Thursday, July 19, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-man

Genre: superhero
Director: Marc Webb
Rating: ** (2.5 out of 5)

In 2002, Sam Raimi directed the first ever Spider-man movie. It was so successful that it not only turned things around financially for the ailing Columbia Pictures, but it also revived the entire superhero genre for Hollywood. Since then, the studio put out two equally money-making sequels in 2004 and 2007, and together the three pictures grossed USD2.5 billion in box office revenues alone.

The Amazing Spider-man by Marc Webb

10 years later, Columbia Pictures decided to reboot the Spider-man franchise and retell the same 2002 story all over again for no apparent reason. Whether the unnecessary reboot was the cause or the consequence of Sam Raimi’s walking away from the lucrative franchise, we will never know. What we do know is that the new – and I use the term loosely – Spider-man movie has an all new cast: Andrew Garfield (Social Network) plays the superhero, Emma Stone (Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Help) plays his high school sweetheart Gwen Stacy, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field play Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Rookie director Marc Webb, who made his directorial debut only three years ago with romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, took the helm as director.

The Amazing Spider-man gives us some of the biggest déjà vu moments in Hollywood history. We watch Andrew Garfield sew his spandex costume in his bedroom just as Toby Maguire did a decade ago. Martin Sheen takes a bullet in the chest from an armed robber, the same way Cliff Robertson did in 2002. There are the familiar scenes in which Peter Parker gets bitten by a mutant spider during a lab tour, Peter Parker gives the schoolyard bully a piece of his mind, and Peter Parker practices his gravity-defying swings in the back alley. Same script, different cast.

Déjà vu... I don't believe it.

What else went wrong? Let’s start with the obvious: the Gwen Stacy character. First of all, Emma Stone with her porcelain doll CoverGirl markup looks more like a mean girl or a campus queen bee than a daddy's girl who falls for a science nerd. Second, Gwen Stacy is everywhere in the movie. She is simultaneously Peter Parker’s classmate, the head intern at Oscorp (the evil empire) and the daughter of New York police chief pursuing the web-shooting vigilante. Coincidence is a tricky literary device, but here, it is overused by lazy writers to tie up loose ends. Then there is the villain: the giant green lizard. It is neither menacing nor very interesting. It is a baby Godzilla capable of only smashing things by swinging its claws – not nearly as devious as the Green Goblin or as complex as Doc Ock.

She's a mean girl

But The Amazing Spider-man does have its redeeming qualities. Martin Sheen and Sally Field make compelling foster parents of the orphaned protagonist. The two veteran actors supply all the emotional underpinnings that anchor the first half of the film. In fact, I choke up when Uncle Ben dies in the arms of the guilt-ridden nephew. Andrew Garfield makes a likeable and convincing Peter Parker, although the 28-year-old actor doesn't seem to have a good grasp of who Peter really is, as his personality tends to swing between extremes. He is sweet and hopelessly shy in one scene, and suddenly cocky and cynical in the next. Perhaps that’s how a 17-year-old boy with new found superhero powers is supposed to behave. On that account Garfield gets it just right.

Uncle Ben and Aunt May,
thanks for saving the movie!

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