Monday, July 30, 2012

Spider-man again? Amazing!

When your eleven-year-old responds to a reboot with "Already?!" then that may be a sign that said reboot is a bit premature.

Frankly, I didn't think it was such a big deal. When they reboot Batman three years from now, I'll be thinking that's more than enough, probably, but it's not like we're steeped in Spider-Man stories.

To clarify, I didn't think that going in. Actually watching the movie, however, my opinion shifted a little. This movie was in such a panic to jam everything about Spider-man into the movie, it comes off a little jarring and silly at times.

Overall, it's an okay flick. Uneven. I did find myself constantly comparing it to Raimi's version. The CGI in this is light years better. I mean, it's really good, and I was greatly concerned about it. There are a few fakey moments but to a degree it's good enough that the problem comes down to the source material: i.e., some things portrayed in comic books are going to look goofy when you try to translate them to real life.

The costume is great, though utterly unexplainable both in terms of how our hero acquires it and how it seems to have no seams for the hood, yet the hood pulls off easily. Heh.

Andrew Garfield doesn't look anything like Peter Parker, but the near 30-year-old can play a nerdy teen convincingly—entirely differently from Tobey Maguire—and is occasionally much better as the hero.

Sally Fields is pretty awful as Aunt May, but Martin Sheen is even worse as Uncle Ben. Where Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson owned those roles, Sheen (who was so good recently in The Way) seems like a naggy killjoy. Actually, the whole Uncle Ben story arc, which starts out promising, just goes horribly awry.

I mean, he dies because, I guess, he must, but not much comes of it. I mean, there's no funeral. There's no mourning. Life goes on its chirpy way until a few scenes later, when Fields allows how she's a little put out by the whole husband-getting-killed thing.

I'm willing to blame the Uncle Ben thing on the director, but Sally Fields still has the same hair color she had 40 years ago. It's weirdly distracting. You're playing an old lady, Sally, embrace it or just don't take the part. I dunno. It didn't work for me at all.

It threw me off that Dennis Leary was in this movie, because he looks and sounds quite a bit like Willem Dafoe, who played The Green Goblin in the original. But he was pretty good as chief of police and Gwen Stacey's father. Though his story arc is also a little weird.

Emma Stone, once again playing the parts no one will hire Lindsay Lohan for any more, is typically excellent as Gwen Stacey.

The sound mix is occasionally awful and the music sometimes made me go "Huh?" but the real problems with this film have to do with its inability to find its tone.

For example, Raimi's Spider-man was a cheerful, fun action flick with the requisite amounts of melodrama and a tight lid on the camp. Nolan's Batman is dark and heavily realistic.

Marc Webb's (500 Days Of Summer) Spider-man can't seem to make up its mind. There's death and destruction everywhere that's somewhat reminiscent of Nolan's Dark Knight, but Spider-man's always been kind of a smartass, so he'll drop a snarky comment—and it jangles like car keys in the back of a piano. Or something.

It's not just verbal either. The movie commendably embraces comic book logic at some points while at others just drops all logic and then swivels back to a kind of gritty realism. The movie tries to create emotional impacts but then rushes past them in a hurry to jam as much of the myth into the allotted 2.5 hours as it possibly can.

The movie's villain is both menacing and sorta goofy looking, and at times evil-seeming while at others mostly just muddled.

Oh, here's a good example: Peter Parker realizes that he needs to wear the costume to protect his loved ones, but then he leaves a camera with his name and address on it in a conspicuous location. And the movie throws a bunch of crap out that doesn't resolve so,  you know, sequel(s).

We enjoyed it, to varying degrees. The Boy spotted the tonal problems and The Flower just wasn't bowled over but it's not a bad popcorn movie. It's just an inauspicious start for a series that wants to fill the shoes of the previous (however flawed) trilogy.

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