Saturday, July 7, 2012
The Average Spider-Man
Okay, I've gone over my thoughts on "The Amazing Spider-Man" and have come to this conclusion: this "amazing" film is just...meh. I'm sorry, but for me, it didn't measure up to any installment of the Spider-Man trilogy by Sam Raimi, and I am shaking my head at all the serious business Spidey fan people that say otherwise. Raimi and co. put humor, heart, and soul into those movies and made them fun experiences. Which is what superheroes, Spider-Man in particular, should be: FUN!
But apparently many people don't find them "serious" enough to be good movies about a freaking costumed superhero. Now this needless reboot comes out and people claim it's better 'cause it takes itself more seriously and thus has more "edge". Well allow me to share my disappointments:
- The tone was your generic "super serious, dark and gritty, realistic, afraid to be like a comic book and have fun" superhero movie that movies like the Raimi Spider-Man films, the Iron Man films, and "The Avengers" were so great at not being. Look, it worked for "The Dark Knight", but enough is enough, people! This effort to reboot and darken up the superhero genre to take it seriously in films is not only contributing to the death of entertaining cinema, but is the exact thing that eventually killed the mainstream superhero comics and the comic book industry as a whole. Part of this is why I rage on the inside whenever I see someone (looking at you, Greg) bash the Raimi Spider-Man movies for being cheesy or campy. Sure, it makes for pretty dumb movies but they're only dumb because they're not trying to underplay the comic book source material! This is about guys with superpowers who dress up in tights and fight absurd evil plans, save the city and countless lives a dozen times, and yet still live a hellish life overall. There's nothing wrong with a little camp and a sense of humor about that sort of subject! So I love it when a superhero movie takes the inherent ridiculousness in the concept and runs with it, rather than mock itself while trying to be more "realistic" (which even good movies like the X-Men films, "Captain America", and "The Dark Knight" have done). And this movie, sadly, is yet another case of the latter. Where did the FUN go???
- They fucked up Peter Parker's character. They were close, but they fucked up big time. Sure he's still a nerd, but he's supposed to be an awkward, dorky, geeky dweeb in high school. And yet here he acts like he would if he was in college or in Ultimate Marvel's version of high school: a socially distant loner. He was too "cool" and "heroic" from the start (like actually standing up to Flash's bullying!), so becoming Spidey didn't change him much at all. Even by the end of the film, he's largely a Static Character. And that goes against a core point of Spider-Man's character development: that getting bitten by the spider and all that followed changed him, physically and mentally, into a different and much better man than he was. That was very evident with Toby Maguire's Peter in the first movie, my favorite example being the contrast to his last conversation with Uncle Ben ("You're not my father, so don't act like one!") to his last encounter with Norman Osborn ("I had a father: his name was Ben Parker.") But with this Peter: nooo, he's the same schmuck from start to finish, which really pissed me off. Also, Andrew Garfield did not need an Edward Cullen haircut. Or a skateboard.
- Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy was largely useless as a character. I know I'm most likely to be in the minority when I say this, but honestly, she's no Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. While Emma Stone is very likable, fun, smart, cute and charming in the part, she's really not that much better an actress than Kirsten was, which is to say they're both perfectly decent. And while she and Andrew Garfield had good on-screen chemistry (better than what Maguire and Dunst had. really), the romance lacked anything remotely resembling sexual tension and conflict (her figuring out he's Spidey and keeping it from her dad doesn't count since that still didn't really go anywhere or lead to any developments worthy of "true love"), and Gwen's character was largely irrelevant to the main Spidey plot outside of the bland romance, except for when she had to protect the antidote from Connors, which was admittedly very cool of her. But still, MJ getting in danger all the time suddenly doesn't seem so bad, 'cause that at least kept her as a driving force and main player in the plot. And of course, there's nothing that can top the legendary Spidey/MJ upside down kiss in the rain either.
- Curt Connors/the Lizard was a really weak villain. He was barely any better than the Sandman from "Spider-Man 3." His CGI design left a whole lot to be desired (he looked like a humanoid Godzilla with Voldemort's face), his character wasn't as sympathetic as they probably wanted it to be, and his plan to turn the entire city into lizards? Yeah, I think that was done better in the first episode of the 90's series, "Night of the Lizard." This is such a shame, since I know Rhys Ifans can play a great villain. He deserved better material, and deserved to NOT be replaced by a CG Lizard Man for half his performance! What was interesting was that Connors worked for Oscorp, and that the shadowy villain who shows up in the mid-credits scene might be Norman Osborn himself. And since he's reportedly "terminally ill", I see a goblin formula in his future. I'm guessing they're planning on using Spidey's arch-foe the Green Goblin as the villain of the second film now? Is he going to kill Gwen Stacy? Is he going to terrorize people while saying "why so serious?" Or will he be a total bore with no screen presence who's played by a different actor from the shadowed man and who gets killed when Spidey jumps off a high ledge and takes him with him?
- Captain Stacy got hit with adaptational Character Derailment and became the typical authority
figure who's against the vigilante menace superhero. He even went as far as to have the bulk of his force chase after Spidey when he didn't even do anything horribly wrong or illegal yet other than delivering vigilante justice! And then says he wants him destroyed? The hell? This isn't General Ross here: it's Captain George Freaking Stacy! If they were that desperate to have someone with an anti-Spider-Man position in this film, then...oh, how I longed for J. Jonah Jameson back.
- Spidey actually didn't crack jokes that often. What a rip off! Not only that, but the big scene where he did make quips at a crook's expense was pretty damn mean-spirited. I mean, we probably weren't supposed to feel bad for the guy since he was a carjacker, but in humiliating him so thoroughly, I just couldn't shake the feeling that Spidey had become the very type of bully he was standing up to earlier in the film! And this was AFTER Uncle Ben's death and him becoming Spidey! Of course in this version, he hadn't learned responsibility just yet, but we'll get to that later.
- Aunt May got a total shaft. I wonder why Sally Field even bothered?
- The crane scene. And the voice mail from Uncle Ben after his death. Need I say more? People call the Raimi films hokey and cheesy, but these were just like anything they ever did.
- Lots of plot threads that got set up in the first half (Peter's parents, the Oscorp conspiracy, Uncle Ben's killer) got dropped the moment the Lizard entered the picture, presumably saving them for
a sequel that may or may not even occur. I wouldn't be bothered by this one as much if the trailers hadn't focused so damn much on the mystery of Peter's parents and "the untold story" that has still yet to be told! If you build it up so extensively in promotion and in the film itself, people are going to be left wanting resolution when you don't freaking give it to them!
- The Peter/Gwen romance, if I didn't mention before, was awfully written and poorly executed throughout the film, and do I need even get STARTED on that ending? It was awful: Peter makes a promise to a dying man that would prevent him from pursuing a relationship with Gwen: typical Parker luck, right? Except then he's all "I'm gonna break that promise! Ha ha!" and gets with Gwen anyway, not having to sacrifice a damn thing in order to have his way. In fact, this is flat-out dodging his responsibility as Spider-Man, which flies in the face of everything he stands for as a hero and reaffirms that Peter has learned nothing this entire film. And Gwen gives a smirk that shows she thinks his decision is awesome, despite the fact that the dead man whose promise is getting broken is her own father! Who, by the way, she does little grieving over, ditto Peter over Uncle Ben! The film closing out with Spidey swinging off into the city (one last Raimi callback) cannot disguise the fact that this movie's ending was Twilight-esque bullshit.
- And the worst, most unforgivable thing of all was what they did with Spidey's origin. We already saw it done and done better in the first Spider-Man movie, and that's part of why it's one of my all-time favorite movies: the origin was done SO WELL. So not only were we forced to be dragged through it all again (Peter's an outcast, he gets bullied, can't impress a girl, gets bitten by a radioactive spider, finds out about his new powers, acts like a jerk, lets the crook who kills his uncle go, uncle dies, Peter truly becomes Spider-Man, yadda yadda), but they freaking ruined it too. The famous and iconic "With great power comes great responsibility" line is gone completely unsaid (because Mark Webb wanted to be "subtle" and let the plot convey the message without saying it, which is bullshit because it's a staple of Spider-Man: they just wanted to avoid sounding cheesy). Peter does not become Spider-Man as a wrestler, instead getting inspiration for the Spider-Man costume from a poster of a pre-existing wrestler! He already is a cocky prick, so all getting powers does is...well, give him powers. He SEES the killer that kills Uncle Ben, which is nowhere near as powerful as confronting the killer and discovering that he's the same crook he let go! And the "Oh my god, I could've stopped him when I had the chance and Uncle Ben wouldn't have died!" angle is underplayed in favor of VIGILANTE VENGEANCE, and he only learns about "great responsibility" through things unrelated to Ben's death, such as rescuing an innocent child from harm and feeling responsible for Connors accident, which is not nearly as compelling..and this doesn't stick, since he ditches his responsibility in the end for a chance to hang with Gwen anyway. And do not get me started on the frightening implications that he was created as a clone from his father's DNA and spider genes, and that becoming Spider-Man was meant to happen by Norman Osborn or whatever. What a load of bull. This one really made me question if Mark Webb and co truly understood the appeal of the character and his mythos. Sam Raimi was an avid Spidey lover and it shows in how faithful to the spirit of Spider-Man his movies were. While this reboot might be going for an alternate telling, ala the "Ultimate Spider-Man" comic series, that does not justify making such drastic alterations like that! And the origin...ugh, the first Raimi movie got it so right and this one got it so wrong, that I really wish they had done the "The Incredible Hulk" thing and left out the origin altogether, instead going right to the new story. Almost everyone knows this origin, they're sick of it, they didn't want to see it again, so it should not have been retold like this at all.
Yeah, I know. I seem to be crying "They Changed It, Now Its Sucks" and "Ruined FOREVER!" here, but these things just really disappointed me. I knew the Raimi films would be hard to top, but I just felt offended that they've prematurely rebooted the franchise just to take it down this direction. 'Cause really, this is a movie that did not need to happen. It didn't need to exist. That's what makes this movie almost impossible to watch, appreciate, and enjoy because the knowledge of it's existence is always in the back of my mind. It literally only exists so Sony can keep the rights to Spidey and prevent him from joining the MCU. ...Fuck! I would've loved to see Spidey join the Avengers! And that people so eager to embrace the new model are calling THIS the best Spidey film made so far. UGH, this is why I don't touch the Spider-Man fandom. I'm firmly sticking to my opinion here, and if I were to do an "Old vs New" comparing this to Raimi's "Spider-Man", the old would win hands down.
However, with all that said, I did not completely hate this movie. The GOOD things in it were that Andrew Garfield is an excellent Peter/Spidey (as I knew he would be) regardless of how his character material is written, ditto for Emma Stone as Gwen and Dennis Leary as her dad. Martin Sheen is
a perfect Uncle Ben, as good as Cliff Robertson was. The action sequences and special effects are genuinely awesome. The Stan Lee cameo was loads of fun. The high school teen life stuff was very well done. And Flash Thompson was actually more faithful to his original character, as opposed to being just the cardboard bully like he was in Raimi's version.
But other than those, this was merely "The Average Spider-Man", I'm afraid. For me, it gets a C-.