The Amazing Spider-Man Needs More Swing, A Movie & DVD Review

15 Aug

By Ed Sum

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Fandom is most likely to be divided with the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. With a second film well into production, Marvel Entertainment will rake in some of the money that Sony is putting out in marketing. And this larger studio is going to keep the cinematic rights to the web-head for as long as their webbing can hold. The Amazing Spider-Man will never be part of the Avengers Universe if the similarity of the Oscorp building to the Stark Tower, built upon the MET Tower, is any indication.

Just where the wall crawler fits in the Marvel Movie Universe will no doubt be asked. For some people, he will always be the outsider who is trying to find his place in society to belong. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a socially shy teenager, an outcast, who undergoes a metamorphosis when a radioactive spider bites him. Suddenly he finds himself more comfortable behind a mask, and he becomes a wisecracking superhero in training. Garfield is excellent in playing that aspect up.

Unlike the cartoon, The Ultimate Spider-Man, that’s airing concurrently on Disney XD, Peter has no one to mentor with so he can learn the greatest lesson of all: with great power comes great responsibility. The writers have expanded the importance of this comic book hero’s purpose. He has to be responsible for his actions and how they affect the people that he becomes close to. He finds that he has to learn it alone, and that’s at the core of this film. While this movie’s writers do keep the essence of what defines Spider-man true, the tale is too familiar. The movie has the feel of a standard Hollywood script with formulaic plotting.

Viewers going to see this film should know Spidey’s origins by now. This movie would have been better off if it simply skipped that part and focused in on the mystery of why did Peter’s parents leave? Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davidtz) are either spies or geneticists with some massive discovery that made the government chase after them. They may hold the secret to making a new kind of super soldier.

Although Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) do their best to raise young Parker, this film turns more into a character study than a comic book film of a boy wanting to know where his parents have gone.

The teenage Parker spends more time away from his new family, and that is an interesting contrast to how intimate he gets with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), his first teenage crush. The closeness between Garfield and Stone is heartfelt. That’s a beautiful step for those viewers in the know, but there is no Green Goblin in the wings yet. Gwen’s fate is not sealed either, and that is being saved for later films. With the mysterious Norman Osbourne hiding in the wings, this series of films will no doubt build to the coming of the Goblin. And movie goers hardly need to guess where this tale is going since it has already been told in Sam Raimi’s version with different results.

But as for how this new trilogy will pan out will require some new originality or insight into what defines the world of Spider-Man. This retelling of his origin story offers nothing new to viewers already familiar with the mythos. Writers Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves and James Vanderbilt and director Marc Webb must also be confused since they are fusing concepts from the Ultimate universe with the Amazing Spider-Man continuity, and that does not bode well for fans who are more acquainted with one universe than another.

While parts of the film are on the right track of looking at the lives of the folks who were close to Parker, other sections are less inspiring. The Lizard looks nothing like the comic books and some fans prefer to have him shaped with that defining snout. Also, Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) will have to become important in the later movies. He eventually becomes a good buddy to Parker. Aunt May is very important to Parker’s life in the comic books and she has hardly any role in the film. More development with the supporting characters, like they did with Uncle Ben, could have made this film stand out.

The number of supporting characters that’s important in Parker’s life is huge. Current reports in the production of Amazing Spider-Man 2 says more emphasis is going to be placed in developing Pete and Gwen’s relationship, and that will be good. As any reader will know, it will set up for a huge dramatic death that better be good. In the Ultimate universe, she is killed by Carnage, a symbiote created by splicing genetic material from Peter. But in the Amazing, she fell to her death when Spider-Man and Green Goblin was fighting.

The second movie will be worth watching just for that alone. As for trying to make sense of the overall story-arc, hopefully the production team has not forgotten the mystery element of revealing what kind of work his parents did. Either they were spies or scientists. Their role cannot go unnoticed because act one highlighted how important their work was before the Feds came knocking at their door.

And to wait for an answer may require watching this new series back to back, for at least three movies. The teaser during the end credits suggests the fact that they are not forgotten. But as for how integral Peter’s parents are to the series, that remains to be seen. Hopefully that will not be forgotten in favor for a different villain as each new movie gets pumped out.

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The Blu-ray/DVD Experience

The straight release offers a minimal set of extras. The commentary track is interesting, the deleted scenes turns Kurt Connors into a character worthy of a Shakespearean figure and to see more of that would have dragged down the movie.

At least the stunt sequences demonstrate how much work went behind making the fight sequences and web-slinging great.

On the Blu-ray edition, the video transfer is sharp and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is fantastic. Overall, it does not offer anything new sound enthusiasts aren’t accustomed to. A few more exclusives require viewers to own a smart phone or tablet to access them. Among the list includes a 101-minute featurette, “Rite of Passage: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ Reborn,” a pre-visualization segment showing how some sequences are built, progression reels spotlighting how the fight between the Lizard and Spidey were developed and a piece on making the video-game. Not all of them really stand out as interesting unless the owner of this set is into the whole movie-making process.

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