The Amazing Spider-Man

Spider-Man, the first Sam Raimi film, arguably started the current deluge of comic book movies.  Five years after the last film in Raimi’s trilogy, Marc Webb, fresh from the indie world, reboots the franchise, offering a new telling of the classic origin.  Many fans are objecting but I don’t see an inherent problem with this.

I see two major trends in comic book movies.  The dominant one right now—with the third most profitable film of all time—is the Marvel/Disney model where they create a mega-continuity among their tent pole characters and then get them together every few years for an Avengers movie.  At least I assume that’s the plan.  The tone here is more along the lines of a standard comic book, melodramatic and not overly concerned with verisimilitude.

Then there is the Raimi/Nolan model, which in many ways is more interesting.  I have no idea if this is a conscious strategy implemented by the studios, but if it were me, it would be.  I’d get an interesting and talented filmmaker who maybe has a vision or an interest in exploring the character, but who may not want to devote his entire career to the genre.  Let him get his cast and writers together and then sign everybody to three picture deals.  Then say to the director, “Do whatever you want,” obviously within reason.  Then reboot after he’s done.  This is what is happening with Spider-Man right now and what will happen with Batman after Nolan’s last entry opens in a few weeks.  I think this will allow the genre to experiment with tones and eventually to keep growing.

So no, I don’t have a problem with Marc Webb giving us a new origin, even though he wasn’t entirely successful.  The nature of the project isn’t the problem; the execution is.  It’s not that Webb isn’t a talented director, but he wasn’t ready to take this on.  When you compare the two origins, it’s obvious that Sam Raimi is a more experienced and economical storyteller.  This is a story about a teenager dealing with three traumatic events at once; obtaining life-changing super-powers, the death of his father figure, and first love.  It’s a tough balancing act that Raimi handles with aplomb.  In The Amazing Spider-Man these motivations are segregated into separate scenes.  In one Peter is in mourning for Uncle Ben, in another he’s rejoicing in his ability to swing from building to building, and in the next one he’s stumbling over himself to ask Gwen Stacy on a date, and the emotions that are not being dealt with in that particular scene don’t seem to exist.  I have every confidence that with time and experience Webb will develop this skill; he’s just not there yet.

When you compare casts, it’s basically a wash.  Toby Maguire is perhaps a bit more angsty as Peter Parker but I think Andrew Garfield captures the smart aleck in Spider-Man a little bit better.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field are basically interchangeable with Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris as Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  I don’t think that Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy was given as much to do as Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane was.

Webb tries for a darker, more realistic tone to the story.  Most of it takes place at night, so there are a lot of shadows and ominous lighting.  Captain Stacy, Gwen’s dad, played by Denis Leary, reacts to Spider-Man’s presence the way any cop would in the face of a vigilante, saying that crime fighting is best left to the police.

The effects were good, especially the Lizard.  I like how he was so much bigger than Spider-Man.  I also liked Rys Ifan’s portrayal of Dr. Curt Conners, as a scientist driven to extreme measures by both his job and his desire to be whole again.

The Amazing Spider-Man is worth seeing but I am looking forward to the sequel when the director will be a little bit better.  And if it doesn’t work out, perhaps the next director to take on the character will come up with something really cool.  That’s the real advantage of the Raimi/Nolan Model.   


2 Responses to “The Amazing Spider-Man”

  1. 1 theotherebert April 9, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. The theme is just a standard template from WordPress. They do a pretty good job.

  2. 2 theotherebert April 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Thank you for the kind comments and the encouragement. The layout of the blog is a standard template from WordPress. They do a really nice job.

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