Sunday, July 8, 2012
Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-man
View the video version here.
It has not been a good time to be a Spider-man fan for quite some time now. Between the comics going quite literally to hell, and Greg Weisman's excellent Spider-man TV series being replaced with a godawful Frankenstein cobbled together from various popular cartoon styles, it seems like there's nowhere left in the world where Spider-man doesn't suck.
So one would hope that The Amazing Spider-man could've been just the thing to change that trend. Sure, it's a corporately mandated cynical cash-in designed to retain the character rights from Marvel lest something as awesome as Spider-man joining the Avengers materialize, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. It worked wonders for 20th Century Fox's new X-men film after all. Unfortunately, sometimes first instincts are completely right, and The Amazing Spider-man is every bit as stale, soulless, and uninspired as feared.
The primary reason this film is bad is, while it was sold as a reboot of Sony's Spider-man film franchise, the finished product is anything but. It's not a reboot is a remake. Pure & simple. Calling it a reboot would imply they're taking things in some drastically new direction or at least updating it for a newer audience. Hulk vs Incredible Hulk, Batman vs Batman Begins, both are good examples of this. However, despite Sony's pretensions to being darker or more faithful to the comics, this new film is a beat-for-beat retread of the first Spider-man movie. Sure they replaced Mary-Jane with Gwen Stacy, J. Jonah Jameson with Captain Stacy, and Green Goblin with the Lizard, but they all still have the same basic personalities and story functions as their predecessors. The sweet girl next door, the snarky guy who brands Spider-man as an outlaw, and the scientist villian who admires Peter's intelligence and turns into a supervillian with multiple personality disorder after he tests an serum on himself too soon. And of course there's a cheesy citizens-help-out-Spidey scene because, well, the first two movies both had a citizens-help-out-Spidey scene.
And all the changes to the narrative only makes things worse. The most egregious example is the decision to take Peter Parker's stint as a pro wrestler out of his origin story. Sure the basic idea of Peter refusing to stop a criminal who goes on to murder his uncle is still there. But the way it plays out here it makes his decision to become Spider-man illogical from a character standpoint. He doesn't refuse to stop the burglar because he's become self-absorbed & arrogant, he does it because he was in a bad mood and the cashier was a jerk to him. Not only does it leave the plot thread of hunting for Uncle Ben's killer dangling, it negates the entire point and keeps Spider-man from having any real character arch or growth.
The characters in general in this movie are woefully flat. Gwen never really transcends the standard superhero's girlfriend role, her father is an interchangeable Commissioner Gordon wannabe, and Curt Connors, our villain, has no real motivation beyond some vaguely defined desire to "rid the world of weakness". Ironically, Flash Thompson, of all people, in only three scenes is given more depth and complexity than the hero, his love interest, and the villain combined. That...is just plain ridiculous.
One of the main ways Sony has tried to counter the backlash from a reboot-weary fanbase is by making this film "more accurate to the source material". Ironic when you consider they didn't even get the origin right this time, but you can see where some effort was made. Things like Spider-man actually building his web-shooters, Gwen being his girlfriend before Mary-Jane (Raimi's Mary-Jane WAS Gwen Stacy in all but name), etc. But the biggest change was an attempt to address complaints that Spider-man didn't make enough clever wisecracks in the original films like he tends to do in the comics. Well, they certainly got the "wisecracks" part down but they seemed to struggle with the "clever". See the reason Ol' Webhead wasn't rambling off comedy monologues about Doc Ock's bad dress sense in the original movies is because Sam Raimi understood that movies are not comics and in a movie actors cannot deliver four paragraphs of jokes mid leap. It simply wouldn't translate. The Amazing Spider-man makes a go of it anyway, and end up making the character so obnoxious and annoying that he becomes the most unlikable he's been since he made a deal with the devil. Seriously, how hard it is the make Spider-man likable? He's Spider-man!
There are certainly worse superhero films to be had. To date The Green Hornet remains the most unpleasant superhero-related experience I've ever had with a movie, and old bombs like the Fantastic Four movies & Daredevil are always good for an eyeroll, but The Amazing Spider-man still does absolutely nothing to distinguish itself as either good or bad. It's completely forgettable, lacks any imagination, and fails to justify Sony's unforgivable treatment of Sam Raimi during & after the production of Spider-man 3. I'd like nothing more than to see this movie fail and Sony punished for their misdeeds, but that probably won't happen.
P.S. Hey have any of you ever seen Black Lightning? See Black Lightning. It's ten times the Spider-man movie this is. It's basically "what if, instead of being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker found a flying car?"