Wednesday, July 4, 2012

At the Movies: The Amazing Spider Man (2012)

Overall Rating: 8.4

I know, I know...the Spider Man launch from 2002 was already good, so why did they launch it again so soon?  Frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn.  This was still a good solid movie.

Plot Synopsis:

Geeky, put-upon so of a corporate genius gets bit with genetically mutated spider (not radioactive this time).  Guy gets bizarre powers and uses his own intelligence to enhance them.  Guy accidentally creates a monster that he must contain.  Guy falls for girl who happens to be daughter of police chief whose declared war on guy.  Police chief comes to respect him while they do battle with monster, but asks guy to stay away from girl for fear of her safety.  Guy vows to protect New York as superhero.  This is not a new story.

The Skinny:

This rendition actually is quite a bit different than the one Marvel produced just ten years ago.  That version showed you the basics of how he got his powers, but didn't focus all that much on the emotional story behind Peter Parker's childhood and rise to prominence.  This movie is exclusively about that emotional story (there's a monster to fight, but that only happens because Peter gives a dangerous man too much information and has to clean up his own mess - otherwise this is entirely about Peter coming to terms with his new condition and coming of age).  As such, this movie is much slower to develop, into a full-blown action film, but, IMHO, carries much more personality.

The criticisms of this version seem to run along three fronts:

  • We just did this same story ten years ago - hence there is not as much dramatic tension.  I don't think this criticism is really valid.  The bad guy is essentially the same, but many of the elements of jeopardy in his story are different (and, IMHO, bigger, which is a good thing) and much more weight is placed o the drama derived from Peter's travails.  I still felt sucked into the plot without a problem.
  • The dialogue - especially the stuff between Peter and Oscorp staff - was weak.  Here, I think this complaint is valid...Connors' motivation is really weak and comic-booky (sorry Comic fans...there's a difference between cartoon bubbles and actual dialogue) and there are huge swaths of the movie that say less than they probably should have.  They hit the high notes, but didn't play the whole aria - for example, when Peter's uncle is shot dead as a result of Peter choosing not to stop the crook at the convenience store, we get all of two scenes devoted to the impact this has on his family and on him. When Peter starts hunting for people who look like his Uncle's killer, little, if any, attention is paid to it in words.  They could have really made an emotional mark if they'd chosen to.
  • They appear to have focused more on visual flare than o storytelling.  While I think this is overstating things quite a lot, I will say that the visual effects were FANTASTIC and quite gripping.  There were moments where Spider Man was flying through the rooftop jungle of Manhattan and I literally felt terrified of heights and started getting vertigo.  It was that realistic.  They obviously put a TON of effort into making the look fo this film conform to the great look of most other Marvel movies of recent vintage.
What they got right:
  • Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield has magnetic chemistry together.  The romantic interludes (include the sad goodbye) were VERY real to me.  I loved how they chose to get Peter to confess both his affection for Gwen and his superhero status - that was right up there with the famous Superman and Lois Lane scene in which Superman divines the color of Lois's underwear and she dives for cover and blushes beat red.  If you haven't seen it yet, TRUST'll enjoy that moment.
  • The effects are, in fact, quite breath-taking.  I don't need to say much more than that.
  • The plot pacing is ideal, IMHO - start with a smaller story and make it bigger and bigger, and as you do, ramp up the pace.  Perfect.
  • The cast is talented - I wish they'd been used to somewhat greater effect.
Writing: 7.0

As noted, the script isn't weak, per say, it just lacks a certain punch that other Marvel films have carried.

Acting: 8.0

Connors is the only character that I think was played too heavily.  The rest do a more than solid job - I am starting to be quite impressed with Garfield i particular.

Effects: 10.0

This movie earns all of its' high score for the effects...the best-looking film of 2012, perhaps (though Brave is close).

Message: 8.5

I really like the added emphasis in this version of Spider Man toward the need for Peter to embrace his role as a heroic figure, rather than using his gifts for selfish things like revenge or manly strutting.  They developed that very well and it leads nicely to the final sacrifice - Peter giving up (at least for now) his romantic interest in order to pursue his life as the hero the city needs.  That story never gets old for me.

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