Monday, July 9, 2012

My “The Amazing Spider-Man” Review!

The much anticipated franchise reboot is finally here…and this time, there’s very little “amazing” about this Spider-Man flick

After watching “The Amazing Spider-Man,” my initial thoughts were, “man, I really want to sip some Tropicana after going to Bed, Bath and Beyond, right after I read some stuff from Time Out New York on my Sony Vaio.” In a summer movie season rife with shameless product placement, this newfangled Spider-reboot has triumphed over them all, providing moviegoers with what is, in essence, a two hour long commercial for Bing, with only the occasional dinosaur fight and melodramatic smooching scene thrown in to keep this thing from violating some sort of Federal Trade Commission code.

I had low expectations heading into “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and the end result was WAY worse than I had imagined. The movie is pretty much an extremely watered-down, scene-by-scene remake of Sam Raimi’s first film, only “updated” so that tweens and other worthless forms of human life can “relate” to Peter Parker’s troubles. I mean, shit, back in 2002, we didn’t even have Facebook or “Angry Birds,” so how CAN the youth of today comprehend such archaic texts?

Right off the bat, I suppose I should address the fact that I am a HUGE Sam Raimi fan boy, and still consider “Spider-Man 2” to be the single greatest superhero movie ever made. As I have said a million-bazillion times before, what made that movie great was the emphasis on the “human,“ part of the term “superhuman” - a notion that even the most ballyhooed  of modern superhero movies continue to have difficulties grasping.

Simply put, “Spider-Man 2” totally nailed the Spider-Man mythos, creating a yarn about a struggling, down-on-his-luck kid just trying to stick to his morals while going through the day-to-day hassles we all experience (basically, it was “Do the Right Thing,” only with way more web slinging). I really can’t imagine a better Spider-Man movie being brought to life, and yeah, the suits at Columbia Pictures REALLY should’ve stopped while they were ahead, but hey - what makes money makes money, and if that means churning out some flicks without things like “plot” or “coherence” or “originality,” who gives a hoot?

Of course, Sam Raimi’s Spider-flicks certainly fluctuated in quality. While the second film is one of the best American movies of the last 25 years, the first and third films in his much maligned trilogy were absolute and utter dookie - albeit, dookie that stunk in disproportionate amounts, of course. Admittedly, the first “Spider-Man” movie is pretty (OK, extremely) cheesy, but Raimi managed to invest just enough humanity in the characters to make it seem like there was a bit of warmth and reality to the treatment. Compared to “The Amazing Spider-Man,” however, Raimi’s origin flick is a masterpiece of human drama on par with “Amarcord” or “The 400 Blows.”

The world of “The Amazing Spider-Man” isn’t populated by people, but by cardboard characters that say and do things that no actual human being would ever utter or consider. As if by deus ex machina, the characters in the film completely change their attitudes and mannerisms at the drop of a hat, seemingly because the plot necessitates it. Nobody really shows signs of human emotion in the flick, as much as they do one-off panels that indicate the characters’ motivations. Take, for example, the scene where Uncle Ben gets gunned down; unlike in Raimi’s first film, there’s virtually ZERO grieving period, as in five minutes time, we’re knee-deep in Peter indexing Spandex uniforms and subplots about evil Indian guys trying to turn PTSD victims into lizard monsters.

The only known still from Bela Tarr's ill-fated adaptation of "Maximum Carnage."

Before I get into the eighty four trillion things about the movie that suck, I might as well address the FEW positives the movie has going for it. For one, the action scenes are pretty good, and there are, very, very occasionally, some scenes that really paint Peter as an interesting character (like the sewer scene, where he’s just hanging out playing “Words with Friends” until the Lizard shows up.) All in all, Andrew Garfield isn’t a horrible Spider-Man, as he plays the angst-ridden, teenage scientist stereotype pretty well. I liked the fact that he never apprehended the guy that actually killed his uncle, which gives him this frenzied obsession that, conceivably, could lead to some interesting fodder for future sequels. And the ending scene, with Peter listening to his uncle’s final voice message, was a pretty nice touch, and one of the few “modernization” tweaks that I thought was for the better. And, uh, I guess the part about OsCorp manufacturing super-strength web-tinsel via glow in the dark arachnids is kinda’ cool, as well. 

And now, those negatives I was talking about earlier? Hold on, folks, because we might just run out of bandwidth here.

  • Jeez, do I hate it when people make movies about high school and all of the actors are clearly in their thirties. Especially horrendous is the casting of Emma Stone as a SEVENTEEN year old, despite the fact that her already cigarette-ravaged voice makes her sound like she smokes a Persian rug every morning.

  • Man, how convenient is it that Gwen Stacy has a job at the VERY PLACE Peter Parker needs to sneak into so he can press some British bio-physicist for info on his dead parents? And twenty bucks says that kid he stole the license badge from ends up becoming Carnage by the end of the franchise.

  • Just the design of OsCorp, in general. It’s a billion dollar company, with a suspiciously multicultural clientele base, with some soft-spoken skirt spitting out corporate propaganda over the in-building PA system. What the hell is this place, the World of Coca-Cola or something?

  • And how in the hell did Peter Parker break into the web-spinning room without ANYONE noticing? Apparently, OsCorp spent its entire 2011 FY budget on holographic keyboards, and security cameras were the first expenditure on the chopping block.

  • At the end of the film, how the identity of Spider-Man is still “secret” to the public is simply beyond me. There are literally DOZENS of people in the flick that uncover - or at least, should be clued into - Peter Parker’s double life, including, but not limited to, his girlfriend, the Lizard, at least a dozen people on a subway train, the NYPD chief of police AND an entire gymnasium of high school students. If we were going the “real world” route here, you just know somebody would’ve tweeted that shit in about five minutes.
I have to say; the international cut of the film is WAY different than the version we got in the States.

  • Peter and Gwen’s first kiss. He seduces her…by spraying her ASS WITH WEB FLUID. 

  • That’s awesome how we’re introduced to a mutant rat that escapes from its cage and, it’s never mentioned again. You know, because biogenetic crossbreeds NEVER cause any problems in these kinds of movies.

  • Ah, and how about the scene where Spider-Man gets an assist from the construction workers at the WTC memorial? You know, because excessive, syrupy patriotism was something that was SO LACKING in Raimi’s movies.

  • The Lizard, in general. What exactly was his motive, outside of being irked that he didn’t have an arm? The Jekyll and Hyde shtick really didn’t work here at all. So, he wants to keep that evil Indian dude from turning a bunch of people at a VA hospital into iguana chimeras, so he concocts a plan to turn EVERYBODY IN NYC into those same lizard monsters?

  • And what happened to those cops that were turned into lizard monsters? There was a good ten minute or so window before Spider-Man reversified that doomsday device, so what exactly were they up to during the film’s climactic action scene?

  • The teaser for part two that unfurls halfway through the end credits. So, Curt Connors is just hanging out in jail (remember kids: if you leak military paperwork, you get sent to Guantanamo, and if you almost turn Manhattan into Jurassic Park, they just stuff you in the county jail), when a mysterious dude who’s face is never shown talks to him about Peter’s parents. Never mind that the enigmatic denouement is irritatingly played out these days…if this thing is going where I think it’s going, that means the villain in “The Spectacular Spider-Man” will end up being goddamn MYSTERIO.  

SPOILER: The mysterious villains introduced at the end of "The Avengers" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" are actually the same evil mastermind...

In case you couldn’t tell, I was not a big fan of Marc Webb’s take on old Webhead, for many, many reasons. My absolute biggest complaint about the Raimi Spider-flicks were that they were just too melodramatic for their own good, but this movie? Holy hell, it‘s so syrupy and wooden that it makes the first “Spider-Man” movie look like a Roberto Rossellini production.

I guess it’s a little irrational to complain about the film being lackluster - after all, this is a hyper-budget, cash cow summer movie, not “We Were Here” or “A Separation” - but at the end of the day, I still felt gypped. Where was the warmth, and the human intrigue, and the commentary on the faults and foibles of the human condition? Granted, Raimi’s movies didn’t go too in-depth with those things, but they were certainly present, and remained central aspects of his franchise.

But in this fledgling Spider-series, I’m seeing no such glimmers. We’ve got sound, and we’ve got fury, and we’ve got some (mostly) decent special effects, but beyond that? It’s a hollow, vacant experience, like watching a really, really bad community theater production of “Othello.”

There’s the potentiality that the series could produce a quasi-decent flick later on, but until some major, MAJOR personnel changes are made, it looks like we’re going to be stuck with a less than spectacular Spider-series for a long, long time to come.


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