to get that sort of feel. Maybe if we had seen Dr. Connors with his wife and kids, it may have worked that way. But as it is in the movie, we would have been happy had the Lizard fallen to his death at the end.
Worth noting about the special effects is that the action is slowed down enough that we can see and understand what is happening in the action scenes with beautiful detail. In fact, one of the bigger fight scenes takes place in broad daylight. We’re able to see everything in glorious detail; nothing is left to obscurity in darkness. The movie has lots of detail to show us, and it makes sure we see it. Super powered as Spider-Man is, The Lizard is physically far stronger. In one scene we see The Lizard thrashing about while Spider-Man “wall-crawls” over his body, embalming him in webbing. Not only do we see that in great detail, it’s also tense. It’s obviously taking time and effort and The Lizard’s huge claws could slice Spider-Man in half. It was an awesome fight to watch.
The characters in The Amazing Spider-Man are really good; they’re deep, complex and layered. The story is really good, too. It keeps the well known Superhero legend intact while still presenting it in a fresh, new way. You’ll be able to empathize with the characters. Heck, you’ll probably see aspects in these characters in people you know. Aunt May scolds Peter for coming in late after crime fighting, telling him that she cannot sleep until she knows Peter is safe at home. When she said that, I recalled having a similar conversation with my mother back in my teens. I think the previous movies did a better job of casting actors who looked the part, but the actors in this one did a great job. There are a lot of unanswered questions by the end of the movie, insinuating there will be a trilogy all about discovering who Peter Parker’s parents are. Also, stick around mid-way though the credits for an extra post credits scene. You’ll be chomping at the bit to see the next installment. The Amazing Spider-Man is a good movie, I highly recommend seeing it. I will be buying this on Blu-Ray when becomes available. If you’re a fan of Superhero movies, I recommend you do the same.

Who is your favorite Spider-Man villain? Mine is Venom, hands down. Comment below and tell me why you like him or her so much!

No comments:

Post a Comment