So, what does it take to get me out of my cave and writing a new blog post? A new superhero movie, evidently.
Hmmmm… But that doesn’t quite ring true. One might have thought I would blog about The Avengers. But I didn’t.
Why not? It was the superhero movie event of the decade. I enjoyed the hell out of it, make no mistake. It was the movie that everyone wanted to love, and damn near everybody did love. It’s the movie we love to love. There was just so much right about it.
And therein lies the problem. There was near-universal agreement about the movie and about the sheer brilliance of Joss Whedon’s script and direction. There wasn’t really anything for me to say that hadn’t been said a million times in a million ways by a million other reviewers, bloggers, and fans.
Not so with The Amazing Spider-Man.
This was a film about which I had mixed feelings right from the get-go. When I heard that Sam Raimi’s stewardship of the webbed crusader had come to an end, I was extremely disappointed. Then, when I heard that Sony Pictures was going to start from scratch and reboot the franchise, I was beyond disappointed. I was mystified, befuddled, confused, and just generally pissed off.
I could see getting a new director, even a new cast, but to start the story over again? It just didn’t make sense to me.
And so, I expected to hate this film, or at least dislike it. I went in with low expectations and extreme prejudice.
Right from the start, I was rolling my eyes: Seriously? we’re going right back to the origin story? Seriously? We’re doing the Uncle Ben thing again? Haven’t we been here before?
I don’t know if I wanted to dislike the film or was just bracing myself to dislike the film, but for the first half-hour or so, I was looking warily at the screen, listening skeptically to the dialogue, and wondering when the giant suck was going to land.
Somewhere around the point where Peter Parker first discovers he has spider powers, I started to realize that I was watching something very different from what I had expected. Something dramatically different from what had come before. Something, darker, edgier, grittier.
This film could easily have been called Spider-Man Begins.
Right off the top, this film goes back to basics. First-off, there were no naturally-evolving web-shooters inside Peter’s wrists. A lot of people hated that in the Raimi-directed movies. I didn’t really have a problem with it; it actually made sense to me. After all, he had little hooks growing out of his fingertips. Why not web glands in his arms?
But this new version takes us back to the comics. Peter creates web-shooting devices for his wrists, and the screenwriters actually make this plausible. Not an easy thing to do when your character is a high-school kid, albeit a brilliant one.
Also, there’s no Mary Jane. Not yet, anyway. Again, we go back to the comics and Peter Parker’s first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone.
Warning: Anyone who’s read any of my earlier blog entries knows that when I like something, I tend to be pretty over-the-top with the superlatives. So brace yourselves. There’s some fairly major acting praise ahead. Just lettin’ ya know.
Emma Stone and our lead actor Andrew Garfield are unbelievable in this film. They have preternatural acting chops. They own the screen, and the chemistry between them is almost another whole character in and of itself. Garfield is so edgy and jittery and awkward and all-over-the-place that one nearly begins to believe he is a spider. Stone is so natural and funny onscreen that she pulls you into her scenes and gives them a level of believability that almost hurts.
Yes, they’re that good.
And the supporting cast has a pretty impressive set of credentials, too. When you’ve got the likes of Sally Field and Martin Sheen playing Aunt May and Uncle Ben, you know you’re not talking about some cartoon here. They’re a very different take on Peter’s guardians, and their dialogue—not to mention the way they deliver it—bring yet another layer of realism to what is—let’s face it—a pretty outlandish story.
And the writers even manage to have old Uncle Ben bring up the topic of “responsibility” without going into the whole “with great power” schtick. Thank you for that.
Rhys Ifans was an unexpected choice for the villain, but, honestly, he’s such a chameleon that he can play damn near anything. He was the out-to-lunch, oversexed roommate in Notting Hill in 1999 and morphed through dozens of roles, including the Earl of Oxford in Anonymous in 2011. It’s actually quite fitting that a chameleon would end up playing The Lizard.
And then there’s Denis Leary, one of my favorite humans on the planet. I love to watch this guy work. He’s funny, edgy, and in-your-face. And, like George Carlin, one of my other favorite humans, he says what he thinks. He’s a little toned down in his role as George Stacy, chief of police and Gwen’s father, but the heat is still there in his eyes, and his dialogue is fast, snappy, no-nonsense.
The film lives up to the “Amazing” in its title. I was a little jarred by the introduction of Peter’s parents, and I wasn’t all that crazy about the design of The Lizard’s face, but those are small complaints. The script was solid, the action was intense, the world was gritty and dark, and the use of the 3D technology was, frankly, breathtaking. 3D has become almost a non-feature these days, so many films are using it, but this film puts it to the best use I’ve ever seen.
Just one final, tiny, miniscule gripe: Is anyone ever going to make a movie where the funeral scene isn’t in the rain? That cliché is almost as annoying as the door-bell sound effect that is used in every film ever made by anyone anywhere in the world.
Anyway, go see it. It’s a remarkable film. My fears were unfounded. My senses were stimulated. My history was rewritten.
See you in the dark.