Friday, November 9, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)


So soon after one Spiderman series wrapped up in 2007 does Columbia Pictures unleash another version of the cash-cow series.  New director, new actors, and even new characteristics about the hero himself are incorporated to make the audience feel The Amazing Spider-man is more than just a re-make.  Comparisons with the 2002 starter film, Spider-man, are inevitable and in the end downgrade this updated 2012 iteration.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a very unlucky kid.  First, his parents abruptly up and leave him in the middle of the night and pass him off to his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen, Sally Field).  Second, Peter goes to Midtown Science High School which you imagine is going to be a cutting edge, Silicon Valley prep school but is rather an extremely hostile environment complete with its own psychopath bully named Flash (Chris Zylka).  His classmate, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), does not even know Peter's name although he sits next to her in class and most likely has for years.  Peter's senior year of high school is the appropriate beginning for Spiderman's origin, but the requirement to create such a horrible and cliche atmosphere is not necessary.  Nowadays, if a student named Flash kicked the crap out of Peter Parker he would be arrested and brought up on charges instead of hustled off to the basketball court.  Besides, Peter Parker is noticeably tall, in excellent physical shape, and good looking.  This guy should have no problem maneuvering his high school hallways.

While piecing together his father's past, Peter winds up at Oscorp talking to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).  Dr. Connors is the world's leading expert on the idea of synthesizing animal DNA into human DNA to promote limb regeneration.  He is missing his right arm and while I have no doubt everyone who does not have a right arm wishes they had one very much, Dr. Connors has a very serious case of loss and abandonment over the missing appendage.  As in the 2002 version, a spider bites Peter which is the catalyst for a traumatic form of late teenage puberty but the transformation is a bit different this time.  Super strength, speed, and agility are part of the package again but now the webbing is not just shot out of Peter's wrist; he manufactures it from a machine created through the standard 'get to know your knew body' montage.  Oh yeah, it helps a lot that Peter is also a scientific and electronics genius.  Uncle Ben must find him quite handy to have around the townhouse.

Poor Uncle Ben.  If there is a new Spiderman, then this inevitably leads to Uncle Ben's demise.  This time though, instead of happenstance and an indirect situation which leaves Peter thinking he is responsible for Uncle Ben's death, 2012 Peter Parker straight up makes four or five horrible decisions and is absolutely to blame for Uncle Ben's murder.  Andrew Garfield's Spiderman is far less mature and carries around more childish emotions than Tobey Maguire's Spiderman.  He can be cruel to his guardians when he wants to be, something Tobey never would have done.  He can also get hurt.  After battling criminals and the like all night, Peter Parker's body shows it.  He limps, has bruises all over his body, and gashes on his face.  This Spiderman is not impervious to pain, he feels the punch.

Most of the punches later in the film come from The Lizard.  The foreshadowing early in the film is so blatant that anyone who is familiar with Spiderman villains from the comics knows which bad guy will show up.  This Godzilla creature has long, sharp claws, can regenerate its tail and arms if they are chopped off, and has a goal to turn the entire city of Manhattan into lizards as well.  He may kill people, but he is equal opportunity about it.  Spiderman, learning about the concept of responsibility from the loss of Uncle Ben, must confront The Lizard but also must dodge the Chief of Police, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), who also happens to be Gwen's father.  This is a lot for poor Peter to juggle.  

The Amazing Spider-man was made too soon after the previous series.  Spider-man 3 was released in 2007.  I suppose this is an eon in Hollywood time but I have no doubt the rest of us clearly still remember Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco.  Marc Webb is an odd pick to helm this project because his previous work are some music videos and one of the best films from the past few years, (500) Days of Summer.  This catalogue of work would not normally put him in line to create the next big action hero series.  He made some good choices concerning Peter's emotional volatility, his relationship with Gwen, and the idea that Peter really gets the sand pounded out of him, but the parts do not make a satisfying whole.  The mechanical webs are limiting, the soaring through the air between skyscrapers is mundane, and Peter Parker's altruistic personality is gone and replaced with a sharper edge.  Skip The Amazing Spider-man.  If you really want to see some web-slinging action though, go back and watch Spider-man 2, the best one of all of four of these things.

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