Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Let me start by saying that it would be very easy to let this review dip into a comparison between this film and the previous Spider-Man films.  With that in mind I am going to avoid that all together.  Director Marc Webb is doing this film after his amazing success with 500 days of summer.  I have to applaud Mr. Webb for a lot of his stylistic choices.  I feel that his choices pretty accurately reflect the comic incarnation of the character of Spider-Man which is a real treat to see.  I always applaud film makers who will unabashedly take the source material of a comic character and directly translate it to the screen.  The thing about Spider-Man is that his origin is already so good that a direct translation is not a bad idea at all. 

The Premise

I think most people are aware of the origin story of Spider-Man but I will cover it anyway.  The fact is the origin is not too different here.  Really all the key elements are in place.  Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a nerdy social outcast at school who lives with his Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) after Peter’s mother and father die when peter is still a young boy.  Peter is shown to be a kind hearted person who tries to stand up for people who aren’t able or don’t stand up for themselves.  These actions lead Peter to meet Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) a girl that Peter has a bit of a crush on.  Peter finds a briefcase that belonged to his father in his aunt and uncle’s basement it leads him to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) A genetic scientist working on a serum to splice together human and animal DNA.  Peter goes to Oscorp in an effort to get some answers from Dr. Connors about his parents and what happened to them.  While at Oscorp gets bitten by a genetically altered spider which gives peter amazing spider like abilities.  Peter uses his new abilities for his own gain which leads to friction at school and at home.  This culminates in a blow up where peter goes out one night and Uncle Ben follows him.  While Uncle Ben is out looking for Peter he is shot and killed by a thief.  Peter grief stricken dons a mask to hunt down the thief and bring him to justice.  This leads to the creation of the Spider-Man costume and web shooters.  Meanwhile Dr. Connors injects himself with his serum and transforms into the Lizard.  Peter now Spider-man after having decided to protect people has to stop the Lizard from hurting the people of New York. 

The Good

I have to say that I am so happy that Spider-Man is finally moving the way Spider-Man always moved in the comics.  The amazing flexibility and agility of Spider-Man is on full display in this film which really makes every action sequence a great treat.  The thing that made this possible was the choice to make almost every action oriented scene be computer generated.  This really freed up the cinematography to do some really awesome shots and some impressive animation and effects.  I have to say that the acting was also really great through the film.  The dynamic between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield is so strong and compelling it really is the driving force of the film in a lot of ways.

The Bad

The Amazing Spider-Man has quite a few faults.  Most of the problems are not story based but more based around polish and presentation.  I found a lot of the music to feel a bit forced and more than a couple times I was drawn out of the experience of the film just to take mental note of the score.  By the same token there are a few times where incredibly cliche or grating sound effects are used to cue up actions.  These cinematic tropes are so over used and well defined that they almost felt like a joke.  Now most movies have something like this in the presentation but the effect is cumulative.  One or two of these types of things is passable because they aren’t really bad but just kind of annoying and distracting from the cinematic experience.  The CG effects are pretty solid through the film in most parts.  However there were a few scene were it could have been much better.  The lizard just never seemed to look right, he always just felt so fake.  I feel that part of it was the design of the character but also the composting of the character into the frame just wasn’t done as well.  The other element that is quite frustrating is the uneven delivery of ideas.  Certain things are pounded into our brains repeatedly with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  While other more interesting elements are brushed over to quickly and would have really fleshed out the transition of the characters and their thought process. 

Final Thoughts and Recommendation

Ultimately the film suffers from surprising problems.  It seems that these big budget films generally suffer from a rushed story or too many plot holes.  However this film just has a series of odd choices and a number of polish things that would have helped the film score higher with me.  The story of Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker is expertly handled with such care that it’s a shame the actual Spider-Man business couldn’t have been given the same amount of love and attention.  I have to say I struggled to rate this one.  I was initially thinking I would give it a 4 but after thinking it over there are just too many elements that are distracting and kind of nerf the enjoyment of the film for me.  The film is still fun, it is still entertaining and I do recommend seeing it.

Final score 3/5   

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