Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman Review

Maybe it was the jazz dancing or the Jared Leto eye liner that did him in, either way by the end of Spiderman 3 it was painfully apparent that the character had lost a good portion of his "amazing-ness." A fresh start was needed. Enter "The Amazing Spiderman," a witty, edgy and innovative re-telling of the character's origin and ultimate decision to become the hero, Spiderman.
What's that? Why are we getting another origin story when we've already covered all that in the 2002 Spideman film you may protest. Well, unlike it's predecessor, which was in such a mad rush to get Tobey Maguire in the suit that they barely scratched the surface of who Peter Parker was, "Amazing" really provides an in depth look at the character, from his earliest childhood memories of his parents leaving him under mysterious circumstances, to the strong sense morality instilled in him by his aunt and uncle as featured in the scene were he stands up for a kid being harassed by the token highschool alpha jock/meathead and takes a pounding for his troubles. In short, the movie makes you care about Peter Parker before he puts on the costume. Much of the credit for this goes to Andrew Garfield for turning in such a genuine and memorable performance. Tall, lanky, and awkward, Garfield's Peter Parker just comes across as more in line with webhead's original comic book incarnation than the diminutive maguire, and although he is fundamentally a good kid, I liked how the movie is not afraid to portray Peter Parker as just that, a kid, who can be reckless, selfish, arrogant, and even a downright snarky little a$$hole a times. When his uncle is shot and killed after trying to stop a robber, Peter does not immediatly shape up and commit himself to the lonely and selfless road of the road of the hero as he did in the previous franchise but instead becomes an angry and unpredictable vigilante acting out of a self-centered desire for revenge against his uncle's killer. It is not until later, when he uses his powers to save a young boy from falling to his death in a flaming car that Peter begins to realize his responsibility to use his abilities for good and his motives take a more altruistic bent. It is these added dimensions of moral ambiguety and wrestling with the ego that make Peter's journey as compelling as it is gratifying.
All the performance were pretty top notch. Martain Sheen is Uncle Ben to a t. evoking both wisdom and a rascally sense of good humour. The intimate and dramatic scenes between he and Garfield really shined and, although it is really small part, one of my absolute favorite bits of the movie happens near the beginning when the two are talking and Peter just tells him, "Your a pretty great dad." Sally Field, is likewise perfectly cast as Aunt May who, as in the comics, acts as Peter's moral anchor throughout the film, believably conveying the fear and heartache a parent feels when a child starts to meander down a dangerous path yet all the same never giving up on them no matter what. Emma Stone was was very well cast as Peter's classmate and love interest Gwen Stacy and ended up bringing a lot more to the table rather than just being the requisite "damsel in distress." Unlike the agonizingly forced chemistry between Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the Raimi films these two were a lot of fun to watch on screen together and root for as a couple. Rys Ifans was solid as Doctor Curt Conners who winds up turning himself into a giant, scaly lizard man after trying to regenerate a limb through gene splicing. There was kind of a been there done that feeling of repitition however as Peter is forced to defeate his surrogate scientific father figure, a part represented by Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin in the first film and Otto Octavius/Dr. Octopus in 2004's Spiderman 2.
Even though I have been harping on them, I still really love the Raimi/Maguire films (the first two anyway) they have a sense of wonder and fantasy about them that is infectious and makes you want to put on a red unitard and start scaling walls, but, at the end of the day, I think Amazing Spiderman's honest depiction of the complex, confusing and often times messy nature of life along with a very strong character focus on Peter Parker is what makes it soar, or should I say "swing" higher than what has come before.


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