Friday, August 3, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman

Reboot: The Amazing Spiderman

By Jon Gallagher 

Sometimes it seems like Hollywood has run out of ideas. Instead of coming up with new ones, they simply go back into their vaults, find an obscure movie, rewrite it, recast it, and remake it. We used to call them “Remakes.” 

Some, like Here Comes Mr. Jordan, follow the original almost exactly with only a few minor changes to update the film. Others, like The Poseidon Adventure, keep the basic premise intact while changing storylines, characters, and sometimes even the plot.

Now, Hollywood doesn’t call them Remakes. They call them “Reboots.” A reboot is basically when someone doesn’t like another director’s or writer’s perspective on a movie, they change it, remake it, and pretend the other movie never happened.

Batman has been rebooted a couple of times, more if you count the serials done in the 1940s and the movie version of the 60s’ TV show. Poor Alfred has a hard time telling the different Batmans apart considering seven different actors have now donned the cape and cowl.

We shouldn’t be so surprised then that someone thought they could do a better job with the Spiderman franchise. I’ll have to admit that I’ve been a Spiderman fan since the early 60s when the first Spiderman comic appeared. At one time I owned the first 200 issues of the series (most of them missing their covers since I was not a very good collector).

I enjoyed the first three Spiderman movies that came out a few years ago with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst (OK, I enjoyed the first one, tolerated the second, and forced myself to sit through the third), but felt like something was missing.

Flash forward to 2012. Marc Webb directs a reboot of Spiderman that explores the origin of the superhero more in depth than its predecessor. Andrew Garfield lands the role of the webslinger and Emma Stone plays his love interest Gwen Stacy.

As one who cried for nearly a month when Marvel killed off Gwen Stacy in the early 70s, I was anxious to see how a director would handle her role in a movie, knowing that her days were numbered.

The Amazing Spiderman itself is decent. The introduction follows the same path that the Spiderman storyline had trod since 1962 (the specific details have changed). Peter is bitten by a spider that’s been exposed to radiation of some sort and he develops the abilities of a spider (super strength, speed, and the ability to walk on walls and the ceiling). He resists becoming a crime fighter until his Uncle Ben is killed by a guy who had just committed a robbery who Peter had a chance to stop, but didn’t.

In this movie, Peter is obsessed with finding out more about his parents, his father in particular, who dropped him at Ben and May’s house prior to going into hiding. We learn that Peter’s parents are killed in a plane crash not long after dropping him off with his aunt and uncle. His father had been working on some sort of formula that would allow animals to regenerate lost limbs like certain reptiles. He finds his father’s old lab partner, Dr. Curt Connors, who is still working on the project 15 years later, trying to regenerate his own arm which he lost in an accident.

Peter supplies a missing formula and Dr. Connors is able to complete a formula that works on lab rats. His employers insist that he try it on humans, perhaps wounded veterans, without approval in an attempt to save the corporation’s founder, who is sick. Connors tries it on himself and he regrows an arm. Unfortunately, the effects turn him into a giant lizard who goes on to attack New York City and become Spiderman’s first official foe.

While the movie was decent, there were several things which bothered me. First, Gwen Stacy is not only a 17-year-old high school junior, she’s also Dr. Connor’s trusted assistant at Oscorp. I’m not sure how she landed such a cushy job or why she has access not only to most of his research, but passwords and key cards as well. I’m also not sure how Peter Parker gets past such lackadaisical security to enter the room where he’s bitten by the spider.

I also had problems with the casting of Peter and Gwen. Andrew Garfield is a 29-year-old playing someone who’s 18 and Emma Stone is 24 in the role of a 17-year-old. Seeing these two roaming the hallways of a high school was like watching John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John trying to pass themselves off as teenagers back in 1978. Both looked way too old for high school students.

The plot moves slowly through the first hour of the movie, dwelling more on Peter’s personal life than his superhero persona. Once things get going, Webb relies on a lot of CGI effects as Spiderman battles the Lizard. I’m sure these scenes, especially the ones of Spiderman swinging through downtown Manhattan, would have been spectacular either in 3D or IMAX, but neither was available.

The Best Actor Award of the film goes to Martin Sheen who plays kindly old Uncle Ben. His crotchety old-man persona lent itself perfectly for this movie and he gave Peter several bits of sound advice. Too bad he didn’t manage to pass some of it along to his real-life son.

Aunt May deserves a mention as well. Sally Field, who I still see as Sister Bertrille, does a nice job too, making Aunt May less old than the comics have her (in the comics, she appears to be right around 134).

I give the movie a solid C-plus. It’s not one that I’d see again in the theater, and probably not rent either. If you didn’t see it in the theater, I’d recommend rental if you’re a Spiderman fan. Kids under about 15 will be bored with this one, so don’t bother renting it if you’re looking for a babysitter.

Too Much Trivia Department: In the original comic, Peter, trying to make some extra money, takes on a professional wrestler (remember…this is 1962). The wrestler’s name is Crusher Hogan. Twenty years later, Vince McMahon would attempt to trademark the name Hulk Hogan only to find out that Marvel Comics owned the trademark on “the Incredible Hulk.” Rather than get into a lengthy and expensive court battle, Vince was able to purchase the exclusive rights to the name “Hulk Hogan” from Marvel.

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