Thursday, July 19, 2012
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
The lead characters in The Amazing Spider-man are either characters in their mid-to-late twenties who. for some, odd unexplained reason (made even odder and more unexplained since both are suppose to be geniuses), have been held back and are still seniors in high school; or they’re played by two actors in their mid-to-late twenties frantically trying to act like high school students. My guess is the second, but either way, it’s not a pretty sight. Yes, guys, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, but I did not care for The Amazing Spider-man. In fact, I found it extremely painful, PAINFUL, to sit through. Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker (aka you know who) and Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, the popular girl he’s in love with from afar. They approach their roles as if they are James Dean and Julie Harris in East of Eden, which was an effective choice in the context of that adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel, but here seems a choice arising more out of a desperation to hide the fact (to beat a dead horse) that they are waaaaay too old for the roles. The villain is played by Rhys Ifans, a bland and dull performance of a bland and dull character (so weak that it almost makes you forget just how good an actor he can be as demonstrated in such films as Notting Hill, Enduring Love and Greenburg). Other actors like Martin Sheen and Sally Fields fill out the roster. None of them embarrass themselves, but none really help the situation either. Perhaps the oddest character is a psychotic high schooler, Flash, played by Chris Zylka, as a jock driven by roid rage. The whole approach to bullying here is so 1990’s (Zylka gets away with bashing a guy hard enough he should be sent to the hospital, but Parker gets in trouble for just teasing the bully). What makes the situation incredibly ludicrous is that the movie actually gives this sociopath a pass on his behavior because he shows sympathy toward Parker after the death of his uncle. The plot, a new take on the original origin story of a boy bitten by an arachnid, has one nice twist: it tries to give a more convincing explanation for Parker’s transformation. Instead of just being bitten by a radioactive spider, he’s bitten by one that causes changes in the DNA that causes the host to take on qualities of the invader. Still, all in all, though certainly no worse than the original story, it’s definitely no better and at times feels as if it was written by someone who watched the X-Files a bit too much (hmm, they both have hyphens in the name—coincidence or government conspiracy?). The bite takes place at the Oscorp Building, a research lab with shockingly lax security. Stacy is there when Parker arrives. One of the conceits here is that Stacy and Parker are the number one and two eggheads at their school—yet neither seem to really know the other when they first come into contact at the beginning of the movie. The plot proceeds well enough, though the only really neat part of it are some scenes of reptiles flocking to the bad guy’s lair beneath the city and a stirring scene at the end when construction workers come to the rescue like the first responders at 9/11 by lining up a series of cranes to help Spider-man reach the bad guy. The metaphor for this final battle scene is of course that fateful day eleven years ago. As in The Avengers, New York is now the new Tokyo. It’s directed by Marc Webber. He’s the one who helmed the wonderful romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, which suggests that he can do better when he has better material to work with. It’s written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves. They’ve all done better and I wish they’d go back to doing it; they’re above this sort of thing.