Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman Review

The laziness of my image selection knows no bounds or shame.

So……The Amazing Spiderman is indeed amazing, whether you think that’s a good amazing or a bad amazing.

Solve this problem: Someone makes a bad movie based off a comic book. It has terrible writing, terrible effects, terrible cinematography and terrible actors. The movie bombs, no one notices it, and it predictably sucks. What is the best move for making another movie using the same source material?

The Answer: Wait 20 years for it to be buried by the sands of time and fade into obscurity, and then make a good movie, effectively stomping out all traces of the predecessor. Except among the most knowledgeable internet critics. This works, as is proved by films such as Captain America: The First Avenger. Okay, whether or not it’s good is debatable but I liked it and thought it was good enough.

Now, solve the same problem, except the movie doesn’t bomb, makes a ton of money, everybody notices, fans defend it, and no one will ever forget it despite it being bad.

I can’t tell what the answer is for sure, but the answer is not “Create a good remake/reboot shortly after the trilogy ends.”

Some of my favorite reviewers I follow have been harsh on The Amazing Spiderman. And now I have to stand here and tell you I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about and it’s a great movie. Because it is, and I’m sticking to my guns.

I’ll be up front and describe who I recommend it to. If you loved the Sam Raimi “Tobey Trilogy” and think they’re mostly good films, you will hate Amazing Spiderman. If you think Tobey Trilogy was stupid, corny, cheesy, poorly written, horribly acted, and just unbearable, you will adore Amazing Spiderman. If you know nothing about Spiderman at all, you will like this movie. And finally, it will also depend on whether or not you can tolerate a reboot just a few years after the Tobey Trilogy ended.

On the other hand, such a recommendation is inaccurate, because Amazing Spiderman will either make the Tobey Trilogy look better or worse, but it’s tough to predict until you’ve seen them both. Some people say Amazing makes Tobey look better, some look back and say the old movies have aged terribly.

As for my personal opinion, I would say Amazing Spiderman is clearly and obviously far superior to the Sam Raimi Spiderman Trilogy in every respect. Better acting, better directing, better fighting, better effects, better writing (particularly dialogue), and sort of breaking even on the story.

I care nothing of getting hate from Sam Raimi’s fans, because those movies just simply have far less going for them by any standards. By serious standards, by casual standards, by hardcore comic geek standards, by cheesy campy standards. Tobey Trilogy just doesn’t work. I honestly think we forced ourselves into liking those movies because they were at least okay and we didn’t have any other Spiderman movies. Either that or they have aged horribly.

But someone can get something out of Amazing Spiderman. The difference is the Tobey Trilogy follows the miserable, depressing, pathetic life of Peter Parker who must never let anyone know that he dresses up in a costume and fights crime. Amazing Spiderman is about Peter Parker, a young man who is Spiderman, a butt-kicking, wisecracking, fun-to-watch but also serious superhero. In the Tobey Trilogy, most of the movie is watching Peter Parker, but here we are watching Spiderman and what he’s like without the costume on. There’s a big difference in how their lives are affected.

Garfield: “I’m the Goddamn Spiderman”

One big reason this film is good is Spiderman himself. Andrew Garfield’s acting has a wide range, which is good for this role. He can pull off the many emotions Spiderman needs, except for sadness. He can’t do sad, which is very important for Uncle Ben’s death and the death at the climax. And Uncle Ben dying is by no means a spoiler. It happens every time. 

For the first time on the big screen, we at long last have a Spiderman who likes to mess with his enemies. He likes talking, taunting, and joking when he’s fighting. I sorely missed that with Tobey Maguire. Garfield has the attitude, the confidence, the arrogance, the wisecracking, and later on the morality Spiderman needs. Sadly, he is just a little short of Spiderman’s intelligence. Well, for starters he put his name in huge, obvious letters on his camera and let the villain get his hands on it.

This Spiderman sometimes steps into a moral grey area. He starts profiling criminals, looking for Uncle Ben’s killer and revenge. He never finds him, and the reason he doesn’t is he takes Ben’s great power speech to heart. The fact that he makes mistakes like revenge is a setup for him to grow later on in the film.

Peter+Gwen = PeGwen? Gwenter? SpiderGwen? Who cares, she’ll be dead soon.

Gwen Stacy was an unexpectedly good character. Unlike Mary Jane, Peter almost immediately reveals his identity to her. This act of trusting her, the fact she knows who he is, where he goes, what he does, actually makes their relationship grow and evolve. In the climax, Spiderman and Gwen are actually cooperating and saving the day in their own ways, almost as if she’s a sidekick who’s good at science. Not to mention she burns the Lizard with fire.

On the other hand, I think there were way too many kissing and romance scenes between the two of them. So much so that I started to groan. One moment they would be talking about how all the cops are after him or how the lizard is attacking the city, and then they’re kissing. They’re easily distracted.

So the movie ends with them happy, despite a spoiler. However, those who are familiar with the comic books probably remember Gwen Stacy most for her death. I am not one of those people, but I did some good old Wikipedia research before I saw the movie. In the comics, Green Goblin kidnapped her and while on top of a bridge tossed her. Spiderman shot webs and caught her leg, and pulled her up. But then he realized she was dead; the whiplash effect from catching her with webs snapped her neck and killed her. Yes, Spiderman made a sloppy, simple mistake and KILLED the love of his life. Back in the day, that was a gigantic deal, and even today it’s pretty shocking. Superheroes just don’t screw up on such a massive scale through mere accidents.

I bring this up because since it’s the most unforgettable aspect of the character, there are moments when a person who knows this expects the movie to deliver on that. There’s one scene in Amazing Spiderman (immediately before the Stan Lee cameo) when Spidey drops her out a window and uses webs to break her fall, and I gasped out loud when it happened totally not expecting the thing I just said I expected them to do. Then she was fine. That scene was quite the tease. But I predict in the next movie Emma Stone will be playing a corpse by the end of it. Shame, because she did a really good job in this movie.
Better Acting, Better Directing,

Another great part is the cast in general was very well-done. Characters like Police Captain Denis Leary are more believable and think more realistically than in, say, Spiderman 2 where most minor characters are pretty generic and flat. Uncle Ben and Aunt May are proactively trying to raise Peter, even if that means being angry at him and being tough.

They will tell Peter when he’s doing stuff they don’t approve of. The argument between Ben and Peter is started when he left Aunt May to walk home through a bad neighborhood rather than him walking her home. When he comes home with the crap beat out of him, they get really worried about where he’s been, what he’s been doing and angry when he doesn’t tell them. And that’s way better than generic kind old Uncle Ben and Aunt May from Tobey Trilogy. They feel real this time.

I’d have to say the best part of the film overall is the action. The Tobey Trilogy at its best isn’t even close to any given fight in Amazing Spiderman. Back in the day, Sam Raimi’s action was slow, deliberate, and gave certain things impact and weight. Amazing Spiderman, directed by Marc Webb, is incredibly fast AND has weight, with a lot of movement and constant web-slinging. He actually moves like a spider, and has super speed, strength, and endurance. Sometimes it’s a little tough to keep track of, but it’s always intense and I love it.  And I checked Spiderman 2, my previous favorite, after seeing Amazing just to compare. The best action in there still doesn’t hold a candle to Amazing Spiderman. 

Lizardman Begins

It’s easy to nitpick plenty of moments in this movie (*cough* crane operators *cough*), but the big chunk is still great. But where the film starts to really fall apart on a significant level (if at all) is Dr. Curt Connors, the Lizard.

First, he only has a slight connection with Spiderman’s origin story. Connors has a history with Peter’s father, but that subplot is shoved aside. He’s really just the villain of the day.

Second, the Lizard’s face. I really liked how the Lizard looks for the most part. And then I saw his monster face. I had a feeling there was no way they could’ve done it right but it doesn’t look like they even tried. Through editing and angles they tried to hide it, but it was still there.

Third, his motivation. In other versions Dr. Connors is a peaceful, nice guy and the Lizard is an animal side with instincts (and sometimes plans for a master race) he can’t control. Here, they are one and the same and both evil. It’s not Connors and Lizard like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Here, Doctor Jekyll IS Mister Hyde. Connors himself wants a superior lizard race through science gas, even when he’s human and not in his lizard form.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, his plan is boring, recycled, and seen it. It’s Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul’s plan from Batman Begins (and a long list of other movies as well), except instead of gas that makes people crazy, it’s gas that makes people lizards.

Still, like the rest of the movie, they got a great actor to play him. Didn’t exactly give him great material to work with, unfortunately.

The Amazing Unresolved Subplots (*cough* sequel *cough*)

There’s also the point a lot of people will probably bring up that this film leaves a lot unresolved. And by that, I mean completely unsubtle sequel-baiting. As far as catching the guy who got Uncle Ben is, I would argue that this never got resolved because it’s a point of character development that he’s stopped looking for him.

But Peter never figures out what happened to his parents, with very few clues involving cross-species genetics research and Oscorp. At this point I would normally defend it, but no. They highlighted this part of the story with a neon sign; it’s in all the trailers. They can’t just do anything concerning his parents by the end.

Gwen Stacy is still alive despite….well, I’ve already talked about it. Probably in the sequel. Norman Osborn is also apparently dying and remained in the shadows, uncasted with no dialogue and a proxy to do his interactions with Dr. Connors. He’s guaranteed to show next time. Also, Peter Parker is gonna have to work at the Daily Bugle eventually. I do hope they keep the actor for J. Jonah Jameson they had in the Sam Raimi trilogies. He did an epic and unforgettable job. He’s even a meme these days.

There’s also the ending where they show the villain for the next movie, but you can’t tell who it is because they didn’t actually show it. All we know is it’s an adult man of average build, so that narrows down the Spiderman villains……in no way whatsoever. Well, I guess that rules out Rhino and Kingpin. No wheelchair, so Alistair Smythe is probably out. And the secret ending didn’t involve Samuel L. Jackson for the first time in ages, so I guess Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. are out. My guess is it’s Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, Scorpion, Chameleon, or Mysterio but there’s more. I do hope it’s Hobgoblin, and he’s voiced by Mark Hamill again. Based on the Lizard, I suppose they’re doing villains Sam Raimi didn’t do, but I’m all for a re-do with Venom or perhaps both Venom and Carnage.

Meanwhile, in the comic books that would never actually happen in reality…

The unresolved subplots fascinate me because of what’s happening behind the scenes with copyrights. You see, my favorite iteration of Spiderman is the 90’s Cartoon. In those days, the animated Marvel shows were owned by Marvel, like Fantastic Four, Iron Man, X-men, the Hulk, and so on. As a result, crossovers constantly happened and in the Spiderman cartoon that was almost a third of the show. The final story arc is all about Spiderman working with Iron Man, Captain America, Storm, and the Fantastic Four to defeat various villains. It was awesome, if short-lived. And of course, cartoon crossovers were a carried tradition over from comic book crossovers.

However, when people wanted to make movies based on Marvel superheroes, they started handing out rights to franchises to many different companies. As a result, today someone owns the rights to make X-Men movies, someone else can make Spiderman, Punisher is exclusive to another, and Marvel managed to pull together enough to make The Avengers and the accompanying films. Because different companies own rights to different characters, big screen big movie crossovers are incredibly difficult to happen, if possible at all.

Oh but Stan Lee is good for crossovers. He’s still rocking a cameo in every Marvel film, regardless of who owns the rights now. It’s so cool that he does it every time and it’s funny every time. Best movie tradition EVER. (Oh, and for the record, his cameo in Spiderman 3 is my favorite so far, followed by Iron Man)

The problem with this is that back stories to Marvel characters were made with crossovers in mind, making faithfulness to the source material impossible. It just can’t happen now. DC does things differently. Superman is in Metropolis and Batman is in Gotham. They crossover only in crossovers and none of it has any permanent, lasting effect on the Batman or Superman continuities (well, from what I know). But with Marvel, it’s all merged, and virtually all their big franchises were made by the same creator, Stan Lee. And, in my pre-movie Wikipedia research, I found out some interesting things.

Peter Parker’s parents (Ha! Classic Stan Lee alliteration) in Amazing Spiderman have connections to Oscorp and genetics research. They left suddenly one night and disappeared. Well, in the comics Richard and Mary Parker are in the military. They met in the line of duty and got married. They then were secret agents, which worked great because to their enemies they looked like a married couple on vacation. A fantastic cover.

In one mission, they save Wolverine from a Hydra agent (Hydra being the science Nazis from Captain America). At the end of this mission they discover Mary Parker is pregnant with Peter, and Wolverine is the first person to congratulate them. In future comics, Spiderman also mentions that Wolverine is “practically his uncle.”

Eventually, Peter’s parents are killed by Hydra and the third Red Skull (apparently there’s more than one). At the time they were double agents, spies who were pretending to betray their country to gather information. However, history remembers them as outright traitors to the U.S. even though they remained loyal. The 90’s cartoon explores this as well.

My point is this: if the makers of Amazing Spiderman and its unsubtly hinted sequels lack the rights to X-Men and Captain America, I am very curious as to where they’re going with the Parker parents and their history. If they’re with Oscorp and not the military, that is a radically different tale to tell.

Predictable, but effective

Amazing Spiderman wanted to make a good reboot, and that means the hero’s origin story will mostly be a repeat of the first movie, except the villain is the Lizard instead of Willem Defoe’s acting.

Peter lives a troubled life. Peter gets bitten by spider. Peter gets powers. Peter becomes Spiderman. Peter gets in argument with Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben gets shot and dies. Peter mourns the loss. And now, Spiderman vs. [insert villain here].

Well, guess what? You can’t just dodge that origin story. And no villains are in any way involved in his origins, unlike Fantastic Four (not commonly used as a good example). You could start the movie with that stuff already done and closed, but you at least can’t pretend that didn’t happen. That’s Spiderman. This isn’t Batman begins, showing us an origin for Batman we haven’t seen before.

The story of Amazing Spiderman is essentially Spiderman 1, except in an otherwise awesome movie. Sure it’s predictable. But this time it was good and it was fun. For the first time on the big screen, we like Peter Parker, we like his girlfriend, we like the supporting cast, we root for them all to win, and we LOVE the action. I wish we got this movie first and that the Tobey Trilogy never happened. Because it is way better than any of those three movies.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what they wanted Amazing Spiderman to be. And that presents our final problem: this film exists only to make money.

After all the compliments, all the positives, every wonderful thing I can say about this movie, is it cancelled out because they want your money and have no shame? I…don’t…know! That’s a tough call. It also begs the question of who’s in on this and who’s not? Who are the people working to make millions and who’s genuinely trying to make a good Spiderman movie for the sake of a good Spiderman movie? Is the director, Marc Webb, in on it or does he want to right the wrongs of Sam Raimi? How about the producers? The writers? What about Andrew Garfield? Does he have a passion for Spiderman? It’s all very unclear.

Normally, I’d say this remake is made because the original was terrible and it’s an improvement enough to be worth it, as many said with the Incredible Hulk remake of 2008. Ang Lee’s Hulk didn’t go as well with critics or sales as expected. So they felt they needed another one and some people agreed. The success of Incredible Hulk turned out to only be marginally better than Ang Lee’s Hulk, but according to Rotten Tomatoes, the audience seemed to appreciate it more.

But unlike Ang Lee, Sam Raimi’s movies were very successful. They made money AND the majority of people liked them. Well, except Spiderman 3. Therefore, a mere 5 years later is way WAY too soon for a remake/reboot. If it’s successful, you don’t fix it. I wouldn’t say Sam Raimi’s films are that good, but they don’t need a reboot. It’s like a new version of an iPad. Heck yes it’s better than the previous one, obviously. But can one justify its existence, even if the cost is the same?

Well, Amazing Spiderman outclasses the Tobey Trilogy in every respect, in my opinion. If that’s a good enough reason for you to see it and the transparent money-grabbing doesn’t bother you, go see it. Even if it doesn’t need to exist, it’s still a great movie. 

Epilogue - 3D

But not in 3D. Yeah, I saw it in 3D and yes, I am ashamed of myself. It really sickens me and I completely regret it and I was stupid. Bad critic, BAD CRITIC! Stupid, stupid, stupid! What was I expecting?

I wanted to give it a chance because I’ve never seen a movie in 3D. I saw Avatar in 3D, but that doesn’t count because I was in the front row far to the right. You’d think it would float over your head and out into the crowd, but it just looked blurry. So not only did I suffer through a horrible James Cameron movie, but it physically hurt my eyes, my neck, my ears, and my brain. The combined “cinematic experience” made me want to decapitate myself. The popcorn was the best part of the movie.

But, being the glutton for punishment I am, I told myself to be an open-minded critic and give 3D another chance since it went wrong the first time. No, for Amazing Spiderman I sat in the middle of the theater and put those stupid glasses on. Over my regular glasses which were still on. And I don’t know about you, but my nose doesn’t quite have enough room to comfortably fit two pairs of glasses.

In complete honesty, I thought 3D was all right and I thought Amazing Spiderman’s use of it was all right. It’s the glasses, man. I wear regular glasses all the time, but for those who don’t I’m sure you are not accustomed to them and they feel awkward. In my opinion if they made movie screens like the Nintendo 3DS and you could watch them without glasses, it might – MIGHT add something to the movie. It might be good. But, even under those conditions, there will never be a reason 3D is good enough to justify its existence. Even with no glasses, it’s not worth it and they should still stop doing it because their constant insistence upon shoving it in our faces (literally) is really freaking annoying.

3D movies are worthless. I know it, I hope you know it, do not ever see one unless it’s animated or Pixar or something. And now that I’ve seen one in 3D, I will never see another. Do not support this wasteful, uncreative, lame technology. 

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