“The Amazing Spider-Man” Film Review: with great story comes great visuals.
3.5 OUT OF 4 STARS
When I was 11 years old I walked into a small shop, it was a hybrid between a candy and a comic book shop, my mother was shopping in some boring store next door. The first and only comic I took from the shelf was an issue of “Web of Spider-Man”, I don’t recall the issue’s number but it was a stand alone issue, and I did buy it with my own savings. After all, the only other comic book I had ever owned before that was a “Karate Kid” comic which I stole like a year before, I got busted and was punished for it, but ended up keeping the book :). With the Spider-Man comic I knew my lesson and I had become mature enough to actually spend $1.50 on it. Anyways, what I’m trying to get at is that spider-man has always and will always be my favorite comic superhero, I’ve probably read more spidey comics than any other hero. Perhaps it’s because I can relate with his middle-class status, or because he carries crazy amounts of stress, or maybe because he has been brought up mostly by a single mother figure, much like myself. In Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” all these issues are relevant and they create a fantastic vehicle for good drama.
For the past year I have been extremely skeptical about this film, initially I thought it was way too soon to re-tell the origins of spider-man. It has been only 10 years since Sam Raimi tackle the subject and it has been 5 years since the horrible spider-man 3. I also felt that director Marc Webb was going to fuck it up since he’s only done one feature film before this one, but in his defense, “500 Days of Summer” is a good movie. However, a spider-man film is very different than an indie love story, in fact, they’re kind of the polar opposites. With that said, Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2” remains my favorite spidey film, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is on par with the first Raimi film and in some areas it is better, this is mostly due to technology and the evolution of visual effects.
There are things from the first film that I didn’t like and there are things from this film that I didn’t like, so they’re kind of even. It is also important to know that this is an entirely different vision of spider-man and his origin. This type of stuff happens in the comics as well, spidey in particular has about 4 or 5 different titles out there (spider-man, amazing, spectacular, etc.), not to mention the huge relaunch back in 2000 with The Ultimate Spider-Man, a comic series that focuses on high school Peter Parker. I believe that series along with the original comic and Batman Begins were the inspiration for this movie. This film digs deeper into Parker’s origin and it allows the audience to get more emotionally involved. The villain in this film is secondary and not as important, I do however, feel like Willem Dafoe is a much better bad guy, he’s just a greater actor than Rhys Ifans, who for the most part did a good job as The Lizard.
Like a said before this movie feels quite different than Raimi’s vision and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the love interest in this film is Gwen Stacy and not Mary Jane. I really dug this because in the comics Gwen is arguably Peter’s initial choice. There’s actually a spidey book out there called “Spider-Man Blue”, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the same duo behind “The Long Halloween”, the Batman book that inspired The Dark Knight. I can’t help but feel that director Marc Webb is following the Nolan formula, which depicts the hero’s origin in the first film and then puts him up against a great challenge in the second film. With that in mind, I do hope that for the second film Webb takes ideas from “Spider-Man Blue” which is a book that goes in depth into the love triangle between Gwen, Peter and Mary Jane. The book also deals with spidey’s guilt of Gwen’s death, which is caused by the Green Goblin, aka spidey’s joker.
But enough about the comics, this is a film and that means it is a totally different medium, and a good one at that. The story in “The Amazing Spider-Man” is well structured, connecting a lot of the dots and leaving little room for holes (yes there are holes but nothing of mayor concern). It is also very character driven; in this film we actually get to know and like uncle Ben, played by the veteran Martin Sheen. Aunt May is also played by a veteran, Sally Field (Forrest Gump’s mom), in this movie she is actually placed onto the side lines, respectfully, since uncle Ben has more screen time. I suspect she’ll play a much bigger role on the 2nd film. I felt like the character’s motivations in this film were well grounded and had more meaning than the first movie. Furthermore, I like the idea of Peter not suiting up for a whole hour into the film. I really like that they ditched the organic web shooters and kept it loyal to the comic. Peter Parker is a very intelligent individual and developing his own web demonstrates that.
Back when George Lucas did THX-1138 he said that sound was 50% of the picture. I kind of agree with the man. This movie has great sound effects, specially the web shooters. However, the musical score was weak, this is also the problem I had with Iron Man. The score that Danny Elfman did in Rami’s Spider-Man had a singular sound that executed a dramatic effect, Elfman did the same for Tim Burton’s Batman. The score in this film is done by James Horner, who is known for working in James Cameron films. Perhaps he doesn’t quite understand the comic genre. A good score takes the movie to a different level, Nolan’s Batman and The Avengers are good samples of this. Then there’s the visuals, and this is the icing on the cake for this film. To my surprise director Marc Webb did some phenomenal camera work, the battle scenes in this movie are dynamic and spidey seems to have weight and agility we come to embrace. I like how in this movie they really made him behave “more spider-like”. In fact, I like how they represent his spidey sense and how he uses it during times of danger. If you have ever been to Universal Orlando you’ve probably gone into the spider-man ride, which is a 3D moving simulation with very accelerating action. This movie provides that kind of accelerating vibe, and watching it in 3D actually helps because spidey pops out of the background nicely.
I just realized this is probably the longest review I’ve ever done on this blog, you can tell I’m very passionate about this character. I will wrap it up by saying that this movie does deserve the prize of admission and it must be experienced in theaters. Both Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield did a fantastic job putting heart into the characters. Although I feel like both of them are a bit too old for high school. I heard Sony wants to keep all spidey movies in high school, I really hope that’s not the case. Hopefully they graduate by the sequel, I personally like mid 20s spidey a lot more that the teen version. If you’re not a spidey geek like me, then this will entertain the hell out of you for a couple of hours, so go and get your web-head ON.
::::::::::::::::::::: SIDE NOTES: SPOILERS AHEAD ::::::::::::::::::::::::::
One of the things, I never really liked about Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) was the death of uncle Ben. First off Tobey Maguire looks stupid as fuck when he cries but that’s besides the point, what I really had a problem with was the fact that, here’s Peter’s father figure dying in his arms and suddenly we cut into him swinging into action. Seriously, this is a very emotional moment let us digest it, let us see the character go through the pain. Director Marc Webb does this very well, thus allowing Peter to grow and become the vigilante known as spider-man. Also this movie tried to do some weird corporate conspiracy with OSCORP and Peter’s parent, it was kind of weak and it didn’t quite work for me, but other than that it was great.