To Reboot or Not Reboot: The Amazing Spider-man

Surely, it will come as no surprise that my family and I found ourselves in a theatre watching “The Amazing Spider-man” shortly after it opened. Since neither grown-up involved had to work on this particular  Wednesday, we tried to beat the crowds by attending a 12:30pm matinee of a 2D showing. Good strategy, because the theatre was nearly empty (Yay, us!)

So did we enjoy it? Yes! Did we like it more than the last super hero film we watched – “The Avengers”? Well…it wasn’t unanimous, my “Yes”, against 3 “No’s.”  Granted, the witty dialogue of “The Avengers” could not be matched by this film. Such a shame, because snappy come-backs had always been part of Spidey’s charm; it was a trait established in the earliest comic books. Spidey = witty repartee. Alas there was little of that here. Because I was more emotionally invested in Spider-man than any of the Avengers – put together, I enjoyed this film a tad more (sorry Joss Whedon). My husband, as an Iron Man fan, may have been biased, but out of the mouths of babes (or rather pre-teens), the Avengers was probably at least equally entertaining to the unbiased movie goer.

Andrew Garfield portrayed Peter Parker most convincingly when he exercised his new found powers and less so when he encountered his Aunt May (Sally Field), Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). The 1st half of the film was costume-free as we (once again, for the 2nd time in 10 short years, sigh, this part dragged a bit) witnessed the origin story. This time, Peter was bitten by a spider that has been genetically altered. The consequences were his acquisition of incredible strength, agility and stickiness (yet my youngest daughter was disappointed that his eye sight did not seem to improve). We learned how he lost his parents and his beloved Uncle Ben. He gets involved with Gwen Stacy, a classmate enamored with science enough to pose a challenge. Before you know it, she has grown to love Peter for himself, regardless of his Spider-man alter ego. As an added complication, her dad, Captain Stone (Denis Leary) of the NYPD, made it clear that he was not impressed by Spider-man’s meddling on his turf. The main villain, Dr. Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans) aka the Lizard, was once a respected scientist. Long ago he worked with Peter’s dad on genetic hybrid technology. Wouldn’t you know it, Peter discovered a long lost notebook of his father’s and then shared his discovery with Connors. Peter unwittingly catalyzed the creation of the Lizard. The Lizard, a huge psychotic anthropomorphic reptile, was initially an easy target for a few “Godzilla” jokes, which provided a lame attempt at humour. No one laughed when the Lizard soon chaos throughout NYC. Poor Peter, he was just trying to do right and somehow it went terribly wrong, again. Luckily, as a super hero, he just might have a chance to make it right.

I enjoyed watching all the actors that I mentioned. They did fine work portraying beloved characters and I have been a fan of their previous performances. Andrew Garfield played one of the only sympathetic characters in “The Social Network” (a remarkable film). Emma Stone was sweet and charming in “Superbad” but really won me over as a kick-butt, take charge kinda gal in “Zombieland.” “Zomieland” a hilarious, yet foul and some-what gory film that dethroned “Sean of the Dead” as my favorite zombie film of all time, is in constant rotation at our house. Denis Leary starred in one of my favorite anti-holiday films ever, “The Ref.”

“The Amazing Spider-man” really should be praised for integrating action sequences with the narrative, whether we were watching Peter on his skateboard or Spidey swinging along the skyscrapers of Manhattan. The action scenes were brief and spectacular. NYC was stunningly depicted, with I suspect CGI. I especially enjoyed a tense rescue which involved a boy trapped in a vehicle that was precariously suspended from a bridge. It was a shock to see C. Thomas Howell as the boy’s frantic and grateful father. I hadn’t laid eyes on him in decades. Despite looking trim and handsome, he looked 10 years older than his stated age of 46 (according to IMDB.com). I did not recognize him and needed the credits to educate me.

So as much as I wanted to LOVE this film, I still preferred Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of my favorite web-head over Garfield’s. I found the origin story of Sam Raimi’s 2002 film better paced. Added bonus, the earlier film’s villain (Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin) was more interesting and better developed than this current  film’s Lizard. However, the 2002 CGI action sequences left a lot to be desired. Even at the time of the films release, Spidey’s swinging self was simply too cartoonish and now seems dated. However, by 2007, CGI technology improved tremendously and Raimi’s “Spider-man 2” benefited. And it this 2nd installment was just a really great good guy/bad guy story that further developed our hero’s character.

 VS

My biggest beef with this rebooted version, “The Amazing Spider-man”, is that Garfield is too good looking to play nerdy Peter Parker. It was hard to believe that he would have had trouble speaking to girls, much less one who was clearly interested in him. With his looks, he probably had girls vying for his attention since middle school. His awkward and petulant teenager scenes were the weakest moments of the film. Another minor quibble, two innocent people exsanguinated right in front of Peter/Spidey. Not once did he apply pressure to their wounds. What were they teaching him at the dubiously named Midtown Science High School? Let’s skip basic first aid and jump straight to mapping and sequencing DNA? Sheesh! I won’t quibble with the creative departures from the comic book canon. Things like that don’t bother me.

I still question the need to reboot the franchise within 10 years. I would have preferred a simple recast and a new, imaginative adventure beyond the origin tale.

I went to this film completely biased. I have loved Spider-man since I was 5 years old, when I first encountered the cheesy 60’s cartoon version on TV.

His outcast social status, real life struggles with money and his desire to protect his Aunt May made him very relatable. As an adult, and before I had offspring as an excuse, I recorded Saturday morning TV cartoon versions produced in the current and previous century and was THRILLED to find the 90’s series available on Netflix streaming.

I own the comics (1963-2006) as pdf files

and consider Sam Raimi’s 1st two Spider-man films (I prefer to pretend that Spider-man 3 doesn’t exist) amongst the best superhero films (including “Watchmen” and “The Incredibles”).

I enjoyed “The Amazing Spider-man” but wasn’t wowed by it. I look forward to the next installment, which better not be yet another reboot. From the teaser during the closing credit sequence (don’t be in a hurry to leave), it looks like we can anticipate a new chapter.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John McCullagh (@jpmccullagh)
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 22:14:30

    I am increasingly underwhelmed by superhero movies. Lots of frenetic action with not much else. But I hear so much good about this Spiderman (& Avengers) that I’m sure i’ll end up at least watching them on dvd. And Emma Stone got me with “Easy A’–one of the smartest comedies I’ve seen in a while.

    Reply

    • dvdiva
      Jul 05, 2012 @ 23:47:12

      I know what you mean. I am beginning to wonder if it was just a matter of time. I have seen so many that there doesn’t seem to be any fresh ideas. Action sequences involving characters I couldn’t care less about, bore me silly. Oh, and do not get me started on chase sequences. I think that is why I loved Pixar’s The Incredibles. Imaginative, funny, with some action that didn’t seem endless. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      Reply

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