Your father was a very secretive man, Peter.
To that lovely couple I met today, if you found the site, welcome.
It’s 1:40, but the theater is pretty packed. I’ve walked from Third Ave. to Eighth in a brisk, but dampening 15 minutes. These shoes were decidedly not made for walkin, but that’s just what I did. All to see the newest Marvel release, which I didn’t realize was being released expressly for the 4th of July..I can’t call it a holiday…Summerval. I just learned last year that February was Take-Out-the-Trash month for movies, so it won’t surprise you that I can’t recall if this is normal or not. Well, it’s here, it’s red and blue, get used to it.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) was raised by rice-baron Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) since Daddy Parker (Campbell Scott) bolted one night with Peter’s mother (Elizabeth Davidtz). Daddy was researching something (involving spiders) ana break-in spooked him into flight. Peter grew up to be a skateboarding, awkward nerd with a crush on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Hey, with those knee socks and boots, who can really blame him? Stacy is head intern at mega-firm Oscorp, run by the shadowy Norman Osborne. Peter’s wicked smart and, after finding his father’s secret files, goes to seek out the one-armed Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a peer/friend of Daddy’s, which he does. While there, he finds himself in a spooky spider room (where they spin super spider string) and gets himself bit. Thus, he turns into a super strong, wall-climbing, high jumping, skateboarding, awkward nerd. Events transpire that give Peter a strong desire for crime-fighting and good-doing. Sadly, that leads to Doc Connors turning into the Lizard (who acquires a bit of a split personality). Oh and Stacy’s dad is Police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), who doesn’t like our masked hero as much as Gwen does.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), the new iteration of Spider-Man, is to Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man (2002) as The Incredible Hulk (2008) is to Ang Lee‘s Hulk (2003). That is, a more fitting actor, a better story, better title, better characterization. Let’s just call it better. But, while The Incredible Hulk had some weaknesses (in villain, love interest, pacing, for examples), The Amazing Spider-Man does not fall prey to elemental problems. There are moments that I realized how emotionally manipulated I was being, and that is imperfect, but in the words of the Master, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
Of the comic book movies to come out in, like ever, this is one that, I believe, absolutely nailed the universe they live in. Every other one, I think, traded something away in the adaptation to create something grander and more powerful. Possibly this is to take advantage of CGI, possibly they lack faith in the power of nerds. Their lack of faith disturbs me and now they will witness the firepower of this fully armed and functional nerdstation! The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy runs the other way to build up something more subtle and human–because that’s what Bruce Wayne is–and it’s a good move. here, though, we are just completely giving into absolute zero disbelief territory when a spider bite makes you a BAMF. Thus, the comic world is an in-between area of human and computer-generated. They claimed that territory in The Amazing Spider-Man.
Why is Garfield a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire? I’d say that Maguire is a dweeb but Garfield is a nerd He’s scruffy, awkward, and adorable–if wishing made it so–while Maguire’s Spider-Man tucks in his polo and parts his hair. Nerds are only OCD about things around them, not on them. Let’s be fair though, Garfield and Maguire weren’t the only guys making that decision and I eagerly await Maguire in The Great Gatsby (2012). Everybody had their clever caps on when they made this Spider-Man (character). His emotions were allowed to play more realistically (read: more than a cry and a shout into the rainy sky) and he’s so playful that he’s an instant friend. He also has a co-star that doesn’t need to wink her rain-soaked chest at us to make us like her. Though, there was that scene where Stone is so padded that I was embarrassed for her.
Hey, why talk about Stone’s scones when we can talk about how awesome she was? Again, it’s material and direction as well as skill and judgment, but she was absolutely solid. I can’t say great because it wasn’t that kind of role or movie. I love that they kept these kids in high school. That’s due to the fact that Gwen is no alpha and that tired dynamic was put to one side. Sure, Gwen goes from initially disinclined to date one with a dangerous profession (like Dad’s) and morphs into half-indignant about his later adoption of that same theory, but all is forgiven by their final interaction. *Wink* Also, I liked Flash (Chris Zylka) and his realistic shift from bully to buddy when Parker shows a little spunk on the court (and suffers a tragedy).
Lizard as villain. Upon reflection, cross-species genetic manipulation is pretty kooky, but inside the movie you can go with it or you’re not Clean Willy! The Great Train Robbery (1978), good movie. All you need is a motive and a dynamic and the Lizard has both. This choice of villain cements this movie’s comic cred. It’s the kind of zany, sheerly plausible motives that define comic book logic. Say it out loud and you’ll understand what I mean: Connors lost his arm and devoted his life to finding a way to grow it back and make all people physically equal. Ifans is solid, though the part is a touch under-defined. He makes it work, though, and shows us a little something underneath. I’ll say that Leary is, uh, fine. Some agent somewhere had to tell their client, “They wanted a name.” Hey, if they pull that stuff only on secondary characters, it’s a great day in America.
Direction, by Marc Webb–classic–is, I should say, blessedly devoid of the excruciating pandering to 3D for the most part. This guy shoots crap out of his wrist and we only catch a few smattering in the eye? That’s restraint, people. Hey! New term for 3D contrivances–I only watch “2D” because 3D is a phase like crocs and Republics (I know in my heart the opposite is closer to the truth; crocs will always be with us)–and this better be trending by Friday: Money Shot. Too apt to ignore, too gross not to be popular. The Amazing Spider-Man is soft-core 3D. Anywho, Webb uses good pacing and allows some genuinely pathetic–as in pathos–moments that another might have trimmed for time. This isn’t Christopher Nolan, but it’s well above average work.
Writing, structurally, is all fine work from James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves. This is an eclectic assembly of credits from Ordinary People (1980) to a lot of the Harry Potter movies. I particularly appreciate that we didn’t follow the earlier Spider-Man movie into wrapping up the originating conflict as quickly and neatly. It is ancillary and dealt with as such. So far as dialogue is concerned, though, I can only commend them for doing little wrong. “You’re my hero” said in a straight face was unacceptable as was a last-second deadline contrivance. We didn’t need to see the clock ticking, just show it as a physical timing. That may be partly on the director, I haven’t seen the screenplay. I also would have liked a moment between the Stacys to link the final scenes (I can’t date you anymore) so as to create some support for Gwen’s grudging understanding. That’s fair, right? I’m not re-writing the thing, I’m talking architecture.
I was going to compliment the music for its mythical evocation, but seeing that it was James Horner, I had to reconsider. After all, Horner is the kind of manipulator I distrust. John Williams, though a manipulator and a thief of epic proportions, is my kind of composer. He steals from Holst, not from Morricone. That’s not to diminish Morricone, but there’s fair use, public domain, plagiarism, and classics. The firs is okay for parody, the second is cheapness, the third is just wrong, and the fourth is good taste. Brass and strings are powerful instruments and one has a responsibility to treat them with respect. To borrow from The Bourne Legacy (2012) trailer, you don’t use a Ferrari like a lawn mower.
Here’s a nickle’s worth of free advice. If you want to see this, but aren’t big on fantasy, go to the 8:00 showing with any die-hards you can scrounge up. Then, at least, you’ll have fun. If you’re a sucker like me and find manipulation endearing, hit up the matinee tomorrow (twice).
P.s. There is a little scene after the big credits but before the roll. It’s weirdly uninformative and non-teasing.