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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) - Review

After waiting for five years that felt like forever, we were finally delivered the Spider-man reboot we all deserved - a completely original vision - a daring, new approach to the super hero lore that not only breathed new life into the web-slinger, that makes it essential viewing for comic book and film fans alike... at least that is what I would have liked to have said.  Instead, I can say this... Spider-man, Spider-man does whatever a previous Spider-man can.

This Spider-Man film returns with a new cast, a new villain, a slightly lighter tone, but not much else to differentiate it from the Tobey MaGuire films.  Replacing MaGuire behind the mask is James Garfield as Spidey, Emma Stone plays his love interest and Rhys Ifans the villain.   The plot is serviceable if not a routine superhero story.   I would expand on it if you had not seen it before - boy meets girl, boy meets scientific genius, boy bit by radioactive spider, boy's loved one dies, city attacked by evil villain, boy becomes Spider-Man, saves the day.  For the sake of all those that were excited to see this, I wish there was something to say here that would help differentiate this film from the past entries, but there was nothing in the film that stood out.  It was a carbon copy.  The biggest change was that in overall tone - it was lighter with more touches comedy mixed in, including an almost cartoonish subway scene.  While all other superhero franchises are finding their inner Christopher Nolan, Spidey seems to be looking for the inner John Hughes.

I often come across as a hater - don't get me wrong though - I don't hate this film.  It just filled me with a feeling of bewildered disappointment.  If I had not said so already, it is unnecessary and for that reason, the fact they did not make it relevant is a disappointment.  Watching it made me feel like I was hosting a party and told everyone what item to bring to contribute.  One guest arrives with brownies, as requested, (yeah!) a real crowd-pleaser.  Then a second person, even after you told them that brownies were already taken, shows up with a tray of... brownies (boo!)  Although brownies are always good, it is difficult to appreciate the second tray of brownies when not long before a superior tray arrived.   Sony, if you are going to bring that second tray of brownies to my party they better be pretty damn good brownies, something unique.  I need a reason for that reboot of my already acceptable brownies (think brownies with chocolate chips and M&Ms.)

With that said, let me move on to a few more specifics about this film instead of the studio flubs.  When I can put the memories of Spider-Man films past behind me, there were plenty of elements of the film that were quite adequate, even some terrific moments.  My favorite scene gives a peak into what it is like being a teenager with such amazing powers - it takes place in the school and has Peter taking on the school bully.  It not only allows for a little escapism for those of us that may have been teased during high school (a blog is usually a good tip off to that) it also exemplifies the famous line, "with great power comes great responsibility."  You are routing for Peter to kick some bully butt, at the same time you know this is an unfair fight and wrong to be taking place.  The few moments like that is when TAS shines.  

Some other observations:
  • I enjoyed the homage to the Superman/Lois Lane flight.
  • Sure this is a superhero film and suspension of disbelief is needed, that does not mean you can be lazy with the writing.  Too many moments based on chance, unprofitably lucky breaks.  When you start questioning a film that you are already willing to tolerate the illogical and improbable something is wrong.  In other words, this film often felt like bullsh*t.
  • The lack of any type of shock by people that witness Spidey without his mask is in a word, shocking.  It is not as if this film takes place in a universe where superhero sightings were a common occurrence, so why when he reveals who is behind the mask the response is underwhelming?  Some characters would have had a bigger reaction to winning a free cup of coffee at McDonald's than they do to a kid they know having freakish superhero powers.
  • There is scene in a subway that has a near cartoonish feel to it.  Although I kind of liked it, it stood out from the rest of the film.  If they approached the rest of the film with the same attitude it surely would have been a unique film.
  • Garfield is wonderful as Spidey.  I would have preferred that Sony would have just pretended that Spider-Man 3 never occurred and used this as a replacement to continue the original trilogy.  Garfield is good enough to fill the suit, the tone is similar enough and we would not have to sit through another origin story.  The problem probably lies in the fact that Spidey 3 had tossed so much on the screen (Venom, Green Goblin, The Sandman) that it would be tough to redirect the story to a place that made any sense.

As I said, there are plenty of moments that are fun to watch, but this IS a reboot.  And, as a reboot it has a responsibility to deliver a breath of fresh air to the franchise.  Instead they played it safe, delivered a breath of recycled air.

6 out of 10

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