Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

"Do you have any idea what you really are?"

Just ten years after the first of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy the series is rebooted with English actor Andrew Garfield actor taking over from Tobey Maguire as the masked vigilante Spider-Man/school kid Peter Parker. Parker is a normal teenager living in New York. He lives with his aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen) due to his parents unexplained late night desertion of their son when he was a child. Peter is in love with fellow classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and shunned by most of his class. After discovering his father worked with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), Peter helps the scientist with a regenerative formula which could help Connors to re-grow a lost limb. While at Connor’s offices, Peter is bitten by a genetically engineered spider and gains new strength and skills. Following a harrowing personal loss, Peter uses these skills to track down a criminal before turning his attention to a new threat – The Lizard.

Before watching Raimi’s trilogy again recently I thought that it was far too soon for a Spider-Man reboot but after watching and reviewing them for GB Posters I came to the conclusion that I was ready for a fresh look at the series; a more grown up and modern look. The Amazing Spider-Man definitely feels more grown up than Raimi’s trilogy and it has overcome many of the problems that those films had. That being said, it is far from perfect.

There are many positives about the film. I think that the casting is excellent. Andrew Garfield makes an excellent Spider-Man and he makes a great version of Peter Parker. If I’m honest I thought that he was a bit handsome and cool for Parker but I still preferred his to Tobey Maguire’s. Despite being twenty-eight he has a mischievous, child-like quality to him. He wasn’t particularly geeky which breaks from tradition but he felt like a real person. Emma Stone is great as Gwen Stacy and my favourite parts of the film came when she and Garfield were nervously flirting. They have great chemistry (obviously given their private lives). Rhys Ifans makes a good scientist but I didn’t like him as The Lizard or indeed like The Lizard character. The best casting for me is that of Peter’s aunt and uncle. Sally Field is wonderful as Aunt May, a cut above Rosemary Harris who felt out of place in Raimi’s films. Though Harris is closer to the comic book version of the character, much like Andrew Garfield Sally Field feels more tangible. Martin Sheen is wonderful as Uncle Ben. He creates a character that you really care about which makes it that much harder when the inevitable happens.

One of the problems with previous Spider-Man adaptations has been the character’s swinging. Spider-Man has never had much weight as he swings and in Raimi’s films, looked like a video game character. Here the issue is solved with excellent CGI and a greater attention to how someone would look if they swung. Spider-Man is no longer a single rigid block but his limbs move as they would if he were changing direction and speed. It’s subtle but the effect is a massive improvement on what’s come before. The CGI on the whole is excellent but there were one or two dodgy moments, most of which came during The Lizard’s transformation. Another improvement is Spider-Man’s suit. It too feels much more realistic and it actually looks as though it is Garfield inside. The only problem is that yet again Spider-Man can’t wait to take off his mask and reveal himself to people. I think this is a problem with bringing the character to the big screen as Executives, Producers and Directors will want to have the talent on screen and can’t do this if they’re behind a mask. Another nice touch was Spider-Man web-slinger which though subtly changed helped to show Parker's intellect and ingenuity. 

The story is something that impressed me. In my Spider-Man 1 review I remember saying that I’d wished for more back-story. Here you get much more and Peter doesn’t actually put on the Spider-Man suit until about the mid point of the film. I think this is to the film’s credit. As a trilogy has already been announced, there will be plenty of time for swinging, webbing and fighting in later films. It was important that the back story was done well in order to set the next films up. I thought it was excellent and the first half of the film was better than the second in my opinion. (My girlfriend disagrees claiming “we’ve seen all that stuff before” – a valid point, though she did ask me afterwards why they changed Mary Jane’s name to Gwen…)

The film successfully balances comedy, action and drama and I expect fans of all three will be satisfied. It is especially successful in the comedy and drama genres with the whole cinema laughing on several occasions as well as a deafening silence during an upsetting and bloody scene. One of the biggest laughs came during Stan Lee’s cameo – his best yet.

As much as I liked the movie, there were aspects that I did not like. I really didn’t like the crane scene. I thought it was slushy and too obvious. It also featured another prominent American flag which reminded me of the worst part of Spider-Man 3. Because a trilogy has already been announced and because of whom the character is, you never get the feeling that he’s in any real danger. It is those around him who are in danger but apart from an early death I didn’t care enough about any other characters to worry about them. My main problem was with the bad guy – The Lizard. I have never read a Spider-Man comic so don’t know anything about him but did not take to the Jekyll & Hyde character. I think I’d prefer it if Spider-Man just tackled normal criminals although I realise I’m in a very small minority.

Overall The Amazing Spider-Man is a good if not great start to a new trilogy. It overshadows the previous trilogy in most ways and I look forward to a second instalment.         


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