Monday, 16 July 2012

Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Year: 2012
Director: Marc Webb
Screenplay: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field

Synopsis is here, but also here, with parts here also.

A friends Facebook status gave the kind of sharp review of The Amazing Spiderman that most people respond to these days. In a world where 140 characters seemly affect people in a more direct way than essays and articles, labelling the film as "utter gash" will obtain way more response than whatever dross I vomit up in this blog.

While I don't fully agree with his analysis, I know that the next time we sink some tins of tyskie, I do feel we'll both agree that The Amazing Spiderman is as unnecessary as the 3D glasses I had to take to the cinema to wear. It's bad enough that that once again, 3D does little to prove its worth for a tent pole release. But the fact that the film that the effect is attached to can't make up its mind on whether it's an actual reboot or otherwise, provides a certain amount of disenchantment.

The Amazing Spiderman really does feel like a product of a company clinging onto the franchise. Sony don't appear desperate (product placement aside). However, the films needless demand to once again show us how Spiderman got to be, does little to change the fact that the film is a contrivance. The lack of ideas continue as without Sam Raimi (Script issues, unmoving release date), recycled bits of the original plans look like they've been slotted awkwardly into wherever fits. It also feels like they've spent too much time wondering what Warner Brothers were doing with DC material.

In hiring Marc Webb, we've been given 500 days of Spiderman Begins. A film which spends most of it's time targeting the high angst of the teen characters and mimicking the slightly grittier tone that The Dark Knight made its own. But while Christopher Nolan successfully crafted a comic book series that spliced its pulp roots the director's own obsessions, TAS comes to us a bit of a hodge podge. The film makes a bigger push of Peter Parker's powers as a metaphor for teen growing pains. But all the images of a hooded brooding Parker acting all Nirvana, reminded me of the reason I enjoyed Raimi's films in the first place. In fact it's something that Joss Wheedon's Avengers remembered; it's ok to have fun with these heroes.

The problem is that The Amazing Spiderman spends just so much time navel gazing, that I lost what I found so engaging from before. Raimi's Spidermans were board and a little bit silly, but they didn't feel like they had to hide that. In fact, they fully embraced it, reminding me of the 90's cartoon series that I grew up with. There was just more vibrancy originally.

This isn't to say Webb's film is a travesty. I'm sure TAS, has its fans who read more comics than me who can honestly say it's closer to the version they expected the first time around. Webb brings some interesting visuals to the table, and while the performances don't feel as earnest as those that have come before it, they're certainly stronger in other areas. The chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is charming, while placing Martin Sheen in the Uncle Ben role was a well played stroke. It's quite clear that Webb's strength is in the interactions of the actors.

Unfortunately, this doesn't stabilize the films awkward plotting and general poor usage of characters. Other than being the first love of Peter Parker, the film isn't sure of what to do with Gwen Stacy, while the plot thread involving Uncle Ben is dropped quicker than a hot potato. Why reboot this aspect, if Peter isn't going to be that bothered with it soon afterwards? Elsewhere, Rhys Ifans tries to update Brundlefly for the twilight generation, but unfortunately is given a villain that lacks the creepiness of Willem Defoe's Green Goblin or the pathos of Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus. Much like the film's action set pieces, Ifans' villain struggles to escape the shadow that Raimi has cast.

Still, I say this while the film made a killing at the box office (although knocked off the top spot in the U.K by Ice Age 4 as of posting this). This only helps the film disprove the idea that people desperately want original films. But in counting the amount the Xperia phone shots that hang from this tent pole. It seems to me that Sony's belief that branding is best in this cinematic world is correct when the numbers are that good. Money talks.