Friday, October 4, 2013

Movie Analysis: The Amazing Spider-Man

It seems churlish to complain about this recent reboot considering how much I've loved making jokes about how silly it seems to reboot Spider-Man already. It seems a lot of the decisions that went into this 2012 version come about as a reaction to the 2002 Sam Raimi film. So we get a different love interest (Mary Jane vs. Gwen Stacy), a different villain (Green Goblin vs. the Lizard), a different tone to Spidey (sad Spidey vs. wise-cracking Spidey), a different origin/set of powers (organic web-shooters vs. mechanical web-shooters, bitten by a spider vs., well, bitten by a spider while researching his parents' disappearance). I'm not arguing that these changes came out of nowhere--most of them were rooted in some version of the Spider-Man comics; only that the decision to go one way in 2012 seems clearly predicated on not simply re-shooting 2002's movie.

And some of those changes work fine, particularly because of some of the acting and interactions. When Martin Sheen upbraids newly-powered Peter Parker for abusing Flash Thompson, it really stings thanks to the acting. When Flash Thompson moves from antagonizing Peter to commiserating with him in the only way he knows, I got a little teary-eyed. (Note: it's very easy to get me teary-eyed. But still.) And I always enjoy Dennis Leary's hard-bitten cop characters; and Emma Stone is good at being more than just a damsel in distress.

And yet... it's all kind of boring once we get to the superheroics and the discovery of the power. Sure, some of these beats probably work better because we know they're going to happen (e.g., every scene where Uncle Ben is a good uncle is bittersweet); but that's less true of the "superhero investigates villain," "villain attacks superhero at his weakest," "superhero defeats villain" beats. I'm sure it works if you've never seen any superhero ever before. But it's pretty paint-by-numbers, without any of the things that actually make Spider-Man interesting.

Also: negative points for making the Lizard into the sort of shouty multiple-personality villain we saw in the Green Goblin.

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