Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Second Best Spider-Man Movie

I got a chance to see The Amazing Spider-Man last night, and I thought that as a life-long Spidey fan, I'd write my thoughts about it.  I already went into the wherefores and merits of doing a reboot, so I don't want to cover that again.  Instead, I just want to talk about the movie, although it will be impossible to not take the Raimi/Maguire franchise into consideration.

For starters, I have to say that I agree with Roger Ebert's review.  This probably is the second-best Spider-Man film, right behind Spider-Man 2, which I wrote about back when I did "Movie a Day" After that comes Raimi's original and then, of course, the dud that was Spider-Man 3.  (Which I still maintain had some good ideas in it but just didn't come together.  It's not like it was Batman and Robin level bad.)

I have some friends who really love the first, and even think that it was better than the second.  I've already written about why I like the second so much, so let me just point out a couple things that I thought worked better with this new one versus the original origin story.

First of all, the dialogue was a lot better.  There are several moments in the first one where everything just sounds so clunky.  The bits that come to mind include when we are first introduced to Aunt May and Uncle Ben - "Just don't fall on your ass" and the conversations between Peter and Mary Jane.  Also, there's that really awful "Deliver us...FROM EVILLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!" line that Aunt May gives.  With the new one, it's all a lot snappier, and I reckon that the actors got to do some improv with their lines, making it all sound much more natural.  There were some genuine nice bits of interaction between the characters.

Secondly, the emotional parts resonated a lot more.  Much like with Batman Begins, where we had seen the death of the Waynes many times before but Nolan's film made us actually care about it, this new Spider-Man film made Uncle Ben's death resonate with me who has read/seen it countless times.

One thing that I was most concerned about, as I knew that they were going to mess around with Spidey's origin a bit with this film, was whether they were going to get the heart of the story correct.  I was even still worried about it through the first third of the film.  That's the one thing that's always the most important to me, and when I discuss film adaptations with my English students, I always ask them whether the movie was getting the heart of it right even though some details had to be changed.

I can assure you that this was definitely the Spider-Man that I know.  Sure, a lot of details were there that I've never seen before (like him riding a skateboard) but they got the whole "With great power comes great responsibility" part right, even though nobody utters that line exactly.  Spider-Man is a guy who's driven by a sense that he cannot fail anybody, and he does what he does because he feels like he HAS to.  It's an obsession, not too unlike what you see with Shakespeare's tragic heroes.

The other thing that stood out to me was that this film is definitely darker than the original series.  I had heard that the director, Mark Webb, was going for that kind of a vibe, and I was a bit concerned.  Spider-Man is not Batman.  He's more of a lighthearted character, and his adventures need to reflect this.  However, with that said, some of the best Spider-Man comics contain various dark undertones to them.  After seeing the film, I can definitely say that the tone, while different from the last series, was true to the character.  Spider-Man inhabits a grittier world, but the character himself is still fun to watch.  And ironically enough, this film made more of an effort to get across that Spider-Man is a bit of a motormouth and is constantly cracking jokes.  I hope that they continue with that into the next one, as they managed to make it work.

My only complaint is the costume.  While this new one isn't horrible, and it makes sense in the context of this film (how the heck was Peter ever able to construct one like he did in the original series?) I'm hoping that he gets the design a little more precise for the next installment.  Here's hoping we get a few more good movies out of this team; and even more importantly, hopefully the studios won't make Mark Webb include villains that he doesn't want to use.


Kaboom32 said...

I think I almost completely agree with your assessment. My thought upon leaving was that if this had been the first movie 10 years ago, I would have thought it was indeed Amazing.

But I feel like the origin is something we need to sit through before we get to the good stuff. It's like the appetizer. I wanted another main course instead of another plate of potato skins, even if these did have more bacon and cheese than the first plate.

The good thing is that it was filled with lots of goodness and potential for the next few movies, and I really look forward to the next movie in which he battles The Spot.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

No way - Big Wheel all the way!

Kaboom32 said...

You're right. The Spot should complete the trilogy by proving he's the mastermind behind the first two.