Skip to main content

There's rumor of a new species in New York. It can be aggressive, if threatened...

The Amazing Spider-Man
(2012)

Tonally, Marc Webb’s reboot of Marvel’s comic book hero this is all over the place. This is in part surely a symptom of the kind of “too many cooks” meddling that marred Sam Raimi’s third Spider-Man film. But it’s also due to the absence of a director with a clear vision for the series. Webb seems to have got the job through the assurance that he could work magic with the Peter-Gwen relationship, having scored a minor hit with young love comedy (500) Days of Summer. And that aspect works reasonably well, but he comes unstuck blending it with the requirements of superhero storytelling. In particular, he's uncertain how to approach the action.

At times the film goes for the Nolan Batman aesthetic, with stuntman Spider-Man seeming almost as grounded and unspectacular in his capabilities as the '70s TV version. And getting very beaten up, which takes him much longer to heal from than you'd expect (this Spidey really suffers, you know). But there are also sequences where I got the impression that the more real-world approach was used as a crutch to hide Webb's inexperience, evidence by choppy editing and confused geography. Having dissed him a bit, I'll give credit it where it's due, he does manage to build up a palpable sense of threat from the villain at times, most notably when Spider-Man is perched in wait in the sewers. And his rescue of the child on the bridge also sees suspense chosen over wall-to-wall CGI to good effect. But Webb lacks Raimi's skill with making the separate elements of a film flow together; even the overloaded Spider-Man 3 is more coherent than this.

Then there's the choice of the Lizard as villain, which actively works against keeping a foot (or missing arm) in the real world. Everything about the character, from choice of actor for Dr Curt Connors to design of the creature, pulls towards the cartoonish rather than the believable. If Dylan Baker had been swapped places with Rhys Ifans they'd both have felt more at home in the different Spider-verses. Ifans is okay, but nothing about his Connors makes much of an impact. He struggles against the over-familiarity of yet another damaged scientist with yet another diabolical ticking clock plan. Design-wise the Lizard has been compared to Goomba from Super Mario Bros, and that's not far from the truth. He's not a patch on the design of the comics; they've adopted change for change’s sake.

I could merrily pick away at elements of the plot, but if reports are to be believed big chunks of it went AWOL in the editing stage. I didn't particularly mind the unnecessary rewriting of the origins, but I found it difficult to believe the genetically modified spiders had been weaving away for 10 years without further investigation into their properties. Maybe they encouraged them to bite a few volunteers and they all died?

Of the rest of he cast, Emma Stone stood out and brought enormous charm to a largely reactive role. She had fantastic chemistry with Dennis Leary too; there was no stretch at all in seeing them as father and daughter. Martin "dentures" Sheen and Sally Field were also very winning.

I was less convinced by Andrew Garfield. His natural charisma worked in the character's favour, but he over-invests in a role where that level of turmoil felt inappropriate and indulgent (I know he’s a teenager, but really). It belonged in a different movie with a different character (the Nolan-verse, perhaps). In any emotionally charged scene the characterisation felt over-cooked and overwrought. Maguire may not have brought enough wise-cracking fun to the part, and Garfield makes the most of the scenes where he gets to indulge that side, but at least he didn't run the danger of becoming a tiresomely petulant brat. After yet another bruised and taciturn entrance at the end I was wondering why on earth Aunt May was putting up with him. The last scene between Peter and Mary only compounded this. I can accept that Parker has a lot to learn, but was the best way to tell us this having a laugh about breaking his vow to Captain Stacey (promises you can't keep are "the best kind")?

A few random thoughts. The music was rather sucky (I'm surprised to see James Horner was the composer); intrusive and simultaneously unmemorable. The Stan Lee cameo was blissful (Webb directs this scene with aplomb - so why do other sequences feel so flat?) The New Yorkers unite to aid Spider-Man with their cranes was appalling; the writers appear to have been inspired by various other nauseating scenes of plucky and rousing American spirit winning out (The ferry sequence in The Dark Knight and protecting Spidey in Spider-Man 2). And the most bizarre moment. So unexpected and bad taste it could have been excised from an early Peter Jackson film; the lizard mouse, snarling amid the remains of his poor cage mate. More warped inspiration along those lines might have given The Amazing Spider-Man the edge it needed to wash away the memory of the Raimi trilogy. 

***

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

What we sell are hidden truths. Our territory is the mind. Our merchandise is fear.

The Avengers 5.1: The Fear Merchants
The colour era doesn't get off to such a great start with The Fear Merchants, an Avengers episode content to provide unstinting averageness. About the most notable opinion you’re likely to come away with is that Patrick Cargill rocks some magnificent shades.

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

Do not run a job in a job.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)
(SPOILERS) There’s nothing wrong with the gender-swapped property per se, any more than a reboot, remake or standard sequel exploiting an original’s commercial potential (read: milking it dry). As with those more common instances, however, unless it ekes out its own distinctive territory, gives itself a clear reason to be, it’s only ever going to be greeted with an air of cynicism (whatever the current fashion for proclaiming it valid simply because it's gender swapped may suggest to the contrary).  The Ocean's series was pretty cynical to start with, of course – Soderbergh wanted a sure-fire hit, the rest of the collected stars wanted the kudos of working with Soderbergh on a "classy" crowd pleaser, the whole concept of remaking the '60s movie was fairly lazy, and by the third one there was little reason to be other than smug self-satisfaction – so Ocean's 8 can’t be accused of letting any side down. It also gives itself distinctively – stereo…

There’s still one man out here some place.

Sole Survivor (1970)
(SPOILERS) I’m one for whom Sole Survivor remained a half-remembered, muddled dream of ‘70s television viewing. I see (from this site) the BBC showed it both in 1979 and 1981 but, like many it seems, in my veiled memory it was a black and white picture, probably made in the 1950s and probably turning up on a Saturday afternoon on BBC2. Since no other picture readily fits that bill, and my movie apparition shares the salient plot points, I’ve had to conclude Sole Survivor is indeed the hitherto nameless picture; a TV movie first broadcast by the ABC network in 1970 (a more famous ABC Movie of the Week was Spielberg’s Duel). Survivor may turn out to be no more than a classic of the mind, but it’s nevertheless an effective little piece, one that could quite happily function on the stage and which features several strong performances and a signature last scene that accounts for its haunting reputation.

Directed by TV guy Paul Stanley and written by Guerdon Trueblood (The…

It’s all Bertie Wooster’s fault!

Jeeves and Wooster 3.4: Right Ho, Jeeves  (aka Bertie Takes Gussie's Place at Deverill Hall)
A classic set-up of crossed identities as Bertie pretends to be Gussie and Gussie pretends to be Bertie. The only failing is that the actor pretending to be Gussie isn’t a patch on the original actor pretending to be Gussie. Although, the actress pretending to be Madeline is significantly superior than her predecessor(s).

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).