HST Reviews…The Amazing Spider-Man

 The Amazing Spider-Man is the beginning of another take on one of the world’s most popular comic book heroes (arguably Marvel’s most recognizable) and will be one of the first of many in the coming years.  We will soon get a new Batman, we are getting a new Superman, X-Men has arguably already done this, but all eyes are on Peter Parker and his alter-ego to see if they can do repeat business as Sam Raimi’s original trilogy is one of the most profitable of all-time.  So how did (500) Days of Summer’s director Marc Webb (Lauren: eh heh, Webb) fare in his superhero debut?

Alan:  Now, I’m not a big fan of Spiderman, or any other Marvel superhero to be specific.  I didn’t even go see The Avengers when it came out (that’s right, come at me bro).  But Spiderman, being the first big reboot of the modern day superhero movies, is a special case.  It is Marvel’s first foray into remaking an established superhero franchise – The Hulk excluded.  The first Spiderman series brought Spidey into many homes; and left us with one incredible dud.  Now five years later, we have a new hero, villain, love interest, and universe that we as movie goers can get sucked into.  For myself (and I’m probably the only one), The Amazing Spiderman was a visual treat, but just doesn’t grab me like I wanted it to.

Lauren:  Clearly Alan speaks the truth about his level of fandom because he doesn’t even know that Spider-man is actually spelled with a dash.  Noob.

I am far from the encyclopedia of Spider-man knowledge as well, but I do know that we’re seeing a new side to the web crawler that is near and dear to many that have been with Peter for a long time.  Like with comics, we’re getting to see a new side to Spider-man based on another version of his mythology, starting even earlier as an origin story than the first trilogy allowed, giving the potential for even more storytelling within this world (unless they make an 8 year jump like a certain bat is doing…).  Like Smallville for Superman, let’s bring on the early years.

Zac: I am cool with the “quick” (It’s been five years since Spider-Man 3) turn around on the franchise and am openly embracing the new take as I am no worshiper of the Raimi series; 3 might be my favorite of those just F.Y.I.  But who cares about all of that crap, and lets worry about Marc Webb’s fresh take on the superhero.

Andrew Garfield takes over the role of Peter Parker and we get to see his origin story once again though this time he will be potentially courting Gwen Stacy as he finishes out his senior year of high school.  As Peter begins to dig into his past, he is brought to the literal doorstep of his Dad’s old partner, Dr. Curt Conners, and the two begin to work together on the work Conners and Parker’s father abruptly stopped before Peter’s father passed away.  As you might have already guessed, things go south and Parker might have accidentally created a villain for himself.

Alan:  The one thing that I really enjoyed about The Amazing Spider-Man was the connection between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, who plays Gwen Stacy.  They were both extremely awkward and incredibly charming when they were with each other, making the chemistry between the two of them seem likable and believable.  Even the side relationships with Dr. Conners and his second family came off as natural and fluid.  However, I felt like once he wore the mask, he changed into this overly cocky super kid.  Of course, Spider-Man is supposed to have a quick wit and sense of humor, but that aspect to Garfield’s character came off a little fake to me.

Lauren:  Hey look, something we can agree on.  From day one of knowing about the new Spider-man the main thing I was hoping for was a better showing of his teenage personality as a crimefighter.  I stopped reading the Ultimate Spider-man comics a while back, but I was reminded of his pun fu a couple years ago with the video game Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions.  Even with the age back intact with these versions of the character in the film, the cockiness definitely kept him from being as witty as I hoped (though I did love him yelling “crotch” at the car thief before jumping him with his man bits to the face).

Now for the disagreement.  You really like the relationship between Gwen and Peter?  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of adorkably awkward moments between the two that show the high school crush aspect of it, but it seemed a little too rushed for me.  Maybe seeing him take on Flash was enough to get her to fall for Peter, but I was hoping for more, especially considering the importance her character plays to his early years later on.  Maybe I was just impatiently waiting for the full blown spidey suit action moments that seemed to take their time to arrive, but I dunno… This aspect could have been better, especially considering the trust he puts in her.

Zac: The biggest issue I had with Parker was that I didn’t buy that he would be someone who got picked on.  The cocky attitude I get; he puts on the mask, he feels powerful, it works.  As for Gwen falling for him, I read it as both had a bit of a crush going from the get go, but I actually wish they had a bit more time together.

Overall I felt like the film was a bit rushed with its relationships at every level, besides Uncle Ben.  I think we should have had an extra beat or two between Gwen and her Dad, I think we needed another scene with Capt. Stacy showing why he is so hellbent on getting Spider-man, and even a little more romance between our leads.  All of these would have helped a couple payoffs hit a little bit harder in the end, but they work for the most part nonetheless.

As I say we needed these little bits and pieces, I don’t know where we could have put them.  The film did drag just a hair in a couple of occasions and I wish we got even more action than we did; so I don’t know.  Maybe trade out a couple of the lesser moments for those character beats we missed? Ok, enough of playing armchair director.

Alan:  It did drag for a bit, like when he was going for the man who killed Uncle Ben and getting (spoiler alert) nothing out of it.  And the film was kind of rushed, but I felt like it hit all the points it needed to to make a slight connection to everyone.  Once the sequel comes out, we will probably get a lot more action and a lot less plot as we will by then know the characters and how they all connect with each other.

One problem I have, and with most 3D films, is the use of that actual technology.  Some of the swinging scenes were cool enough, and the particles that floated around every once in a while were very pretty, but other than that the 3D did nothing for me.  I feel like the first-person shots would only work if your television or theater experience is 3D, but even then it didn’t quite work out for me.  It was rather disorienting, in all honesty.  Then again, I’m not a big fan of 3D in general.  But you know when they do it right when you see it, and I didn’t quite see it that much.

Zac: I am a big fan of 3D, and while the image was bright and crystal clear I couldn’t help but feel like it was missing something.  The film knew what it was doing with all of the particles floating around, ala Hugo, but unlike that film it didn’t create the space it was meant too.  It was very odd.  Even the final shot of the film, which is supposed to be an in your face moment, had no depth and didn’t “pop” like it should.  Very odd, almost makes me wonder if something is off with the “prints.”

Lauren: Ugh who cares about 3D…  Let’s get back to the action.  Depth of field or not this one blew the other Spider-man films out of the water because I truly felt like I was watching a creature and not just a man in a spider suit punching people.  Take the fight with the Lizard in which Spider-man is crawling all over and around him trying to use his webs to stunt his ability to move as the camera swung around the motion as well.  Easily my favorite moment of the film for me, as was the Stan Lee cameo around this time that is my favorite of his to date.

And another bit.  One thing that was done every now and again in the previous trilogy (yes I will continue these comparisons, like why on earth the bad guys always have inner conversations of voices screaming at them) was having Peter’s face show through the mask.  But here they took it one step further, often having Peter in the height of action being unmasked all together.  Like Zac mentioned before as the mask allowing for the cocky attitude of the superhero to come into play, these are the moments that made our hero human.  When he’s wounded we worry, will he make it?  This was something Joss Whedon mentioned striving for in the final battle of The Avengers, creating a feeling that maybe they won’t be able to save the world, but I never doubted them.  Here I at least felt like it was going to be a close call because of the innocence of his character we were always reminded of.

Zac: Of the mask off scenes, the boy on the bridge was by far the best (and probably my favorite moment in the film) but there was a lot to love when the mask was on as well.  The action in the film was endlessly inventive and full of cool moment after cool moment.  I wholeheartedly agreed that the action surpasses Raimi’s films and it did so by making things seem far more grounded yet more amazing (TITLE PUN!) at the same time.  I can honestly say I have never seen fight scenes like the ones we get here and Marc Webb deserves some props for shooting some great action with next to no experience in that field.

Alan:  The fight scenes were good, and the score was fantastic (props to James Horner), but I just didn’t get the payoff that I thought I was going to get.  Of course, it’s the first in a soon to be massive series of films, and like the original, will probably get better with age.  Garfield and Stone both have quite enough room to grow into their characters, making the next film in the series feel a lot more refined and fluid.  At the end of this film, however, I left the theater feeling rather empty.  Nowhere in The Amazing Spider-Man did it catch me in its web and drag me into its universe.  With some fine tunings, I wouldn’t be surprised if the series would shut me up from my groanings.  But until then, I will say that this one was just okay.

Lauren:  Just okay?  JUST OKAY!?  BAH!  I can agree that there are flaws for sure that were amplified in large part thanks to the early pacing, but I already feel like this is showing the growth that we didn’t have in the first trilogy.  Especially with an actor like Garfield, who plays the sheepish grin, insecurity, anger, and sadness far better than Tobey Maguire did (seriously, he has the worst ugly cry face ever).  And Emma Stone doesn’t hurt, nor does her character that has a major story arc to tell (assuming they stick to the comics).  There is a lot of responsibility with telling that story right… So let’s hope they use the power they’ve shown in this first film to do it justice.

Zac: Unlike Alan, Garfield, Webb and company made me immediately want to come back to see the next one, something Raimi’s Spider-Man never did for me.  The action was stellar, the character development was solid shortcomings and all, and Garfield is able to throw the film on his back when necessary, proving himself a leading man here.  A bit better villain, a little more connection between all of our characters, and a tad more ambitious plot and Spider-Man might be able to finally join the ranks of the best comic book heroes (The Dark Knight, Avengers, Watchmen) thrown up on the big screen.

Final Grades:
Alan: C
Lauren: B      
Zac: B+ (need to see it again)

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