Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man: A Retrospective

Today, I want to do a movie review in my original style, and what better way to do it than to talk about the recent web slinger rehash.

Spider-Man. Whenever you hear the term, a lean guy in red and blue spandex appears, swinging webs and conjuring up psychotic, brightly colored adversaries. Spider-Man, like the muscular Kryptonian Superman and the dark caped Batman, has gone down as a critical icon in American pop culture and has become a hero we can not only relate too, but a hero we can look up to and admire with great passion. He's my favorite hero, and I often find myself comparing my image to his because he deals with a lot of perils all young adults go through at some point, and he has to learn that with all the power in the world comes great responsibility on his hands. He was destine to do something great like a lot of us, in one form or another. He sets out on a quest to find who he is and what he was placed upon the Earth to do. That's what a lot of young adults try to accomplish, find their zing and zang, for it's not the easiest nut to crack.

Spider-Man has had a lot of adaptations over the eons, and would you believe that this August, the web head will be celebrating his 50th anniversary? Spidey has appeared in Scooby-Doo style cartoons, teamed up with Firestar and Iceman, fought in a giant robot (in the Japan TV show), encountered gangsters with mind controlling contraptions, and even went on a tap dancing spree at a jazz club. Yes, of course I am referring to that exotic scene in Spider-Man 3, but that doesn't mean I completely despise the film. It's not a perfect film by any means (then again, no film is perfect), but there is still a lot to like about it, just like there is a lot to like about the Sam Raimi directed trilogy as a whole. It's got that iconic, inspiring coating just like the classic Tim Burton Batman films and Tobey Maguire embodies Spidey just like Christopher Reeve embodies Superman. The Sam Raimi films certainly made Spidey the legendary figure he is today, and when you hear the term Spider-Man in a conversation, you almost immediately envision Tobey donning the red and blue on the silver screen. It's that darn catchy, HOW COULD ANYONE THAT ISN'T TOBEY DON THE SPIDER PAJAMAS and leave the same breathtaking crater of epicness. Well, I'm about to tell you how.

The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb, is just as appealing and imaginative as it's brothers and sisters, in my eyes at least. It's got that same "glossy" atmosphere and has a lot to offer when it comes to catching your attention and making you feel captivated and sucked in. I did feel the film had a lot in common with Raimi's first film from 2002, but I think that's what I liked best about it. It has the same ingredients that made the first installments a success, but it envisions them in a completely different cover and reinterprets them in a manner a lot of us have never seen before. After all, it is a reboot. If Batman Begins could do it, why not Petey and his stunning wall crawling abilities? I personally savored all the film had to offer, and you could really tell that the people who made the film tried enviously to do something outside the house and make Spidey something entirely unique and refreshing. Spidey is relatable in this flick, and I'm not saying that Tobey's Spidey wasn't relatable, it's just that Andrew Garfield's Spidey is a lot like the kids of today. He struggles to find his place and find acceptance on the Earth, and the strange disappearance of his parents, Richard and Mary Parker, continues to torment him and make him feel isolated. He's also bullied, something teens like myself have gone through at some point in their lives.

Something else the film had heading towards it is that it was able to take legendary points from the Spider-Man mythology and rearrange them, yet they still delivered that emotional or exhilarating punch to the gut. Martin Sheen's Uncle Ben is killed off in a different way than Cliff Robinson's Uncle Ben in the Raimi films, but you still feel emotionally compromised and you can feel a bit of remorse. Spidey's transformation into, well, Spidey is also something that sends shivers up the spinal cord and I must say, they did a phenomenal job turning Peter into Spider-Man in a completely different manner than in the previous films. It was so diverse, but it was still memorable and surely not done before in either film or comic strip. When you think of Spider-Man becoming Spider-Man, you think of a spider crawling onto his hand and biting him that way. It happens entirely different in this motion picture, and I praise them greatly for doing it so differently.

Spidey getting his arachnid powers isn't the only black sheep element this film carries. Spidey's transformation from a selfish, arrogant tyrant into a gallant, responsible hero also progresses uniquely in this flick, and it's interesting to note that there isn't any Bonesaw Mcgraw or Crusher Hogan wrestler for Spidey to go up against. There is however a wrestling arena and we get to see where Spider-Man gets the inspiration for his mask, right before he decides to make his classic jumpsuit to swing around New York with. In the Sam Raimi films, Spidey's web shooting ability is a natural trait spawned from the spider bite. I didn't really mind  this change that much, but I was interested to see that in this film, they gave him the web shooters he was known for in the comics. Spidey also retains his witty and humorous personality from the comics, and I still wet my pants over the scene involving him and the car thief (ANYTHING BUT KNIVES!). In the Sam Raimi films, Spidey did in fact carry a bit of this characteristic, but Tobey was overall a more headstrong, serious web slinger.

Now let's digress and talk about Spidey's supporting friends and foes. I did like Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Spidey's original flame from the early Ditko days who suffers a tragic death at the hands of the Green Goblin. She was more supportive of Peter/Spider-Man than Mary Jane was in the Raimi trilogy, and she even proves helpful in a few scenes when Spidey fights off the villains that stick to his webs. She is also not a damsel in distress like MJ,  and she is more dignified as she struggles through the same rubble Spidey struggles through. Rhys Ifans is certainly something as Dr. Curtis Connors aka The Lizard, juggling aggressive, passive and laid back personalities. I didn't really mind Lizzy that much in this film, for the same things people are complaining about him are the same things they complained about William Dafoe's Green Goblin from the first Raimi film. The look of the Lizard is okay from my viewing, although he would have looked a bit better if he kept the white lab coat on the entire time. Ifans' Connors is just a man who wants to make a difference and change the world, although his choices ultimately lead him down the path of darkness, and before he knows it, he's sprouting tons of green scales and sharp fingernails. He's a poor guy who just wants to regrow his arm, you can't blame the guy for trying! If he regrows his arm, he could help others regrow their lost limbs. I bet Anakin Skywalker would do anything for some of Connors' reptilian regrowth formula.

Amazing Spider-Man Film - Rhys Ifans is Dr Cunnors aka The Lizard, the movie villain in the Amazing Spider-Man.

All the other actors and actresses were also great in their respected roles. Denis Leary's Captain George Stacy is a HUGE departure from his comic book counterpart, but he's still a prominent character who ultimately proves useful in the film's grand scheme of things. Similar to his comic book counterpart is that he suffers a tragic death, a death Spider-Man feels responsible for and a death that makes Gwen Stacy despise Spider-Man in the comics, because unlike in this movie, Gwen doesn't know Peter is Spider-Man and this later proves pivotal when Gwen is killed off in Issue #121. Aunt May and Uncle Ben are nothing more than brilliant, especially in the shoes of Sally Field and Martin Sheen. Sheen's Ben Parker is just as wise, conservative and caring as Cliff Robinson's Ben Parker was, and Sally Field's Aunt May is different than that of Rosemary Harris' Aunt May, but Field's performance still grandmotherly in many grand ways. I couldn't help but feel that Mrs. Doubtfire was going to pop up at any moment! I can't really talk that much about Peter's parents, played by Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz, because they weren't really present in the film that much, but there is no doubt that their story will unfold in upcoming Spider-Man reboot sequels. Maybe, however unlikely, they will be revealed to be S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, tying the Spider reboot into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe the Oscorp Building will appear in Iron Man 3 or the Avengers sequel.

The effects and visuals of The Amazing Spider-Man were very comic book like, unlike the effects of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, which were made to be more realistic and life like. There were some scenes where you were in Spidey's body, swinging and spinning in a first person perspective. There were some scenes where Spidey hurled towards and away from the camera. There were some scenes where Spidey moved a lot like an actually eight legged arthropod. But you can't beat the scene where Spidey leaps onto the side of a building and you see his reflection on the building itself. Those who saw the teaser trailer for the reboot will know exactly what I'm talking about. Every time Spidey activated his web shooter devices, you heard a great robotic sound and the devices lit up with a neon red. Every time Spidey took off his mask, he put it back on with a slick, dramatic style. Every time Spider-Man swung a web, he hurled like a light speed bullet. It's all a solid oatmeal, and it further solidifies Spidey's character and makes him diverse than that of Tobey Maguire. The film is also fast paced and slow paced at the proper moments, delivering that great formula of suspense, drama, humor, terror, and climax. I couldn't help but feel that this was horror movie Spider-Man at some moments.

Stan Lee's cameo was the best Stan Lee cameo yet. I didn't know he was such a fanatic of classical music!

Spider-Man is back on the big screen and I enjoyed what he had to offer this time around. It was very similar to the 2002 film, but I like it best that way, for the film reinvented these tools and made them brand new again. The Amazing Spider-Man will no doubt be sandwiched in between the likes of The Avengers and the inevitable masterpiece, The Dark Knight Rises, and it will no doubt be ridiculed for being retooled so soon after the Raimi trilogy ended. But I say, it's a good summer soda flick and it brought back a lot of the golden Spider-Man memories I had when I saw the Raimi films for the first time. It has loads to keep Spidey fans' tummies full and if you like the 60s cartoon, the 80s cartoon, the 90s cartoon, the live action 70s show, or just Spider-Man in general, I say, give it a bottoms up and enjoy. Some might be disappointed that it's not Tobey donning the red and blue pajamas, but what can you do? I loved this film just as much as the previous installments and I would even put it on par with superhero get together smash, The Avengers.

As Maxwell House Coffee puts it, it's good to the last drop, although I don't drink coffee.

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