All hail the screenwriters who turned around a rotting franchise by bringing forth a troubled superhero and his conflicted nemesis. The love interest failed.
After enduring Tobey Maguire’s painful Spider-Man three times, I was less than interested in seeing THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN starring Andrew Garfield. I went to see SAVAGES instead.
Why did they cast 28-year-old British actor Andrew Garfield as 17-year-old Peter Parker? (Yes, I know Garfield was born in California, but grew up and was educated in London. Like Superman, Spider-Man is an iconic American comic book role. (British actor Henry Cavill will be the new Superman in director Zack Synder’s MAN OF STEEL with Russell Crowe as Jor-L).
Garfield’s square head is too big for movies and his unruly mop of hair makes his head look even bigger. Garfield has Frankenstein’s bedhead. The Makeup Department tried, but could do nothing with his hair. His body is not proportioned. I could tell when the stunt double was in the Spidey suit – he had more well-rounded buttocks. The director, Marc Webb, chose to show Spidey splayed out on his stomach with his buttocks in the air. You’ll know it when you see it.
So why did they give the hot franchise re-boot to Garfield? A few days ago I went to my local theater to see it in 3D. There is an early scene between Peter Parker and his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). In my imagination, this was the audition scene and only Garfield nailed it.
Garfield can express emotions. He can act.
I watched the real or fake Josh Hutcherson audition for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Who paid to stage the basketball scene with a bunch of actors and put together by professional fight choreographer, Larnell Stovall? Is this the new “audition” process? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZH5YgZSAZY. Elijah Wood famously went up into the forest with a friend and a video camera to get his part in LORD OF THE RINGS, but this is a major production.
I’m going to ignore the rest of the cast since Uncle Ben is played by the always reliable Martin Sheen who is still playing the common, hard-working blue collar worker Carl Fox (from WALL STREET). As Aunt May, Sally Field ruins the role as a teenage boy’s loving stand-in mother.
I hope if I were to raise a child who lost his parents, he would confide in me that he was changing into something else – and not blame puberty. I love Denis Leary, who plays Captain Stacy, but he has too much pancake makeup on to be believable. I hope he gets tougher in the sequel.
And then there is Peter’s love interest, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Gwen is the most undeveloped character in the movie. She walks around as if she’s a graduate student working on her PH.D. While Garfield is trying hard to appear to be 17, Gwen appears to be in her mid-30’s vying more for a marriage proposal from her boss, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), then awkward teen Peter.
IMDb.com credits James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves with the screenplay and James Vanderbilt with the story. I liked the set-up that propels the story and the secretive back-story of Peter’s father.
Temperamental, hot-headed Peter sets in motion a series of events which changes his home life. It’s his fault – he should have never left the house!
He’s a guilt-ridden superhero.
And then you have Dr. Connors who is obsessed with creatures who can regenerate body parts. A big crybaby, he wants his arm back. Dr. Connors was a colleague of Peter’s father. Here is a mystery to be solved – but not right now. Instead, you know what happens. Spider-Man is created by mistake in Connor’s lab. Instead of going back to Dr. Connors and letting him know what has happened, Peter tries out his new skills. He makes some adjustments creating a super-strong web devise. Instead of going to a patent lawyer, Peter decides he needs a snazzy suit.
Meanwhile, Dr. Connors is faced with closing up his lab and abandoning his research. Not willing to follow the strict “human use protocols” for experiments and unaware of the dangers of his concoction, gives himself a “heroic dose”.*
Dr. Connors becomes The Lizard and he likes it.
I liked the origin of the suit which is gorgeous in its details. The spider’s web? Made by Peter! He must have made 100,000,00010 of this stuff. What I want to see in the next movie is other characteristics of spiders that have merged with Peter. Wouldn’t he want his room to be more spider-like?
And, Spider-Man should not be out doing good for the sake of doing right, but because he can’t help it. He’s just expressing his spider nature – hunting criminals as prey.
The special effects are sensational – as they should be, especially in 3D. The audience knows the green screen/wire work/special effects are always improving and then want to be dazzled.
Thanks to the dark screenplay and effective direction by Webb, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN erases all memories of what came before.
End Notes: Stan Lee – 90 this December – who appears in every Marvel comic book movie adaptation with a Hitchcockian cameo, has filmed over 100 such cameos so he will be in every future Marvel movie. It’s in his contract: “…now and in the future in perpetuity throughout this Universe and any other universes found.”
*Whenever someone goes up for another cup of ayahuasca, we say they have taken a “heroic dose”.
Victoria Alexander is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/ and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday. http://www.fromthebalcony.com/editorials.php.
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