Friday, July 6, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
Many griped that it was too soon to do another Spider-Man movie series. That didn’t bother me too much. I’m enough of a dork that if they rebooted the Spidey franchise every week, I’d be at the theater, 3-D glasses in hand.

Ah, but there was something I forgot about superhero reboots: They have to tell the origin story again. And origin stories are, on the whole, horribly boring and very time consuming. Here, it’s more than an hour before we actually see Spider-Man. Did they forget the title of the movie? We paid to see our beloved Webslinger. Andrew Garfield is a decent actor but trust me, no one is thinking, “Oh, let’s go see the new Andrew Garfield movie. And let’s pay the 3-D surcharge, because that will enhance the subtleties of his performance.”

Also, they monkeyed with the origin story. Now, that can be acceptable if you improve, streamline, or add logic to the origin. But Webhead’s origin was rock-solid. Nerd is bitten by radioactive spider, gets cool powers but also a swelled head, his new hubris leads to the death of Uncle Ben (not the boxed rice guy), and we all learn an important lesson: “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” But here they decide to tell us about Peter Parker’s mysterious parents (Campbell Scott absolutely slumming with cheap-looking grey hair), get the Lizard involved, and generally confuse things. Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, thrilled to be raising Peter Parker instead of Charlie Sheen, delivers an incredibly convoluted version of the “power = responsibility” speech. If it ain’t broke, fellas ….

Stone and Garfield
We see an awful lot of an unmasked Andrew Garfield, who is 28, and doesn’t really convince as a high-school student. (Emma Stone, at 23, pulls it off a bit more successfully as Gwen Stacy, though she’d be more believable as a worn-down party girl than as some sort of gorgeous science wiz.) I didn’t like Peter Parker from the first time we see him in the movie as a young kid: His haircut is too cool, he’s wearing a little V-neck sweater, and you think, “Oh, his parents must be really annoying.” Peter remains stylish into his teen years, with product in his carefully mussed hair, and a skateboard, and hipster clothes. It’s tough to believe that he’s a regularly bullied dweeb (even if he still insists on using a film camera). And he’s always moist, either crying or sweating. Maybe the pouty hottie Parker appeals to teen girls, but is that really the market for this movie? (Spoiler alert: It is not.)

Leary (So are we!)
Not that most of this will bother your children too much. (One scene, with a kid in a burning car, may be too intense for some young viewers. Spoiler alert No. 2: Spider-Man saves the kid!) There are laughs as Peter discovers his spider powers, and also from the very funny Dennis Leary, who may be the best thing in this movie. He plays Gwen’s dad and… uh-oh… a police captain who doesn’t like Spider-Man. Awkward! There are some decent action sequences (especially an underwater scene with Spidey and the Lizard) and some sweet webslinging, but I’d recommend not splurging for the mostly pointless 3-D. And Andrew and Emma make a cute couple. Overall, the movie is watchable for adults, and kids will probably enjoy it.

But don’t we all deserve a little bit better? Director Marc Webb (yes, get over it, his name is Webb) doesn’t seem to have a great feel for the material. I know, you’re shocked, the guy who directed (500) Days of Summer wasn’t a natural for a superhero movie? (At least he puts together another decent soundtrack.) Sam Raimi, who directed the previous Spider-Man trilogy, filled those films with a sense of fun that is almost absent from this. Raimi also made New York look more like New York; I was very surprised to see this was partially filmed in New York. And I like to think Raimi would’ve vetoed a ridiculous scene late in the movie that I can only imagine was bankrolled by the Crane Operators Guild.

In fact, do the kids a favor, just rent the Raimi Spider-Man movies. Or go see The Avengers again. You’ll be safe; they covered the origin stories in those 46 prequels.

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