SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER!!! WILL YOU PLEASE TAKE IT AS A GIVEN THAT I WILL SPOIL THE MOVIE FOR YOU? I’M NOT TRYING TO SPILL THE BEANS, BUT SOMETIMES HAVE TO MAKE POINTS THAT ARE BEST DESCRIBED BY GIVING THE MOVIE AWAY. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER!!!
I could make excuses all day long about why I haven’t said something here about the last few movies I’ve seen, but the truth is, I just haven’t been able to get myself up for it. I go through phases where writing is extremely difficult, and this past month has been one of those times. I’m barely keeping up with the stuff I HAVE to get done, so stuff like this hasn’t even been on my radar. Now, I’m using a review of The Amazing Spider-Man to help me get my juices flowing again.
Let me start by saying the The Amazing Spider-Man was hands down my favorite of the Spider-Man films thus far. Much has been made of the decision to reboot the franchise so soon after Spider-Man 3 came out, but the idea has frankly never really bothered me. Batman Begins and Casino Royale were two of my favorite films of the last ten years, and both were reboots of franchises that weren’t particularly old. It’s not as though people get upset over a new creative team starting on a comic the following month…as long as the creative team is good. And let me tell you, the team behind The Amazing Spider-Man was pretty good.
The best thing about this film was hands-down the stellar cast. Not to take anything away from Tobey Maguire, but I believed that Andrew Garfield was a guy named Peter Parker, a decent kid who makes a ton of bad decisions. He was convincingly brilliant as well as “from the street,” a tough combination to pull off. Indeed, all of the actors were great, with a shout out to Sally Field and Emma Stone…but the stand out performance of the film belonged to Martin Sheen. Now, I’m already biased toward President Bartlet, but Sheen gave Uncle Ben exactly the blue-collar gravitas that the character needs. We need to believe that Uncle Ben is a patriarch, a father figure in the truest sense, and a man who Peter should listen to when he gives the speech about power and responsibility, and Martin Sheen pulls that off wonderfully. Uncle Ben was a fully realized character here in a way that he has never really been in any version of Spider-Man’s origin, with apologies to Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, which is a close second.
The other thing I really liked about the movie was the reliance on stunt work and live action special effects that were done digitally in the original trilogy. This film had an almost tactile texture that the originals were lacking.
Now, this film certainly had its flaws. The likability of the characters obscures the fact the film’s love story is almost completely devoid of conflict. The only obstacles that Peter and Gwen Stacy face never give us the impression that their feelings for each other are in danger. Even the death of Gwen’s father, a death that Spider-Man ostensibly could have prevented, doesn’t stop Gwen from loving Peter. Don’t get me wrong, that’s probably realistic, but it’s not good storytelling. Also, this film suffers somewhat from the same malaise contracted by J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek pseudo-reboot; both films feature a less than impressive antagonist. Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW that the real obstacles that Peter has to overcome are his own abandonment issues and his perceived failures as both son and hero (and the real obstacle was the divide between Kirk and Spock), but that doesn’t mean that The Lizard has to suck, which he did despite a nice turn by Rhys Ifans. A lot of the Marvel movies have this problem…they develop the hero so well that we lose the villain.
Sometimes though, a movie does some stuff so well that you’re willing to let the flaws slide. And that’s exactly what happened in this film.