Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man


by Julien Faddoul


0 stars



d – Marc Webb
w – James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves   (Based on the Comic book by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko)
ph – John Schwartzman
pd – J. Michael Riva
m – James Horner
ed – Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker, Pietro Scalia
cos – Kym Barrett

p – Avi Arad, Matthew Tolmach, Laura Ziskin

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Zylka


Many movies spend their entire running times trying to prove to the audience their existence. This applies to almost every film to come out of Hollywood in the last thirty years. Because Hollywood no longer relies on originality to tell stories, but rather variations on an already existing (not necessarily established) spoil. Nine times out of ten, audiences don’t walk into a cinema with a blank easel of a mind ready for the movie to coat it with a spectral of colour and insight. Instead, audience’s minds are programmed with balderdash detectors, waiting for a red light to go off whenever something doesn’t “feel” right, or authentic, or respectful to the source. Instead of hoping to have a good time, audiences fear of having a bad one.

Because of this, one can intrinsically feel the movie constantly trying to prove its worth, trying to stand out from the pack, trying to fill you with a sense of satisfaction, rather than elation. And of course the higher the budget and the bigger the names and the more respected the source, the deadlier the game is. This has caused me much consternation in my movie-going lifetime, for I feel this is not the calling of the cinema, but that of the pathetic scoundrel.

However, rarely have I come across a picture quite like The Amazing Spider-Man, which not only has no reason for existing, but it doesn’t seem to have it on so many levels. I urge all audience members going to see The Amazing Spider-Man to turn their detectors on at full blast, seeing as how most people who are going to see The Amazing Spider-Man are people who like Spider-Man. Right? By the time this movie gets done telling us stuff we already know, its half over. And by that point, you won’t be wanting to care about the second half. For you see, this is not an adaptation or even a sequel. It’s a reboot. This latest adventure to feature the comic book webslinger takes three movies worth of established mythology and turns them into an utter waste of time and money (billions of it), swapping the original cast with an ensemble of fresh faces and rearranging the franchise with a new “origin” story.

This makes the paragraph where I write a synopsis completely unnecessary. The film is about two and a half hours long, but I couldn’t tell you why. This episode, I mean reboot, is directed by Marc Webb, whose sophomore film it is. The first film, made a mere ten years ago, was by Sam Raimi. Here are the changes that Mr Webb, and his screenwriters, contribute: The main one is Peter Parker’s involvement with his parents, which is deeper here although is being totally mis-marketed in theatres as being much more prevalent than it is. Another is that Spidey’s girlfriend here is not Mary-Jane Watson but Gwen Stacy, the daughter of the police captain. The mood of this film is different, with Mr Webb creating an atmosphere less cartoony than Mr Raimi. And lastly the villain, who here is Dr Curt Connors, a scientist at Oscorp who, through an experimental mishap, becomes an enormous monster known as The Lizard.

But everything experientially is so beat-for-beat the same that all these little changes hardly make a difference. The villain is a Jekyll and Hyde concept, he’s a mad scientist who experiments on himself and starts hearing voices that make him go crazy, just like the first film. There is an action set-piece in the third act that takes place on a bridge, just like the first film. Peter has a measly involvement in the death of his Uncle Ben (spoiler, but I mean, come on!), just like the first film. It’s all exactly the same. The whole picture is locked in and dedicated into a mythology that everyone in the audience will already be aware of in an audacious attempt to plead with you to like it so much so that nothing actually really happens in the movie, but instead just sits around the movie. Characters and scenes come and go without consequence. It’s a cinematic whore.

What’s the point in redoing the origin if nothing of substance is added? Peter Parker has always been a genius for his age. Why? His emotional journey is that of learning responsibility. Why? He becomes a superhero because he feels he needs to atone for his uncle’s death. Why? (This section of the film is particularly mishandled). If all of these things are what Spider-Man is about – and I’m sure they are since these things are all in two separate films by two separate directors that span a ten year gap – then why isn’t the movie interested in telling the story of why such things inflame; why isn’t the movie about these things too?

Due to this, a lovely array of actors - Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Denis Leary (George Stacy), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben), Sally Field (Aunt May) and especially Rhys Ifans (Curt Connors) – are left out sea with nothing to do, at least nothing that another array of fine actors didn’t already do ten years ago. Mr Leary survives the experience the best.

So does The Amazing Spider-Man have any reason for existing? No. And don’t you dare feel bad about comparing this to the original; ten years is hardly a different generation of audiences. This movie begs, begs and begs to be considered in the shadow of the previous films, where you fill in the blanks of its extremely messy plotting. Since the first film, many consider Mr Raimi’s follow-up, Spider-Man 2, to be the best of the three, exploring Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s themes with greater thirst than the former. The third film, Spider-Man 3, was a much maligned disappointment for everyone; the reigning winner of how bad a Spider-Man movie can be. We have a new champion.

1 comment:

  1. I believe the reasoning behind the latest Spider-Man "reboot/Origin" remake was driven by the fact that the contract of the Spider-Man franchise runs out in a year or two. A production company bought the rights to Spider-man and before they lose the franchise and it gets picked up by someone else for a trillion billion $$$ they decided to cash in on it while they can. I don't think there was any other reason for the film to be made... Kind of sad, but movies are big business

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