Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reviewish: The Amazing Spider-Man

This isn't where I was thinking I would start my blog, but it seems as good of a place as any.

I realize that I may be a terrible "film critic" - a title I've never claimed for myself. Although Roger Ebert's review reflects my feelings about the new Spider-Man reboot, I keep seeing largely negative reviews from people who have issues with the soundtrack, or the deviations from the comic books, or just because "didn't they do this 10 years ago?"

I went into The Amazing Spider-Man with no expectations, except that it should be somehow "better" than the first. Let me rephrase that; I did not have an expectation that the movie should repeat, re-represent, or retell any particular aspects of the comics (keeping in mind that Marvel has had several different iterations of reality/multiverses and multiple retellings of Spider-Man's origin story) or the Raimi films.

What did I expect?

I expected a good Story; a story that showed me the development of a teenage boy who gains superpowers from a spider bite, on top of dealing with all the regular problems that come with being a teenager. Not only a teenager, Peter Parker is also a kid whose parents have left him (abandoned, even) with relatives, is a bit nerdy and awkward, and has to process very important ethical and moral questions above and beyond what at typical person must face. I expected the story to progress logically, to keep me engaged, and to resolve in a way that made sense without a feeling of deus ex machina (in a world with superheroes & supervillains, there's a lot more leeway on what acts as deus ex machina, but you can still sense a cheapness when it happens, and it usually requires an even BIGGER power to pull supers out of the fire).

The Amazing Spider-Man met and exceeded all of these expectations. Andrew Garfield was extremely comfortable in the skin of Peter Parker; his love of the character showed in his excellent portrayl of it. Peter's reactions to events in his life were believable and realistic. There were no forced-angsty moments, and when the right amount of teenage emotional conflict reared its head, the character was not forced to stay in a scene or on camera for longer than any teenager would remain in that particular situation. The movie, overall, was extremely satisfying for me, given my expectations.

Some of the nitpicks I've encountered:

Soundtrack - from my single viewing, I remember seeing 3 or 4 songs listed in the credits. Songs, not score. Of these songs, I remember ONE during the course of the movie, after an adorable but awkward encounter between Peter and Gwen. The score, however, was wonderful in the theater. It wasn't distracting, and in the quiet scenes where it became noticable, it was as fitting as the scenery.

The Suit - The suit doesn't get a lot of time in the story. There is the way in which Peter learns he should probably cover up his face if he's going to go around looking for the guy that killed Uncle Ben (spoiler alert?), there is a little research, and a very short construction scene. Some people pick at how suddenly Peter becomes an excellent sewer due to his powers. Sewing, by hand, is NOT a difficult skill to pick up.  In any case, the suit is not a focal point of the story and I had no problem with it being glossed over. It didn't NEED super detail. There was no time for it.

Gwen Didn't Know - For those unfamiliar with the comics, the general canon for Gwen is that she had no idea that Peter was Spider-Man. This has been altered in the film, as have some of the events that happened in relation to Gwen, her father, and Spider-Man - and their interesting interpersonal relationships. These changes did not bother me because they made sense in the context of the film. Given the number of reboots/retellings/alternate universes that have happened in the Marvel universe, I'm surprised at how much criticism this gets. In at least one iteration, I felt the comic dragged the reveal out too long - but that is also the nature of the medium, which brings me to my next point of minor contention.

Film is a completely different medium through which to tell a story. A comic, done weekly or monthly, is set up to build up tension that will carry over to the next week, the next installment. You receive a rather small snippet of story with a lot of repetition or filler, with a major arc lasting months or even years. A movie has roughly 2 hours to give you a complete and satisfying arc. While this film could've given more time to a few moments (I personally would have liked to see more development between Peter & Dr. Connors, as well as a little more between Peter & Gwen after the climax), I didn't feel cheated.

All in all, everyone MUST make their own decision as to what they like and what they don't; my criteria makes it a lot easier for me to enjoy a good story, regardless of any source material.
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