Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In short: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Fifteen years ago, this would have been quite a good superhero movie. Now, after a glut of films in that particular genre you don’t need to use phrases like “good for a superhero movie” for, it’s a decent one at best, though one that has a fine and fun final phase (take that, Mr Lee) that makes me wish the rest of the film would have been as sure of itself too, because then, I’d actually have seen why we needed a Spider-Man reboot.

As it stands, the film’s beginning two acts are unfocused and seem unsure what kind of hero this version of Spider-Man is supposed to be as well as about how to get the character there. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (the oldest high school kids alive) do a well enough job with the little the script gives them but still Amazing never really gets to the point where the characters become convincing or loveable. I even think that Stone’s Gwen is the only element here actually handled better than the respective element in the Raimi movies, Mary Jane, with a better integration into the main plot and gutsier acting.

The film also doesn’t manage to set up Curt Connors/the Lizard as the tragic villain he’s supposed to be, the script never quite managing to juggle the origin plot, the pointless stuff about Peter’s parents, and Connors’s experiments in a way that makes Peter and Connors interesting antagonists, or connected by anything more profound than the mere whims of the scripting gods. There’s a lack of thematic coherence here that’s rather frustrating because, if you ask me, characters as iconic as Spider-Man and superheroes as a whole are all about theme: about the way the plots reflect them, and vice versa, about the way the heroes and the villains play off each other. Sure, there’s a bit of the most obvious stuff about responsibility in here, but the film doesn’t seem to have much of a clue about what it wants to actually say about responsibility, either, nor what the Lizard has to do with it. I’m also not quite clear why the CGI Lizard has to look quite as bad as it does, with a boring creature design and little weight to its appearances, but then I wouldn’t put this particular character into Spidey’s origin story at all, so what do I know?

So it’s no surprise the final act is actually the part of the film that’s fun too watch, because here, director Marc Webb can concentrate on the less complicated things, like superhero action and the very particular kind of melodrama the genre thrives on, and going by the entertaining way he handles this part of the film, I suspect he should have been able to manage a worthwhile first hour.

But at least, I want to rewatch Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies now, so that’s a success, right?

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