"A room without books is like a body without a soul." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Film: The Amazing Spider-Man by Marc Webb

As I’m sure most of you will know, The Amazing Spider-Man is based off the comic book series first published by Marvel comics in the 60’s. In these comic books, Peter Parker is a high school geek who is inadvertently bitten by a radioactive spider and develops spider-like super powers. Many people don’t think a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise is necessary, considering the Sam Raimi trilogy starring Tobey Maguire as Peter and Kirsten Dunst as his love interest Mary Jane finished in only 2007. However, I personally felt that Raimi's trilogy was subpar, so I was excited to see a reboot, despite being more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan.

This film follows the familiar ‘how he became Spider-Man’ story in the first half of the film, which was very well done and more interesting than in the previous films. Furthermore, there is a scene in a tube train where Peter discovers some of his powers which is very funny, and was a much better way of introducing us to his quick reflexes and sticky spider hands than I have ever seen previously.

There is also a scene which features Stan Lee which made me laugh - Stan is in the foreground of the shot, in a library, with headphones on, and we are made privy to his relaxing classical music while Spider-Man and the Lizard have it out in the background, with dear old Stan completely oblivious to the mayhem going on behind him! There were numerous funny moments in the film, which I thought was necessary as I was worried that Marc Webb might have chosen to take the Spider-Man franchise down a darker, more serious path like Christopher Nolan did with his Dark Knight trilogy - which I cannot see working as well for Spider-Man as it has done for Batman - but fortunately although the film is more serious than previous films, The Amazing Spider-Man manages to keep a fine balance.

Once Peter Parker has evolved into Spider-Man, the latter part of the film focuses more on the antagonist - the Lizard. Dr. Curtis Connors is a biochemist with only one arm, who strives to grow his limb back using mutagenic chemicals, having been inspired by the way lizards have the ability to sprout new tails if they are removed. Lacking the confidence to test the formula on other live human subjects, he injects himself with it instead, and while it successfully grows his arm, it also has one major side effect - it mutates him into a giant lizard!

I was happy to hear that the Lizard would be the sole villain in the new film, as the 2007 Spider-Man 3 had no less than three main villains - the Green Goblin, the Sandman, and Venom, who appeared only right at the end so his role was largely pointless, and the mix of the three just made the plot a bit messy and made it seem as though the director wanted to cram as many villains as he could into one film.

The Lizard is a good villain for a super-hero movie: he’s very scary, absolutely huge and very cunning, which makes him extremely threatening. However I’m not sure I liked how he looked very much, and he reminded me a little of Godzilla - this similarity is even made a joke of in the film, when Captain Stacy is informed of a giant dinosaur thing wreaking havoc in the city he responds with Do I look like the Mayor of Tokyo to you?

The main love interest this time is not Mary Jane Watson but Gwen Stacy, an intelligent and beautiful student who somehow, at 17 years of age, has managed to secure a job at Oscorp laboratory, the building in which Peter is bitten by the spider. This decision by the film-makers renders the film closer to the original comics, as Gwen was Peter’s first love, before he began dating Mary Jane. There was a little too much romance for my liking, but it was not so profound that it deterred from my enjoyment of the film at all.

Another aspect of the film that renders it a more faithful adaptation is the fact that Peter makes his web shooters. Until recently and thanks to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, I thought that one of the powers the spider gives Peter is the web ability, but in the comics he creates the device, as he does in this film.

The film was visually engaging, and the effects were really amazing - especially in the scenes where Spider-Man swings through New York. It was brilliant to watch on the big screen and in 3D, the latter of which normally hurts my eyes, but it was really smoothly done in The Amazing Spider-Man.

The acting was great too. Rhys Ifans made a brilliant Dr. Curt Connors, and I liked Sally Field as Aunt May. Andrew Garfield however, was truly phenomenal and really stole the show with his portrayal of Peter Parker / Spider-Man. He managed to make Peter very likeable and real as a person, unlike Maguire’s awkward depiction of the character. I would love to see him in more main roles in the future as he one of those rare actors who actually has natural talent; a flair for acting which is exuded plentifully in the British drama Boy A of 2007, in which Garfield plays an ex-con looking to start anew.

In conclusion, The Amazing Spider-Man takes the franchise down a slightly more serious path, but nonetheless maintains a light-hearted overtone that stays true to the comic books. It was funny, and had a decent story with entertaining characters, great acting and superb visual effects. There were some jumpy moments too, particularly during scenes in which the Lizard was involved. It didn’t drag at any point and I was completely engaged and thoroughly entertained throughout, and I think this is definitely a film that almost anyone can enjoy.

Rating: 8/10

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