The Mostly Amazing Spider-Man

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Well James did a blog post for the first Amazing Spider-man movie so I might as well do one for the sequel. I only recently saw the film, I didn’t see it in theaters because I heard some negative things about it from some people. So despite really liking the trailers I couldn’t get the energy to go out and see it. Now after having seen it I’ve come to a conclusion: Fuck those people this was a solid film.

Big difference

Big difference

Now for a little background, I use to love Spider-man, for the majority of my life I’ve been a huge fan. I loved concept and really identified with the character. That ended with Spider-man 3. I was so looking forward to the film and despite their flaws I really loved the first two films. But then Spider-man 3 took all of those flaws and ramped them up to 11. It had actually killed Spider-man for me, I stopped caring about the character in the comics, television, etc. So when the first Amazing Spider-man came out I really didn’t care. When I saw it I thought it was pretty good. I was bit annoyed they redid the origin, which is just unnecessary. I would have preferred the origin handled in quick flashbacks, in the style of The Incredible Hulk, keeping the focus on the new instead of the old. We didn’t need to see the spider bite again, nor him discovering his powers, nor him showing up Flash or impressing the love interest, or Uncle Ben dying. Other than that I loved the casting, I loved the acting, I loved the writing, the direction, the style, just about everything. So I, and I think everyone else, was hoping for the sequel to really stand out and be, as the title suggest, Amazing. And it did, mostly.

Andrew Garfield is the perfect Spider-man. I always felt Tobey Maguire had the potential be a really great Peter Parker and he fell short. I don’t necessarily blamed him. Because the dialog wasn’t written like the character, the director kept saying “Cut, we got it”, and there was no one saying “Umm, that’s not how Peter Parker acts”. This is a problem that gets worse as each film goes by. Although, his voice acting in the video games are a significant improvement over the films and I believe that is due more to the writing and directing than Maguire as an actor. Though while Tobey Maguire has to be pushed to act like Peter, Andrew Garfield just fills the shoes so naturally, to the point where it doesn’t even seem like he’s acting. There’s just such an authenticity to the performance both in and out of the costume. A lot of this has to do with writing, where as the Raimi films Peter is quiet, wimpy, and stiff; Webb’s Peter is fun, sarcastic, and quick witted aka the Spidey well all know and love. Garfield captures each aspect of the character, the arrogant jokester, the kind dedicated hero, and the teen overwhelmed by life. There’s a scene where Spider-man protects a kid being bullied and typically a scene like this usually comes off as too “after school special” but Garfield handles it so well and brings such honestly it truly gives meaning to the phrase “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man”. One last thing I want to point out that I really love is Garfield’s movements compared to Maguire’s. Tobey Maguire has zero body language as Spider-man. 98% of the time he just stands still and gives no physical performance, it’s like he forgot his face is covered with a mask. Any actor will tell you, if your face is covered you have to emphasize body language to emote or else the audience will have no idea what you’re feeling. Garfield certainly takes this to heart, every moment he’s in that costume he is constantly moving and performing with his entire body. Bringing so much life and energy that is desperately need with a costume like that. Andrew Garfield has proven he’s perfect for this role.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy is incredible, Garfield and her have probably the best on screen chemistry I’ve ever seen in a film. Every scene is entertaining. While Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire had enough to get by and have you believe they like each other, Stone and Garfield have you believing they were made for each other. They play off one another so well understand why they are together. The ending of Raimi’s Spider-man felt forced to try to keep Peter and MJ apart but it’s the opposite here. You really feel that Peter truly loves and can understand him not be able to put her in harms way. So his going back and forth about being with her is reasonable, you sense he can’t bear to lose someone else, but completely understand why he can’t keep away, their perfect together.  I hated Gwen dying not because it’s a repeat of the first movie’s ending, not because it’s too predictable, not because it’s too sad, but because it means I won’t see them perform with each other again. And these two actors need to be cast opposite each other in the future, I hate romantic comedies but I would love watching one starring these two.

Now on to the villains, one thing that bugs me about the criticisms of this film is when someone says “There were too many villains and that’s why the movie wasn’t any good” That’s bull shit. First off, There are only two villains, the third is a glorified cameo. Second, it’s never the number of villain but how you use them. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of the best superhero films ever had four villains: The Winter Soldier, Arnim Zola, Crossbones, and Batroc. And here both of the villains are great. I was expecting to hate Jamie Foxx, seeing in the trailers that he starts out as an over-the-top, socially awkward nerd, but then something happened that I didn’t expect. I knew that an unfortunate set of circumstances would make this relatively nice guy evil, but I didn’t think it would be done so well. When Foxx becomes Electro his performance is spectacular, he makes the character really seems like someone with a little bit preexisting psychological trouble, undergoing extreme trauma, completely loses it, and becomes twisted as a result (the sound design on the voice really helps, sounded awesome). It was a transformation that was believable and actually had me retroactively like the “over-the-top, socially awkward nerd” I would have never guess that be the case. Now our second villain is another example of what this series has done so well which is perfect casting. Dane DeHaan is a brilliant choice for Harry Osborn. He handles the fun and intelligent with the dark and unhinged so well. Like Stone he has great chemistry Garfield, they bond so well that they truly act like old friends reconnecting. He portrays the desperation so well and like Foxx brings an authentic performance to a villain.

Okay now for the bad. As I mention before the main criticism this films gets is too many villains, but that’s not the case. The problem is too much plot. Not so much that it makes the movie confusing or over bloated, but just enough to disrupt the flow of the film. In all honesty, I can’t blame them. Every plot line here is so good and filled with potential it’s tough to decide what to cut. From Peter and Gwen, to Spider-man’s adventures, Electro’s attacks, Harry’s fall, Peter’s Parents, the Osborn corruption, Mr Fiers, even Aunt May becoming a nurse. Each story is really fun and interesting, I couldn’t decide what to get rid of. As a result some of these stories didn’t feel like they were fully explored. For instance Electro has no real conclusion. His story has a beginning, a middle, but no end. Just a quick final fight. Peter’s parents should have been the beginning of unraveling a conspiracy instead just becomes back story. There’s only a handful of other things I didn’t like. I hated Dr. Kafka, stupid, over-the-top, and completely out of tone. Felicia was unnecessary and wasted. Paul Giamatti’s performance seemed dumb and cheesy (though to be fair we didn’t really have time to like it). I also fucking hate it how Rhino was in all of the advertisements. That helped the idea that there were too many villains. It would have been a fun cameo to go out on but they decided to show all the action that was in the film, in the trailer. YOU SPOILED YOUR OWN FINAL SCENE! I fucking hate when marketing does that.

And that’s it, I really liked this film. I loved the acting, almost every single line of dialog is perfect. The action is great, all of the choreography from fighting the villains, to distracting Osborne security is brilliantly planned and executed. The style and tone are spot on. The cinematography is amazing, specially the graveyard sequence; it said all that needed to be said without a single line of dialog. Overall a damn fine movie. For the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to the next Spider-man film. Unfortunately is sounds like Sony is hesitant, but there have been rumors of Spider-man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I hope it happens, cause this Spider-man deserves to be in there.

Pacific Rim

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Go see it. Go see it right-fucking-now. It’s the best blockbuster of the summer and it’s not even close. It might just be better than last year’s heavyweight popcorn muncher The Avengers. I’ll have a definitive answer on that after I see it a second time tomorrow. In IMAX 3D. Because it deserves to be seen in IMAX 3D.

GO SEE THIS MOVIE.

 

The Better Than Average Spider-Man

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The Amazing Spider-Man is not a perfect movie by any means and there was one scene in particular that had me cringing (you’ll know it when you see it), but it gets more right than it gets wrong. The actions scenes are well done, the new costume is less awful than I thought, and the movie is more about Peter Parker than it is about Spider-Man. Which is exactly how it should be.

Andrew Garfield has a different take on Pete than we’ve seen in a movie thus far, but it works here. He’s not the biggest loser in the world, he’s just a little awkward. Spider-Man mouths off like Spider-Man is prone to do, but there’s no real differentiation between his Spider-Man persona and his Peter persona so he mouths off as Pete too. That was jarring at first, but in the end that was a minor complaint. His dialogue is closer to smart ass Spidey than Raimi ever pulled off, so kudos on that. Emma Stone is fantastic. Her Gwen Stacy steals almost every scene she’s in. You get why Peter is love struck immediately because you’re right there with him. I’ll stop gushing before I start sounding like Jim Carrey, but she really is great. Aunt May and Uncle Ben feel like fully realized characters as opposed to two dimensional caricatures of nice old people. In fact, all of the characters feel more fully realized this time out. Even Flash comes off as a real person, not just The Bully. The best casting choice by far is Denis Leary as Captain Stacy.

“We need someone to be a gruff father figure who does nothing but give Peter shit.”

“So we need a Denis Leary type?”

“What’s Denis Leary doing?”

Fish in a fucking barrel.

Even Rhys Ifans does fairly well with the limited role of Doc Conners. Yeah, the main villain feels pretty limited in both scope and screen time. I think a lot of people are going to complain about the Lizard and he’s certainly not a great villain. But he does the two things this movie needed from its villain, be physically threatening to Peter and don’t take up too much screen time.

I do think that his limited presence was intentional as they decided to tell a much bigger, longer origin story. Peter doesn’t get into the Spider-Man costume for a long time and Conners doesn’t play much of a role in the first act of the movie. His story is very simple and quick. He wants his arm back, he goes too far to get it back, and he lets his compulsion consume him. Superhero movies tend to be ABOUT the villain with the hero just reacting to their antics. That’s not always a problem. The Dark Knight is the second best superhero movie ever and it only works because Ledger’s Joker is so damn interesting and he gets enough screen time to capture the audience. All three of the previous Spider-Man movies fell into the villain-as-headliner trap with varying degrees of success. Peter was intentionally played as the boring, generic do-gooder hero while the first two movies gave great actors a chance to ham it up as Spidey’s most menacing villains. Hell, Alfred Molina was so good that it completely masked the rest of the second movie’s incredible mediocrity in every other facet. Then the third movie lacked that talent level in its villains and it turned into a steaming pile. The dancing didn’t help. Neither did recycling the Mary Jane gets kidnapped plot for the third movie in a row, but mostly it was that there wasn’t an actor on set capable of distracting us from Tobey McGuire and Kirstin Dunst’s wooden acting and lack of chemistry. This movie goes the other way and relies heavily on Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone to carry the movie and they do it well.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want Disney to get their hands on Spider-Man. I think that Marvel Studios would do the best Spider-Man movie possible. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a mostly solid flick. Thumbs up.

Side note, anyone bitching about this being “Spider-Man meets Twilight” needs to pick up a Spider-Man comic because his stories have always been soap opera marketed for teens and wrapped in spandex. Also, as a nation we need to stop singling out Twilight like it’s the only piece of crap that does good business and won’t go away. There’s a glut on the market of unstoppable crap. Transformers 4 is coming, for fuck’s sake. How is it that terribly written, poorly acted, teen angst vampire crap our go to bad movie series when three hours of obnoxious, headache inducing, Micheal Bay directed scraps of metal flying at each other won’t stop coming out every two years like clockwork?