Monday, July 9, 2012
The Amazing Spider Man
The plot veers almost too close to our previous outings, as we open on a series of vignettes establishing Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as the school's nerdy loner kid. From there it's more predictable leaps from encounter with love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), to introduction of pseudo-mentor figure who will become the villain (Rhys Ifans), to Parker getting bitten by the infamous spider that derails his rather ho-hum existence. And I won't lie to you, the rest of the film unfolds about as predictably as you might imagine. But despite its cliche and apparently lack of a need to exist, The Amazing Spider Man actually...well, amazes.
First off, the characterizations in this adaptation are much stronger than I anticipated - and much stronger than those of Sam Raimi's adaptation. For one, Garfield is much more convincing as the skinny nerd than Tobey Maguire. Tobey came off as kinda goofy and hopelessly lovelorn, where his successor naturally evinces a more reserved but still awkward vibe. There's also an almost imperceptible bitterness about Garfield's portrayal, which stems from Parker's parents leaving him at a very early age without any explanation. Rhys Ifans is the stereotypical aloof scientist, a part he plays with visible ease. His subtle transformation into the Lizard is quite convincing, and tactfully subtle for a film about spider bites that lead to acrobatics. Then there's good ol' Emma Stone, who is always a joy to watch. Long-time webcrawler fans will note that Gwen Stacy was technically Parker's 'first love' from a chronological standpoint.
The cinematography is also worth noting, specifically during the action sequences. Rather than a hundred quick cuts back and forth with a shaky-cam for effect, the camera moves almost like Spider Man himself; weaving in and out of the chaos fluidly and precisely. Thus a single shot might last a comparably long time for an action sequence, but the camera is so smoothly kinetic that the effect is much more enjoyable. Moreover, such an approach mirrors Spider Man's movements as well so the audience feels as if they are right in on the action. And the visual effects accompanying the action sequences are spectacular. I did a little reading up and confirmed my suspicions that there's a lot more live action stunt work than I initially expected. That definitely looks like what's going on, and I was further impressed at how well the CGI and live-action elements blended in the finished product.
I'm a nerd in the negative sense of the term about a few things. By that I mean I get all flustered and bent out of shape over things that the average person doesn't even notice, let alone care about. Movie soundtracks are such a topic for me, and the soundtrack to The Amazing Spider Man would have been great...if it hadn't been ripped straight from the repertoire of the composer himself. There were a few times during the film I thought "That sounds like such-n-such track from A Beautiful Mind. I sincerely hope James Horner isn't ripping himself off again..." But alas, James Horner (who scored The Amazing Spider Man and A Beautiful Mind...and Titanic, and Braveheart, and Land Before Time...and a bunch of other movies it's ok to be a guy and cry during) was indeed ripping himself off again. So when I saw his name in the credits, my heart plummeted. I'm a huge fan of the man's music, but I've noticed he tends to lift motifs and passages directly from his other scores quite often. If you think I'm overreacting or just want to see how red in the face I can get about this, feel free to message me and I'd be happy to show you song by song what I'm talking about. I gots the proof.
Now as I said, I love Emma Stone - but she makes the least compelling blonde I've ever seen. (NOTE: See comments section for correction) I know Gwen Stacy is the blonde, and Mary Jane is the redhead. I get it, I understand why Emma's hair color was altered for the film. But it just looks...wrong. Almost like a cheesy special effect that you can't suspend disbelief over. But somehow redheads keep getting cast as Gwen Stacy (looking at you, Bryce Dallas Howard) and the makeup department has to pick up the slack. Minor annoyance, but one I just couldn't get over.
Growing up, Lizard was always one of my favorite Spider Man villains too, and I was glad to see him get screen time worthy of his reputation in my memory. Plus, this one has my favorite Stan Lee cameos of the Marvel films thus far; right in front of him getting mistaken for Hugh Hefner then Larry King in Iron Man and Iron Man 2, respectively.
And now that I've seen it, I understand why Marvel has decided to reboot the franchise this early. With the Avengers movies that have been steadily hitting movie theaters for the past 4 years or so, Marvel Studios has really hit a stride with their own cinematic style. In a sense, they're rebuilding their brand with these films; but that shift came a few years after Sam Raimi's adaptations and consequently those films don't fit in as neatly with the others. The Amazing Spider Man definitely works as a better tie-in to other Marvel movies - specifically the unconfirmed rumors of Spider Man's potential rendezvous with the Avengers in the near future. So while it felt like a bit of an unnecessary exercise at first, when seeing the forest for the trees it not only makes sense, but it actually works. With that in mind, it's much easier to see Raimi's body of work as totally separate from the other Marvel pieces currently in circulation and gives The Amazing Spider Man sufficient justification to both exist, and be as awesome as it turns out to be.