The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man


Well, that was okay. It wasn't great. It wasn't amazing. It wasn't spectacular. But I enjoyed it. I've seen worse comic book movies. Hell, I've seen three worse Spider-Man movies. So there, I'll say it, I liked it better than the Sam Raimi flicks. I think just about everything the Raimi movies got wrong this one got right.

I remember seeing the first Raimi film, and I remember talking myself into thinking I liked it more than I did. But I knew Raimi had no interest in making a good adaptation or even a good movie the moment the Green Goblin said the words "we'll meet again, Spider-Man!" yes, that was the moment the Raimi films passed the point of no return. The moment it all went wrong. Gods, not even cartoons use dialogue that lame anymore, and haven't in a very long time before that thing came out. It just felt so scitzo, like Raimi was making a PG-13 movie for really little kids. Some would say "Spider-Man 2" was better, but I'm not one of them... it followed the same emotional beats and story beats as the first movie and I don't know who that villain was, but it was not the Dr. Octopus I know. And the less said about "Spider-Man 3" the better.

Let me get this out of the way, Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy had a lot of chemistry, much more chemistry than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Garfield and Stone looked like they enjoyed being there, while Maguire and Dunst had that same look that George W. Bush had throughout his entire second term... that look that said "I can't want to get out of this job." And while I don't hate Tobey Maguire as an actor, I did hate him as Peter Parker. I thought he was horribly miscast. He wasn't the slightest bit funny or charismatic, and that face he made when he cries was the most unintentionally hilarious thing. We're supposed to feel bad when Uncle Ben dies, then Tobey cries and it's hilarious... this helped make "Spider-Man 3" an unintentional comedy.


I really don't like going here, this is not me trying to hit you over the head with why the Raimi films were bad, I'm trying to tell you all why this movie wasn't. I'm trying to highlight what this movie did right.

Andrew Garfield felt a lot more like the Peter Parker I knew growing up. He was a nerd, he was goofy, he was dweeby, but he was also funny, heroic, and had a real growing arc. Honestly, and I hate to be that guy, but give the guy a haircut and take away the damn skateboard and he'd have been perfect.

Emma Stone felt like Gwen Stacy, and not like Mary Jane Watson who happened to be blond and named Gwen Stacy. Gwen Stacy came to life and was on screen. She was the character who was nailed perfectly. Nothing was wrong or off about her. Unlike Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane who felt like both MJ and Gwen were tossed into a blender when Raimi made his films. Now, as a character, I love Mary Jane Watson and I hope she turns up in a sequel.

This felt like one of the better love stories in a comic film. Specifically, I like how both characters did not behave like complete idiots. That moment at the end where Peter breaks up with Gwen and Gwen doesn't blame him but knows her dad well enough to figure that he made Peter promise to stay away was so refreshing. If this were the Raimi films, Dunst would have run away crying, miserably ignorant and showing no clear understanding of who any of the people in her life are.

I loved Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors. He really breathed a lot of humanity into him. I've heard some people say he was Dr. Octopus all over again. Well, boys and girls... Raimi's Doc Ock had a lot more in common with the Lizard than he did with the Dr. Octopus of the comics. So, they got Connors right. That being said, the CGI on the Lizard needed work. It wasn't amazing. And, once again, I hate to be that guy. But I didn't care for the design of the Lizard. He should have had a snout. Aw well, I can't complain too much, they did put him in a lab coat in a couple of scenes. But aside from that, that was the comic character

Captain George Stacy was the biggest departure. While I would have greatly preferred seeing the cop who was able to figure out who Spidey was through sheer detective work, and who became Spidey's ally on the force (this did happen, but only at the end) I won't complain because Denis Leary was just that fun to watch.

And I absolutely LOVED Flash Thompson in this movie. Sure he wasn't in it much, but when he was, that was the guy from the comics too as opposed to the complete non-entity of the Raimi flicks. He even had a little character arc throughout the film. They didn't need to do that, but I'm glad they did.

That is not say this movie didn't have it's problems. I get why they re-told the origin story. They wanted to tie it in with his parents, with Oscorp and with Dr. Connors becoming the Lizard. But I still didn't want to watch it again. And the changes made were... well... a blessing in disguise I guess. The changes made to the burglar story drove me nuts, but... well... at least it was shot in a way that they can't come along and say Sandman really did it. But still... well, damned if they did, damned if they didn't. I understand why the change with they changed the story, but it still drives me nuts. Spidey's origin is kind of sacred. I think this one got the spirit right if not the details, while Raimi got most of the details but not the spirit.

And I flat out loved that Oscorp was evil. We don't see Norman Osborn but we hear enough about him to know that this is a very bad guy, and thank god. Norman Osborn is not a good man gone bad, he is a bad man gone nuts. And based on what we've heard, we can see the seeds laid for why he will eventually become the Green Goblin. Cool. They didn't blow their wad with the main villain in the first movie.

Good, but not great. And the crane scene was horrible... and the voice mail left by Uncle Ben was so contrived as a final speech, like he knew he was going to die. So hokey.

19 comments:

  1. I agree with everything you've said except I'd call it great but not fantastic.

    I think the origin worked as an alternate interpretation. It's not as great as the original but it's good on its own merits. One thing I really liked was that Peter didn't find out who killed Ben till he got home and then he sat in his room listening to the last voice mail Ben sent him. That was a powerful moment and wonderfully done.

    Flash was note perfect. The scene where Peter slammed him into the lockers I thought to myself, "Now that's Flash Thompson." I liked that Flash now sort of respects Peter, maybe not friends yet, but their relationship grew throughout the movie. It didn't need to be there but its inclusion, along with other such small things, makes the film stand head and shoulders above the Raimi films.

    Out of all the superhero movies I'd say this had the best romantic subplot in it. But that's more of a statement about how bad the romantic aspects of superhero movies are.

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    1. What I don't get are the people calling this "dark and gritty." Well, I guess relative to the Raimi flicks it is, but those flicks are so light and candy-coated even Avengers and Captain America are "dark and gritty" compared to them. I watch a lot of cinema, I've seen a lot of "dark and gritty" movies. This movie is not what I would call "dark and gritty."

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    2. Yeah I don't get the "dark and gritty" thing either. It's "darker" than the Raimi movies but you can't really compare it to Batman Begins.

      It's like saying Spectacular was "dark and gritty" because it's not Amazing Friends or the 60s show.

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  2. "But I knew Raimi had no interest in making a good adaptation or even a good movie the moment the Green Goblin said the words "we'll meet again, Spider-Man!" yes, that was the moment the Raimi films passed the point of no return. The moment it all went wrong. Gods, not even cartoons use dialogue that lame anymore, and haven't in a very long time before that thing came out."

    Not trying to say your wrong about that point in it being lame dialogue. But how is THAT any lamer than Zemo actually referring to his group as the "Masters of Evil"?
    Hell as long as were poking at "sacred cows", how is that much worse than Green Goblin's awful line about how he's going to do his happy dance in SSM's Final Curtain?

    Not trying to change your mind on whether it's lame or not (it was), I just think its a little silly to call that bad moment "a point of no return". While simply ignoring those moments I cited above.
    Again not trying to change your mind, I just think choosing THAT moment as a "jump the shark" moment is a bit extreme, as opposed to say Green Goblin's awful costume.

    "I think this one got the spirit right if not the details, while Raimi got most of the details but not the spirit."

    THIS for me, pretty much sums up the differences between the two "franchises" if you will. Though I'm not as big a stickler for thinking details like "Norman Osborn MUST be a bad man, from the start" have to remain sacred for it to be enjoyable or Doc Ock HAS to be "a typical mad scientist bent on world domination" in order for him to be Doc Ock.

    I guess I'm trying to say that I try to leave my comic book purist tendancies at the door. And I try to enjoy it on it's own terms first.

    Having said that, I liked it more than Spider-Man 1 & 3. Not sure if I liked it more than 2, but I think I liked it just AS much. And I agree that Garfield-Stone had a hell of alot more chemistry than McGuire-Dunst did.

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    1. "Not trying to say your wrong about that point in it being lame dialogue. But how is THAT any lamer than Zemo actually referring to his group as the "Masters of Evil"?
      Hell as long as were poking at "sacred cows", how is that much worse than Green Goblin's awful line about how he's going to do his happy dance in SSM's Final Curtain?"

      For the latter, delivery. As for the former, I believe I've expressed my distaste for Zemo referring to his team as the Masters of Evil in previous reviews. But, again, the delivery made me a little more forgiving.

      "Again not trying to change your mind, I just think choosing THAT moment as a "jump the shark" moment is a bit extreme, as opposed to say Green Goblin's awful costume."

      Oh, the Goblin's awful costume was when the movie was on the water skis and heading directly for the shark.

      "I guess I'm trying to say that I try to leave my comic book purist tendancies at the door. And I try to enjoy it on it's own terms first."

      I try to also, and I usually can but when the product turns out as shoddy as Raimi's flicks did, I begin looking to the source material to find ways to improve it.

      Nolan's Joker was a huge departure in the details, but damn was the product good.

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    2. "For the latter, delivery."

      I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. That line felt not only lame, but so out of place in a moment where we're supposed to feel dread for Spidey in that perilous situation. And I didn't even feel Steve Blum's perfect GG voice could make that line work.

      Also while we're on the subject, "Gods, not even cartoons use dialogue that lame anymore, and haven't in a very long time before that thing came out."

      Are you SURE you want to stick with THAT statement? Because I'm pretty sure there's a lot of cartoons that have done that before and after. Not necessarily GOOD ones but I'm sure we can all see some stupid show like Ultimate Spider-Man using dialogue like that. :p

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    3. "Ultimate Spider-Man"? What's that? It sounds stupid. Nothing that stupid can exist.

      La la la.

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  3. I agree this was the best of the bunch, bit it sounds like I likes all of the Spidey movies more than you (except possibly 3 which I loathe). You are right on about the spirit of the movies. Take organic webbing for instance. I understand why Raimi went that way, but having seen mechanical shooters done fairly well, it seems clearly the better choice.

    My biggest problems with Amazing are 1) it left a lot of unresolved plot elements, Granted, this may end up strengthening the sequels, but its a little frustrating taking this movie alone. 2) The Lizard was odd. I would have preferred a mindless beast than a thinking talking man-beast. And I kind of hope he isnt't coming back.

    I am really looking forward to the next film and the intros of JJ, MJ, and hopefully some non-Vulture villains. Would love to eventually see Black Cat, Kraven, a Goblin, and Electro. It would also be nice to have fixed versions of Doc Ock and Venom, but that may be asking too much.

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    1. Am I the only one who likes the Vulture?

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    2. I don't mind the Vulture. But compared to Spidey's other rogues he seems to lack alot of great stand out moments. Or he just seems to get overshadowed by them. That doesn't mean I think he's bad, just not outstanding.

      Hell for some reason I'd like to see Scorpion in a Spider-Man movie. Given the right material I think they could make him work.

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  4. "Hell, I've seen three worse Spider-Man movies. So there, I'll say it, I liked it better than the Sam Raimi flicks. I think just about everything the Raimi movies got wrong this one got right."

    Oh boy, somehow I knew this was coming. Now I am NOT meaning to troll you here, but I feel inclined to make an argument as to why the Raimi films were not the awful movies that makes this mediocre one look like a masterpiece in comparission like you seem to think they are.

    "I remember seeing the first Raimi film, and I remember talking myself into thinking I liked it more than I did."

    Yeah, I seem to remember you praising the origin story and Willem Dafoe's performance (regardless of his costume and dialogue) before. What happened to those views? Oh, and JK Simmons was the perfect Jameson, but that was probably the most consisten thing about all three films.

    "and I don't know who that villain was, but it was not the Dr. Octopus I know."

    I guess you only know one version of the chracter, then.

    "Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy had a lot of chemistry, much more chemistry than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst."

    I agree with this one, but honestly, the romance between Peter and Gwen still wasn't written very well. It's just "they love each other for no real reason and have no sexual tension or conflict whatsoever." It falls into the same trap of trying to rely on the actors' chemistry rather than actually writing the relationship right. So no, I cannot call it one of the better love stories in a superhero movie. Not even close. It had as much depth as a "Twilight" romance.

    "I think this one got the spirit right if not the details, while Raimi got most of the details but not the spirit."

    I thought the origin story in the Raimi film was just much more faithful to the original story in general. And it was done so well, "The Spectacular Spider-Man" played homage to it. (And keep in mind, I'm talking about BEFORE they fucked it up and had Flint Marko be the real killer.)

    "We don't see Norman Osborn but we hear enough about him to know that this is a very bad guy, and thank god. Norman Osborn is not a good man gone bad, he is a bad man gone nuts."

    Well...yeah. When, aside from "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" and the 90's cartoon has he ever not been a bad man? Maybe Willem Dafoe's version wasn't pure evil at first, but his first scene has him being a total unfeeling dick to his son. The guy was never a decent human being there at all.

    I actually agree alot with the rest of what you said, especially the bit about Flash Thompson. However, I would go much, MUCH harder on what this movie did to Spider-Man's origin, and thus the very core of his character arc, but I'll save it.

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    1. First of all, who is this? It is my preference that a name get signed to comments.

      "that makes this mediocre one look like a masterpiece in comparission like you seem to think they are."

      Where did I use the word "masterpiece." This review was hardly a glowing one.

      "What happened to those views?"

      I never said Dafoe didn't give a good performance, it was the writing and the directing that failed him.

      As for the origin story in the first movie, I never said it was badly done... in fact, I thought it was the best part of that entire trilogy. It doesn't change the fact that Uncle Ben's death scene is unintentionally hilarious because of Tobey Maguire's crying.

      As for what happened to views? To answer this on a larger scale, am I not allowed to change my mind on some things? Not just this movie, but other opinions. Hell, when I was a kid I thought the original "GI Joe" cartoon was an epic badass show... changed my mind as I got older. And I am hardly the only one who does not think Raimi's movies don't hold up.

      "I guess you only know one version of the chracter, then."

      Well, there is the one from the source material that Spectacular translated almost perfectly. There is, also, Kingpin's butt-monkey from the 90's

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  5. ^ Well gee, thanks for making me feel stupid for not logging in. Truly, I'm sorry.

    I didn't mean to imply you used the term masterpiece. I said you seem to think that the Raimi films make this one look like a masterpiece IN COMPARISSION, because you disliked them so much.

    On Uncle Ben's death: well, I guess some people can let different things get to them. I tend to focus on the dying guy rather than crying pansy Peter.

    And I don't think you changed your mind if you never liked it to start with. You've said you "enjoyed" the first film for things like Dafoe and the origin (and JK Simmons), but you never said you "liked" it or thought it was a good movie.

    Lastly...ugh, don't remind me of the Kingpin's butt-monkey Doc Ock. Such a waste of a good villain.

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    1. No problem, thanks for signing in.

      "I didn't mean to imply you used the term masterpiece. I said you seem to think that the Raimi films make this one look like a masterpiece IN COMPARISSION, because you disliked them so much."

      Except I don't even think that. I think this one is much better, but I still criticized the movie. Re-read my first paragraph. And please, concentrate on what I say instead of what you think I'm saying.

      "On Uncle Ben's death: well, I guess some people can let different things get to them. I tend to focus on the dying guy rather than crying pansy Peter."

      I can't make that separation. I'm not a guy who can like a movie or a scene in a movie for "that one part." Movies are, I think, a house of cards.

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  6. I still don't get why all the critics love the Raimi films so damn much but vehemently hate this film. I really enjoyed, I did have some issues with it, they were minor. I felt The Lizard was B-movieish and the post/mid credits scene was weird. This movie reminded me a lot of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic (I hate that I can't just say Ultimate Spider-Man now), and that's a good thing.

    I had a lot of the same problems with the Raimi films as they were total cheesefests and not the Spider-Man film I've always wanted. This comes pretty damn close. Loved your review, I think you just topped io9 for the favorite. Too many of the critcs I've grown to admire have lost a lot of credibility with me by not giving this film a fair shake. It's all "cynical cashgrab" this and "Peter's too good looking" that, too many rants not enough reviews.

    I think this is the first time I've commented here, I love your reviews for animated shows and stuff. I started reading them on your blog when you were banned from Toonzone and I could no longer get your posts. Seriously, your reviews for Young Justice and Avengers are probably the best out there, although not too many serious sites review cartoons.

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  7. Wow, this is getting an incredible variety of reactions. Having read/watched, I think five different reviews now, I have no idea what to expect at this point. I liked Raimi's movies (even 3, though to a much lesser extent), but I know they had problems. Most notably was that Spider-Man was never funny, and it looks like they've at least somewhat fixed that. Also, while I liked the way they did the "Spider-Man no more" plot in SM-2, I wish they'd had more of the public distrusting him. It seemed like everyone except Jameson wished he'd come back, and I like the angst of him protecting a city that hates him.

    I think it's not entirely true to say, as you often do, that Norman Osborn is "a bad man gone nuts." In the Silver Age comics, it was never entirely clear how much of his evil was the result of his accident and how much was preexisting. Flashbacks at the time showed him being an unattentive father and a somewhat ruthless businessman, but I'm not sure how much criminal behavior he was involved in prior to becoming the Goblin. Much of his corporate crime was added later. And for about four or five years, between Peter learning his identity and the Harry drug-overdose story, he completely forgot about his alterego and became a decent man and almost a father figure to Peter. Does that mean the Goblin was intended to be a split personality? Hard to say- comicbook psychology was pretty naive in those days, and I don't think Stan really knew exactly what made the Goblin tick. What is clear to me is that there are multiple valid interpretations of the character, and I think Raimi's is just as valid as Weisman's. On the other hand, I liked everything about Molina's Doc Ock except the idea that the arms were controlling his mind. Ock should have stayed unrepentant to the end. The first appearance of Doc Ock in the 90's Spider-Man show was actually pretty much perfect, long before he started cowtowing to the Kingpin.

    As for MJ, there was potential. The closest they got was when Peter saw her run away from her parents' fighting and had a heart-to-heart with Peter, but then ran off with her friends in their new car, acting all giggly and excited. It showed her as appearing to be a light-hearted party girl but with a troubled inner life. Unfortunately, the longer the series went, the more one-note she got. And the "Gwen" in SM-3 really was Gwen in name only. She was honestly a complete non-entity, and barely knew Peter, so what was the point of introducing her? Again, though, both of these women have been interpreted multiple different ways, but here I definitely side with Spectacular, which showed them both having distinct, layered personalities.

    So, that's my thoughts on the Raimi movies. Eventually I'm sure I'll see this one, but I'm not in a hurry.

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    1. I have to agree with Jurgan here. Yeah, the adaptations of Norman tend to ignore aspects like being unattentive and even framing Stromm.

      But inbetween his first memory loss and recovery, you don't see him doing anything unethical or implying criminal behavior, so there is room for people to see him as a saint gone wrong.

      Though it's definitely odd as others and the Nostalgia Critic points out how Norman before becoming the Goblin is less than a decent man, yet becoming a wimp after the experiment.

      As for the purist angle, nowadays I see faithfulness as more of a bonus I can do without if the story is good or at least entertaining. So yeah TSSM is definitely a Christmas in July.

      And yeah, the current movie is darker, but I don't see it as grim dark.

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  8. ^ And thank you, Jurgan. You summed up most of my thoughts on the matter concerning Raimi's movies, Norman, Ock, MJ and Gwen. (Except for MJ becoming more "one-note" as the series went on: for half of "Spider-Man" and all of "Spider-Man 2", yes, but I actually thought that was one thing Spider-Man 3 FIXED.)

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  9. I personally didn't care about the how the changed around the origin. They kept the main point with it being about Peter Parker realizing he could have prevented his uncle's death if he didn't look the other way, which is what I felt was the main point. From what I've seen, George Stacy is kinda playing his role and that JJJ in this movie, though he seems to at least have a point in going after Spiderman. I really liked the setup for the sequels.

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