And now to today's mischief...
"With great power comes great responsibility. And emotional angst. And years of questioning your own decisions. And occasionally calling the whole superhero thing quits, only to reconsider that decision. Did I mention the angst?" ~ Peter Parker
Well, a decade after the last Spider-Man trilogy of films by Sam Raimi began, and five years after the last of those films, along comes The Amazing Spider-Man, a reboot of the film franchise returning Peter Parker to the beginning again with a new cast, a new director, and all in 3D if you're not careful which screening you're walking into (don't go into the 3D screening, okay? Well, don't blame me if your stomach does that whole spinning in circles thing; I did warn you). It seems obvious that I'd go see this film, particularly because I'm a fan of the character. Before I get started though, I'd just like to get one thing out of the way.
I want to track down the imbecile who coined the term reboot. I want them dead. Sleeping with the fish. Rubbed out, knocked off, encased in cement, congressionally investigated. Same goes for their family, their friends, their acquaintances. Their pets can go in peace; we can't hold the idiocy of humans against the pets, but seriously... I really, really, really, really hate the word reboot. Hate, hate, hate it. Did I mention I hate it?
Okay. Got that out of my system. Shall we begin?
|Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker|
The film by director Marc Webb retells the origin story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), an outsider in high school. His parents leave him with his aunt May and Uncle Ben (Sally Field and Martin Sheen), vanishing when he's a child. He's a smart kid, trying to live up to the example of his aunt and uncle, who are, after all, inherently decent people (though younger than I'd picture the characters, in fact). Peter winds up at OsCorp labs one day, where his life is altered forever by the bite of a certain spider, which of course infects him and grants him the powers he'll soon be known by. He also crosses paths with Doctor Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a scientist working for the unseen Norman Osborn (a big bad in the comics universe who's otherwise known on a bad day as the Green Goblin). Osborn, it seems, is dying, and Connors (seen in the Raimi trilogy as one of Peter's professors, and played by Dylan Baker) is working on a cure.
|Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors|
Peter gets used to his powers, making a mistake that inadvertantly leads to the death of his uncle, which as any comics fan will tell you becomes the central motivating factor for the rest of his life. He becomes Spider-Man as atonement, becoming involved with a classmate, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), meeting her father George, a police captain (Denis Leary). Connors meanwhile makes himself a test subject in his own work, and as usually happens in these things, it goes wrong. He becomes a human-reptilian hybrid monster otherwise known as the Lizard (one of the other big bads in the comics universe) and starts wrecking havoc. Out of this, of course, two opposing forces must collide.
|Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy|
|Denis Leary as Captain Stacy|
The new film works fairly well. Webb, whose previous work is really based on a character drama, 500 Days of Summer does his best work in terms of character dynamics in the film. Fortunately that's where the emphasis of the film is, and special effects are secondary. The action sequences and set pieces are hampered slightly- but only because we're reminded of the Raimi films. The CGI work from the first of those films was underdeveloped, so we were never really convinced that this was more than a CGI Spidey swinging through the streets at times- when the high wire work wasn't practical, that is- but that was rectified in time for the second film, which was the best of the trilogy, and featured the best action sequences. Comparing that one to this film, the action sequences here don't match up in quality, but it's a minor quibble. The CGI looks believable, which is required in a film like this, and the high wire style of work that Garfield takes part in blends in well with the CGI aspects. The look of Spidey is favourable; the costume is slightly modified from the Raimi films, which tend to be even closer to the comics version, but the modifications are small ones. And it's a wise decision that Peter designs artificial webshooters, a long time comics standard that was ignored in the Raimi trilogy in favour of organic webbing.
Now to the cast. Garfield has more of a wisecracking sensibility about him than Tobey Maguire's take on the character in the previous films. He looks young enough to pass for the character (though they'd better move him up to college next time out). He plays the character properly, I think, someone on an emotional arc that revolves around the sense of responsibility that's so integral to the role. And he really looks the part. Emma Stone is a good Gwen Stacy, and it was right to go with this character instead. She's not the girl next door, but she's very appealing, and the two actors inhabit the roles well.
Denis Leary dials down the usual snark (though I like the snark) for George Stacy, the policeman who's wary of the webbed vigilante. Ifans makes a decent villain; he's been known more for comedy, but he's not as good as Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus, who was far and away the best villain of the Raimi films. And from the CGI side of things, I thought the look for the Lizard was, well, a bit off. And Sally Field and Martin Sheen convey the decency of the roles, the two guiding forces in Peter's life, with the grace and warmth you'd expect of these two characters.
One big missing part of the film: no J. Jonah Jameson. In the Raimi films, J.K. Simmons played the part of the newspaper publisher and rabid loather of Spider-Man to absolute perfection. Peter in fact isn't working at a newspaper in this film, a situation I hope gets rectified in the sequel. I really, really missed the motormouth of Jolly Jonah, and it seems to me that Spider-Man needs this particular loudmouthed nemesis to bicker with. Just as much as the reverse is true.
And so the new series of films has been released. Barring the possibility of the whole thing tanking and going the way of the Green Lantern franchise, there will be sequels. The leads have a good chemistry together in this one, the screenwriters give us a story that's focused on character over roller coasters, and the director runs with it. If Webb returns for the sequel, he can polish up his pacing on the action sequences a bit, but he's done well this time out. I look forward to what's to come.