Saturday, November 3, 2012
Straight Out of an Average Cookie Cutter
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) / US / Out on DVD now / Directed by Marc Webb / Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves / Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field / 136 min.
I do love superhero movies. I love the simplicity of them, the unbelievability of them, the taste of popcorn butter that comes with them. Most of them just feel so familiar - particularly the Marvel films leading up to The Avengers - but they've all entertained me in their own little way, because they have a whole lot of components that are unique to them and they work so well. The Amazing Spider-Man, though, is a film that feels all too familiar. And that's not because it is rebooting a franchise that is only freshly in the grave - because I haven't actually seen any of those films - but because it doesn't really feel like anyone was trying with this film. With a title like The Amazing Spider-Man, it is hard not to take advantage of all the puns tied to it. However, I'm not trying to be funny when I say that The Amazing Spider-Man should have been called "The Incredibly Average Spider-Man".
Here we have another 'origins' story, following teenager Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as he searches for answers surrounding the disappearance of his parents in his childhood. That leads him to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and his various scientific work. And then he gets bitten by some spider, which gives him the ability to shoot webs, stick to stuff, hang from things upside down...kinda like a spider. He doesn't let his skills go unnoticed, though. After beating up some bullies, he decides to make a costume and clean up some crime around the city, but perhaps his biggest test is when Dr. Curt Connors turns into "The Lizard" and wreaks havoc on everything. Oh, and he falls in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), even though she's the daughter of a police captain (Denis Leary) that doesn't really agree with Spider-Man's methods.
Most superhero films run on energy, whether it be from the adrenaline rush of action sequences or the unreal atmosphere they have going on. There's usually energy between the hero and his villain, or energy behind the hero's plight to make the world a better place. The Amazing Spider-Man's energy is a little like those moments after you've had an energy drink, you've sucked most of the caffeine out of it, and you're just about to crash. The energy is still there, but it is running thin - it can still keep going forward, but it isn't going upward. It is so frustrating watching this film being so comfortably average. There's nothing making this film bad, or making this film particularly good. In fact, most of the time, I was just waiting for something truly horrible to happen so I could have a bit of excitement. The film liked to kill people off a lot, which kinda felt like when long-running soaps kill off characters so people keep coming back. There was nothing behind those deaths. They seemed to pass by without much importance.
One thing that came close to horribleness was the choice of villain. Rhys Ifans was quite good as Dr. Curt Connors, the human version, with a dose of evil brewing underneath his skin. But once the Lizard came around, I completely lost it. For one thing, I'm a member of the Christopher Nolan generation, so I prefer for my superhero movies to come with a dose of realism. Parker's transformation came close to that, with the spider bite and all seeming perfectly at home in the real world. His reaction to his new powers seemed fitting for a teenager with a fair bit on his plate already. Once the Lizard rolled around, the film lost its sense of direction, and dripped back down into the CGI filled universe that most of the silly superhero films exist in. The Lizard didn't have a hell of a lot to fight for. He was powerful, but absolutely everyone seemed to be able to defeat him. He just ran around, being a reptile, growling at things...he was an extremely lazy villain. And when you don't care about the villain, then what is the point of caring about the hero? They're supposed to counteract each other, creating the energy, but their counteractions are basically just an excuse for an extremely rote takedown of New York, complete with a big building toppling down. Buildings falling down just aren't exciting any more.
Luckily Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are around to make you care a little for the hero. It is a little hard to believe Andrew as a teenager, considering I've been following his career and I've actually never really seen him play one. However, he nails his character, especially making Peter Parker into a stunningly real teenager, even coming with some jerk qualities. Complimenting him is Emma Stone, and need I say more: these guys are literally the cutest couple EVER. They are cuter then snow white unicorns running around on pink candy floss clouds with gold starts bouncing around. And that's pretty damn cute. Their chemistry is beautiful, keeping me interested in the film even when my mind was numbed by the dullness. I guess, in terms of that crashing energy drink metaphor, these guys were like the healthy fruits that give you real energy. I just wish there was more of them to up the quality.
The Amazing Spider-Man is by no means a bad movie. In fact, it is quite entertaining. I didn't not enjoy myself. But when it comes down to it, Marc Webb's follow up to his breakout indie hit (500) Days of Summer isn't exactly the highest quality foray into big blockbusters that he could get. He was given such a dull, meaningless script to show everyone that he could do what countless other superhero movie directors have shown in the past. Maybe the movie could get away with being completely cookie cutter, but it had the misfortune of being released in the same year as The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Up against those, the cookie cutter just ain't good enough.
What I got: