Other than the stereotypical word to use to other than AMAZING to describe Marc Webb’s take on the web-slinger. The problem with retconning a character is that fans are already familiar with the origin of said character. Case in point, we all know Bruce Wayne’s parents die, if you don’t then you have no soul, so when Nolan put that in his first Batman film he made it a focal point, a branching off point. It wasn’t something that Wayne looked back on and saw as say well this happened so I am going to do this, instead Nolan made it the focal point of why and how Wayne became the Caped Crusader.
Now a days with film companies trying to do the big budget superhero flick and make it right so that they can make multiple sequels it becomes more of a challenge to do it right by the fans and the general film goer. Movies that are based off of existing franchises, case in point superhero and novels, tend to focus mainly on the actual reader of said material. I didn’t get most of the Hunger Games much like Brianne didn’t get all of Spider-Man. As a filmmaker you have to make some trade offs in your film if you are taking an existing franchise and turning it into a motion picture. Superhero films have a wider room for error than novels. You see most films that are made from comic characters have 40 or more years worth of source material whereas the Hunger Games movie had 1 book. You can’t really steer the course of the story to make it work for what you want, which is what the writer’s did with Spider-Man.
We all know the basic plot points of the friendly neighborhood wall crawler, his uncle has to die after he is bitten by some form of a spider that gives him the super powers, much like Bruce Wayne’s parents have to die in order for him to embark on the quest to become vengeance. But what you do from there as the scriptwriter is almost entirely up to you, as long as you don’t stray too far from the character and what he represents. So as my tangent comes to a close I feel like I can finally begin the actual review.
So where do we begin?
Yes this seems like a very solid place to start. As I was ranting, the film did a nice job just retouching on Pete’s origins. This time the mysterious disappearance of the parents which is only briefly touched upon in the first 30 minutes of the film then almost entirely dropped adds a new change of scenery to the film or at least the franchise. Peter this time has the hots for Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane, something they get right for once, yeah Sam Raimi I’m blaming you for this mistake in the original. A few minor changes that make the story work including Doctor Curt Connors working on the gene splicing leads to Peter getting bitten by a spider because Oscorp (yep they are in this) developed some kind of web thats really strong and stuff. I don’t want to delve too deep into the story other than it’s quite simple but at the same time rather deep.
The scripting though, dialogue is well written out. Pete’s scripting in the beginning seem very Peter Parker to some who have read some of the comics or at least know of the character and on top of that the early interactions with Gwen show the awkwardness the character has. Each character has an important role to play, well not every single one but the main ones. Uncle Ben is perhaps one of the more deeper characters in the brief time he’s on the screen and his death essentially makes the movie move on faster.
The romance written for Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield is kind of cheesey at times but as I’ll point out now, it’s the on screen chemistry that really makes it stand out, plus the evolution of Parker as a character into the cocksure hero also makes it more interesting. Some may argue that the change from mild mannered awkward nerd to cocky puts people in their place hero is too quick, but when you only have a little over 2 hours to tell an origin story and get the viewer invested in the film and the characters you have to speed up some things
One big thing I noticed or that stood out to me was the fact that each of the main characters had some form of emotional attachment. You felt bad for Parker in the beginning because deep down inside we all were like Pete at one point, some of us more often than others. When Ben dies you feel as if you are watching your father die because he is Pete’s father figure and in a sense all the innocence you had is suddenly blown up and boom it’s gone. These plot elements also help force Pete to become the man he needs to be, and this while simple represents powerful themes that help the film along the way.
It’s hard to believe that this is just director Marc Webb’s second feature film, his first being (500) Days of Summer. One thing Webb manages to do is seemingly waste few shots. The action while a bit choppy at times is solid and the performances he coaxes out of his stars is impressive. But looking at Webb’s resume you see the lengthy list of music videos that he has directed including what I would say is the highly impressive “Ghost of You” video by My Chemical Romance. Webb’s experience in the 3 minute film (as I sometimes like to call music videos) comes in handy here as he has a much larger tapestry to make a story with so it’s nicely flowing since when you make a music video you only have a short period of time to tell a story.
Webb’s worst shots were the first person shots. This hasn’t been done much and was a huge gimmick in 2005’s flop Doom but what it does here is give us a chance to see what it is like to be the hero, but to be honest it made me want to run to the bathroom to throw up my popcorn. While it looked good some of the effects used looked dated, such as when we see some of the effects featuring Garfield falling or even the occasional fighting but that happens when it is against a lighter backdrop and even that needs to be forgiven.
I saved one of the strongest parts for last, the acting. With a cast that features both Sally Field and Martin Sheen in smaller almost non existent roles you have to wonder what is in store for us as the film goers. The same can be said when The Man of Steel drops some point soon with Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane all playing smaller roles. But needless to say the whole cast was great.
Sheen played an excellent father figure and could give Liam Neeson an run for his money in that department. Sheen has aged well and he is taking what he can get now and playing the part well. From giving sagely advice to Pete and eventually leading to him growing up. The voice of Sheen though is what I find to be exceedingly memorable. When he yells at Peter for ditching Aunt May you can tell that he is exceedingly pissed off and then you hear him later on, total change of emotion, he’s human.
Field didn’t get much screen time but when she was there you could only help but feel bad for her, due to her loss and how Pete seems to be spiraling out of control and this is portrayed almost entirely in her physical acting, mainly in her face. But I really can’t say much about the rest of her acting as she seems to be essentially a one trick pony.
Dennis Leary played Captain Stacy and like most protective fathers well need I go any farther? He plays the father of Gwen who obviously doesn’t take too much of a shine to Pete when he is brought home to dinner but his character also evolves and the comedian shows some more serious acting chops by playing out that evolution through the character.
Rhys Ifan plays Connors, and I had never heard of him before but he too displayed great poise in playing both the mild mannered doctor and the villain. It was like Jekyl and Hyde from his point of view and once again the evolution of his character from mild mannered scientist into the villain of the film is another strong selling point.
Garfield though shows the most signs of brilliance in the film as this will either make or break his career, more likely the first than the latter. The evolution of his character into Spider-Man is what this whole film is about. He nails down the cockiness and wise acre attitude of Spider-Man more so than that no good for nothing Tobey Macguire, plus Emma Stone is way more attractive than Kirsten Dunst (too easy) and her performance was miles better which isn’t saying much.
In a summer that is crowded with so many options for films, The Avengers is still playing, The Amazing Spider-Man remains one of the better films at least until Batman later this month. Marvel hits another home run giving them 2 on the year (take that Ghost Rider) but six of the last seven dating back to 2010 have been great quality films. If you would rather see the raunchy comedy Ted instead of Spider-Man you are missing out on a film ripe with quality story telling and rich characters. As a whole package Spider-Man is worth the cost of the ticket to see, that is if you enjoy the superhero genre which it seems like most of America does (see the box office returns for both The Dark Knight and the Avengers). I have to had Webb and the rest of the crew a nice cool 8.5 out of the 10. I wish I could have been more in detail near the end but it’s nearing 4:30 in the morning over here so I really need to go to bed.
Stay tuned I should have some more reviews of some video games in the coming days as well as my thoughts on the Dark Knight Rises as soon as I get to see it, let’s hope I don’t work the whole damn weekend it opens, midnight won’t be an option.