Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man - 2 1/2 stars

Before I went in to watch this movie, I tried really hard to not think about the Sam Raimi Spider Man movies of the last decade.  I tried to forget how good they were and judge this movie on its own merits. 

Even doing that, I was disappointed by this new Spider Man movie.

Once again, we have the origin story.  Considering that we got one only 10 years ago, couldn't they have just made a stand alone Spider Man movie?  Do it like the Bond movies.  We don't get an origin story each time a new actor plays James Bond (Casino Royale was the first time they had done that). 

This time, we get some back story on Peter Parker's parents.  His father was involved in some kind of secret research, and his parents abandon him when he's only 7 or 8 years old.  They leave him with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), and then they disappear.  Cut to 10 years later and Peter is an awkward high school kid (played by Andrew Garfield).  He has a nice old fashioned camera (not sure why he wasn't using digital), and we learn right away that he likes taking pictures.  We also see that he likes Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). 

Eventually he will get bitten by a genetically altered spider, giving him his superpowers.  He will also inadvertently cause the death of his uncle Ben.  He will go after criminals in order to avenge Uncle Ben's death, he will make his Spider Man suit, and he will fight a supervillain, in this movie a man turned into a large reptile.

First, I will focus on some things I liked about this movie.  I liked Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy.  There are a couple of scenes between Peter and Gwen that were really fun.  They have a natural chemistry (it doesn't hurt that they are dating in real life), and she is very good at comedy.  Considering director Marc Webb's previous movie was the great (500) Days of Summer, it makes sense that he would do a good job with the scenes involving the romance.

I also liked the effects.  One thing that bugged me in Sam Raimi's movies was the CGI.  Every time Spider Man started climbing walls or swinging on his spider lines, it looked really cartoonish.  Not so this time around.  It looks like Andrew Garfield was really doing those things.  Sometimes the camera gave us a first person view of what Peter was seeing, and it was really cool. 

I also liked that his web shooters were things he made, which is how they were before Sam Raimi's movies.  I would have liked a little more detail about how they worked.  It looked like he kept them attached to his inner wrists with the suit on, but where were they when he wasn't wearing the suit?  I saw him shoot webs sometimes when he didn't have the suit on, so they must have been handy.  Was he ever in danger of running out of webbing?  Did he refill them every time he got back from a night of crime fighting?

I also liked the climax a lot.  I won't spoil anything, but the movie went further than I expected it to go.

Ok, things I didn't like.  The obvious one is this movie isn't necessary.  They basically remade the 2002 Spider Man.  They changed some story details, but the important beats are the same.  Like I said before, don't give us another origin story.  The first half of the movie is just waiting for the things you know are coming (the spider bite, Uncle Ben's death, ect). 

The music also bothered me.  Even without comparing the score to Danny Elfman's, the music was all wrong.  It was too triumphant and happy.  Within the first 5 minutes of the movie, we are getting music that is too overly dramatic and just didn't work for me at all.

I think Martin Sheen and Sally Field were the wrong choices for Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  They are just too well known from other roles to play these characters.  I did enjoy some of Martin Sheen's scenes, but Sally Field is given nothing to do.  I'm reminded of what an impact Rosemary Harris made as Aunt May in the other movies.   Also, the dialogue given to Sheen and Field is horrible.

The movie is too long, and it's boring in a lot of places.  There are some fun sequences, but there are several 10-15 minute stretches that were just boring.  I really didn't care much about Peter's father's back story.  And there are too many coincidental character relationships.  Peter's father worked with Dr. Curt Connors, who also happens to be mentor to Gwen Stacy, who interns at Oscorp Labs despite being in high school.  And Gwen's father just happens to be the police chief who is trying to capture the vigilante Spider Man.

Last, there aren't enough good scenes.  I can think of a dozen scenes from the previous Spider Man movies that were either exciting, funny, or dramatic.  But there are no scenes that really stick with me from this movie.

The only reason Sony made this movie (besides to make a lot of money) was so they didn't lose the rights to Spider Man.  They shouldn't be rebooting a franchise so soon.  They should have let Sam Raimi make Spider Man 4.

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