Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

If there was one movie that came out during the summer of 2012 that I was determined not to watch it was The Amazing Spider-Man. Why? Two reasons: 1) Spider-Man 3 was so effing bad that it left me cold to the character, and 2) Spider-Man 3 came out only five years ago and a reboot this soon seems like an obvious cash grab in my eyes.

However, boredom can make you do things you never expect to stay entertained.  When I went to check out the local Redbox this past Friday night and saw that the only new movie in stock was The Amazing Spider-Man I said “fuck it” and clicked “RENT”. I’m glad I only spent $1.50 and not $15 on a 3D showing, because this flick was a total waste of my time.
We all know the story because it was told pretty damned well ten years ago in the original Spider-Man: Brainy nerd gets bitten by spider, gets arachnid superpowers, wins the heart of the beautiful girl that’s out of his league and beats down a big baddie in the name of truth, justice and the American way. This time things have been slightly altered so it’s not exactly the same, but the fact remains that it is just a redundant origin story of this character that we didn’t need.

I’m just going to dive into the issues I had with this pile of flotsam. Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man, looks way too old to be a high schooler, let alone romancing someone who is clearly ten years younger than him. He also can’t seem to keep that goofy, semi-arrogant smirk off his face, even during the serious scenes. The casting of Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben respectively was great. The problem is that they don’t even hold a candle to the portrayals of the characters in the original. I blame the writing. Denis Leary looks embarrassed half the time and even Rhys Ifans doesn’t look like he gives a shit that he’s been cast in a huge Hollywood blockbuster.
The writing is lazy. Plot points are glossed over and characters do things that make no sense. For example, Dr. Connors wants to grow his missing arm back by injecting himself with a lizard DNA concoction Peter helped him create. So when his arm does grow back what is the first thing he does? He calls his boss and tells him to stop the human trials of the product because something is wrong. Why? At that point in the story the process worked. Either some footage was left on the cutting room floor or the writer just didn’t care and had to create some sort of dramatic situation for the hell of it. The whole movie is filled with scenes like that, where characters do stupid things that make sense down the line but it’s as if they have some sort of foreknowledge of events before they happen.

The villain is lame and is a total missed opportunity, especially since Sam Raimi took the time to set-up the character so well in Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. He is non-threatening, his evil scheme is dumb and the special effects involved in making his character look believable are pretty awful. The Dr. Connors character goes from a gentle, yet driven man to a complete sociopath overnight. There is no reason given as to why this happened, and the audience is left to assume that turning into a giant lizard made him instantly homicidal, even when he is in human form. I like Rhys Ifans as an actor, but he was totally wrong for this part.
The non-stop action scenes are decent, but we’ve seen it all before and better in the previous films. The difference this time is that the action has been sped up to the point where it’s hard to follow. The 3D POV shots are jarring in the extreme and took me out of the movie every time they popped up, which was a lot. Some of the CGI is pretty fantastic (Spider-Man swinging around), and other times it looks like poop (mostly involving The Lizard). It’s a wildly inconsistent movie on all fronts as you can probably already tell.

The whole sub-plot about Peter’s parents feels thrown into the mix just to shake the tedium of having to re-tell the origin story all over again. It doesn’t hold any real weight because we never really get to know the characters except for their three minute scene at the start of the film. I expected there to be a decently long prologue about them to help the audience connect with Peter in a different way than in the original series, but when they get a combined total of five lines I have to say “what was the point in even showing Peter’s parents if we don’t get to know them before they die?”
Director Marc Webb, like Tim Story of the Fantastic Four movies, was obviously not the guy for this job. Sure he manages to squeeze some decent acting out of his leads, especially Emma Stone, but he seems to be content keeping the film in the “mediocre” zone for its entire run time. If I were in his shoes I would be hell bent on making sure that not only would my film set itself apart from the original series in every way possible, but be so much bigger and epic to help the audience forget that the other series ever existed. The film just cruises along not doing anything but sucking my time, making me wish I had just popped the original Spider-Man BluRay in instead. For some reason he seemed okay with Peter taking his mask off and exposing who he is every ten minutes, so as far as I'm concerned he get an "F" in my book.

And what was up with that lame ass after the credits scene? Was it trying to set up some sort of mystery surrounding Norman Osborne and Peter’s family? If that was the plan it certainly didn’t do its job very well because it just made me say “What the hell was that?”
And lastly, this film featured the absolute worst musical score from composer James Horner that I have ever heard. At one point this guy was one of my favorites in the biz, and some of his early scores still get play on my iPod (Star Trek II, Star Trek III, Battle Beyond the Stars, Krull, Aliens), but lately he seems to just plagiarize his previous work to crank the music out faster. There is no theme here, no memorable bits. The score sounds generic and hokey like the X2 score. The millions Horner was paid for this garbage was not well spent.

I will admit that Emma Stone completely won me over as Gwen Stacy. Sure I didn’t believe for a second that she would be an intern at a multi-billion dollar genetics corporation, but in the personal moments with Peter I totally bought into their relationship. She’s the only person who looks relaxed and natural in their role, and in the end when the inevitable break-up scene with Peter went down I believed that her character was genuinely heartbroken. Kudos to you Ms. Stone, you have an Oscar in your future.
There were some nice touches as well here and there. I did enjoy seeing the web shooters that Peter designed instead of the organic ones. However, he purchased the cartridges from Oscorp and I seriously doubt some kid would be able to afford cutting edge technology like that, especially since he bought it in bulk. Stan Lee’s cameo was pretty hilarious and the arc of Flash Thompson was unexpected in a good way.

Totally unnecessary in every conceivable way, The Amazing Spider-Man fails on all fronts. It should have been so much more in order to necessitate a reboot so soon after the original trilogy ended, but there is nothing about this film to even warrant its very existence. Apparently audiences will eat up anything that is thrown at them with the Spider-Man logo on it because a sequel is on the fast track with rumors of Jamie Foxx being cast as Electro. I will not be fooled again. If I am at a Redbox in the winter of 2014 and see that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in stock and available for rental I will gladly turn and walk away to revel in my boredom instead. It’s a lose-lose situation any way you look at it.

1.5 out of 5

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