Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man Reboot Swings into Action with more Emotional Heft and Great Action Sequences

The Amazing Spider-Man (3 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer)
Written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Alvin Sergent (Spiderman 2), Steve Kloves (Harry Potter series)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Dennis Leary, Sally Field, and Martin Sheen

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Star in The Amazing Spider-Man

Reboots are a tough game.  Back when the development Batman Begins happened in the early 2000s all the way to the release in 2005 people were hesitant about the films chances for success.  Nolan was still a relative newcomer to the mainstream, but I think people felt ready to see a different side of The Dark Knight.  1997's Batman & Robin took the first franchise to a new low, and fans were hoping this film would heal the wounds.  Nolan succeeded, and gave reboots new hope.  Enter another superhero reboot.

The initial Spiderman franchise started ten years ago in 2002.  The film as well received, and launched the web slinger into Marvel's most successful franchise (watch out for the Avengers).  Spider-Man 2 was seen as the most successful film in the franchise, the reviews were stellar, and the film had the highest box office take of all three of the original films.  Then Sam Raimi was told the franchise would end at three so his 2007 film tried to combine everything to apease the fans, and it was one of the worst movies ever.  Spiderman 3 was the highest grossing film of the year but comic books fans regard this as one of the biggest mistakes in the comic book adaptation world.  How would Spider-Man fans recover?

Throughout the years after Spider-Man 3 there were rumors about what would happen next.  The first rumors started with the initial team of Sam Raimi, Tobey Marguire, and Kirsten Dunst all coming back and just continuing the story.  This did not work, so then it was rumored that just Raimi would return and there would be an origin story with new stars.  This fell though mainly because the studio did not like the direction of any of this.  So everything was scrapped, and we have a brand new film series with a new director, cast, and only one remaining writer from the original series.

The Amazing Spider-Man starts off with a young Peter Parker playing hide and seek with his father, and his father's office is broken into by someone unknown assailant. The Parkers rush out leaving Peter to live with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen).  The film jumps to a high school aged Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in high school.   Peter finds his father's leather briefcase opening up a lot of questions about his parents death, and the reason they had to leave him, all of which connect to Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), and Oscorp where his father worked.  Peter's father was working on cross species genetics Curt Connors.  While visiting Oscorp and sneaking on a tour given by his crush Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), when he sneaks away from the tour he walks into a room full of genetically engineered spiders, and of course is bitten.  Curt Connors also gives himself a chemical injection to help re grow his arm in order to test for chemicals that will help save the unseen dying Norman Osborn, this eventually transforms into the Lizard, and the action ensues.

The main question the film leaves you with is who was Peter's father, and what was his major secret.  The film takes the route of origins, much like Batman Begins, and takes things back more to the why and the reason behind the story.  This film builds the intrigue focusing on the darker side of everything connected to Spider-Man.  Many people say that this film did not need to exist, or that it's happening too soon, but the film should not be judged on this factor or compared to the original trilogy its part of a different world.  I like what the screenwriters did with this film, and yet most of the flaws or slow points needed to exist because they needed to establish the myth and lore for this new franchise.  I would add that the film should trim down the number of screenwriters because you can tell when action films have too many cooks contributing to the pot because they all have different visions that fracture the story.  

I am glad Marc Webb was there to save the day, and balance out the structure of the film.  Webb who has only one other major film to his credit (500 Days of Summer) did a solid job with his first action flick, and constructed some great action sequences.  The key to his direction is something his predecessor missed, and that's using his great subtle emotional context to build the story to be even stronger.  Webb does this by creating a more angtsy nerdy Peter Parker with Andrew Garfield, who captures the role so much better than Tobey Maguire; he has the quick wit and charm.  Webb also bases  Spidey's love story with Gwen Stacey in a more realistic tone.  Watching these two on screen is magical, and part of this could be because they are dating in real life.  Either way the emotional deft of this film is incredbly strong, and even when Uncle Ben died I felt more this time (although that could be because Martin Sheen is one of my favorite actors).

I started out trying not to compare the original series with this current reboot, and that is tough to do, mainly because of the close time frame for the release, but there is something deep seated within this film that has me more excited.  There seems to be a method, and process that will this film and the next one after it to be something along the lines of the Batman series reboot.  This film is more fun, and feels the way a film about Spider-Man should feel.  My Spidey sense is tingling with anticipation to see where things go.

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