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Tuesday, July 3, 2012
The Amazing Spider-Man (IMAX 3D)
Back In The Big Apple, And Still Very Much A Spider
Spider-Man, aka Andrew Garfield, in Marc Webb's action-drama "The Amazing
Jaimie Trueblood/Sony Pictures
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Tuesday, July 3,
Marc Webb kick-starts another
edition of Marvel's comic-book sensation with "The Amazing Spider-Man", a film
that returns to the darker origins of the character and effectively builds the
dichotomy between Peter Parker (very well acted by Andrew Garfield) and
Spider-Man, making no secret of their oneness. Often played as a huge,
defining reveal in previous film editions, Peter Parker-as-Spider-Man is a
revelation disclosed to other characters early on. The central focus of
"The Amazing Spider-Man", which opened early this morning across the U.S. and
Canada, is the fragility of the human family, which here literally and
figuratively hangs by the thread of a spider's web.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" hits all the right notes and places in its title
character's development. Peter is a ten-pound weakling photographer at his
high school (his camera probably weighs more than he does.) He uncovers
the truth about his father's experiments. He's bitten by a spider.
He's invincible. Arrogant. Humbled. Misunderstood.
Tragic. A savior. A loner. Parker's uncle and aunt
(wonderfully played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field) try sheltering Parker from
the pains of his life. There's good tension between the three, adding a
layer of suspense and volatility that underlines their interactions.
Mr. Webb builds a brooding, shadowy Hitchcockian tone in the film's first hour,
and it is strikingly effective. (A poster of "Rear Window" is prominent in
Peter's bedroom, and like that film's watchful wheelchair-bound photographing
hero, Peter Parker is disabled by his circumstances, and watches over New York
City but in a more adventurous way.) Mr. Garfield even resembles Anthony
Perkins' Norman Bates of "Psycho", in looks but also as a troubled, unsettled
man contained in a scared, slender frame, and his performance registers with
great concentration and investment in his character's situations. He plays
a Peter Parker who seamlessly combines brain and brawn. This
thinking-man's Spider-Man may be short on elegance but he is bolder, more real
and vulnerable a webbed master than there's ever been on the big screen, thanks
not only to the mostly strong screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and
Steve Kloves, but to Mr. Garfield's excellent work as both characters.
Spider-Man lives in and views a world without brightness or much color, and
cinematographer John Schwartzman accurately calibrates this world with slightly
de-saturated colors and hues. Sometimes the pallet utilized looks sad, if
that makes sense. (I don't know if that was due to some of the 3D in the
film or the huge IMAX screen.) What does make sense in this film is the
fine chemistry between Mr. Garfield and Emma Stone, who plays Gwen Stacy.
They have great confidence together on screen, comfortable in their skins and
characters, exuding a playfulness that is invigorating, flirtatious and natural.
There's always something interesting going on between them, and their
interactions aren't your garden variety romantic amour amour in superhero films.
Both Parker and Stacy are meaningful players in "The Amazing Spider-Man", a film
that says that everyone has a stake in repairing fractured families,
individuals, and cities.
Stacy, an intern at Dr. Curtis Connors' Oscorp Labs and a fellow high school
student with Parker, has to fend off her Captain NYPD crime-fighting father
(Denis Leary) -- who hasn't been able to claim too many victories in the
crime-busting department lately -- from hunting down Spider-Man, whom he's
dubbed a menace. No good deed goes unpunished: Spider-Man gets little
respect for his industry. "I do 80% of your job," the webbed wonder says
at one point. Captain Stacy himself will offer a perception about police
officers later on to Peter Parker, in a funny exchange. As usual, Marvel
comic-book "Spider-Man" creator Stan Lee makes a cameo, and a Marvel film just
isn't one -- and isn't complete -- without his presence.
[In a strange event outside of the film,
the San Francisco general public I saw "The
Amazing Spider-Man" with were oddly silent throughout, registering nary an
audible reaction at all during the two-plus hours. Was the audience
drugged? Comatose? Nonplussed? Was it the IMAX? The
Underlying the film's tense, murky aura is a world of secrets. Family
secrets. Secrets about fathers and sons. Secrets of love and secrets
of science. The mystery evolving from these secret worlds creates a level
of interest and anticipation I greatly enjoyed. "The Amazing Spider-Man"
is at its strongest and most impressive in these moments and in its excellent,
compelling first hour. Though not a great film, "The Amazing Spider-Man"
has life, thought and complexity searing through the everyday actions of its
characters. Its tone is fervent and brittle and its cast stellar and
entertaining. (There will be mystery during the end credits.)
The director of
"(500) Days Of Summer" Mr. Webb brings an indie
sensibility to the superhero genre, a risky thing especially when rebooting a
franchise film or continuing a series of films. Marc Forster, for example,
can attest to how an independent, small-scale approaches sometimes mutes a
film's atmosphere and pulse (see his
Solace"). By contrast, Mr. Webb succeeds here, blending
character-driven drama with action that somehow remains relatively contained
even as Spider-Man's adventures cast a sticky spidery life-saving spectacle that
blankets New York City.
Though there's containment and intimacy to much of the events, all of that is
torpedoed to smithereens in the film's second half. Action sequences,
which in the first half began on a micro level at the nascence of Peter Parker's
new-found powers, grow to clunky, unwieldy and exhaustive extremes with the
arrival of Lizard, the horrific, grotesque metamorphosis of Dr. Connors (Rhys
Ifans), Oscorp's one-limbed scientist extraordinaire who vows to eliminate pain
-- the very thing plaguing Peter Parker -- and replace it with perfection.
"Human beings are weak!", declares Dr. Connors/Lizard as he raises the
Frankenstein-level of his own existence a notch higher. Where the
first-half action was integral to character and storyline themes, much of the
second-half action is deadening, numb instead of thrilling, a let-down, silly
where it should have been super.
The film's relative few weaknesses however, only highlight the intelligence and
sensibility of the aptly-named Mr. Webb's characters: their conviction about
what is right and wrong, and most of all, their demonstration of compassion.
For all of the blunt edges of "The Amazing Spider-Man" there's a remarkable
level of warmth and compassion in the film's overall message. Characters
who may otherwise shoot first and ask questions later forgive. Bullies
become consolers. "Evil" people make crucial choices. Ordinary
citizens help heroes in need. The good in humanity, even with all its
flaws, isn't dead just yet.
Also with: Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, C. Thomas Howell.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" is rated
PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sequences of action and
Some of the images are grotesque. The film's
running time is two hours and 16 minutes. In IMAX 3D, and "conventional"
35mm and Digital 3D projection.
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