Friday, June 29, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man in IMAX 3D

Teenagers In Love

Sam Raimi finally got his vision of Spider-Man up and running some 10 summers ago, and followed that up with two more sequels, the last which of course brought out some mixed reviews, especially when it went against conventional wisdom and stuffed it full of villains, and a number of mind numbing scenes involving Peter Parker's cross to the dark side, and for some reason wanted Mary Jane Watson to feature her non existent singing voice. Collectively they all made a lot of money at the box office, but a reboot was mooted to try and wipe away bad memories like those. And unfortunately Raimi and team had to bid farewell, and the friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler was up for creative grabs once again.

Does the character warrant a reboot in what would be just 5 years since his last cinematic outing? And of all persons, Marc Webb, whose credit to date was only the excellent (and was my film of that year) in (500) Days of Summer? If what Webb had established as his vision now for the character moving forward, then it's an affirmative YES. What made The Amazing Spider-Man work, simply put, was his relentless focus on the central characters of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and finally, his first true love Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone, taking over the mantle from Bryce Dallas Howard's short stint in Raimi's last Spidey film), and like how he did it in (500), had revolved it around their love story. And boy, did it work wonders for the story, and held everything else together like glue. Webb can take a bow for a job well done, even if there were nerves felt from an expectant audience when his name was first announced to helm this film.

And the nerves were also felt when Andrew Garfield took over the hot seat from Tobey Maguire, and frankly, I would never have thought Garfield as the right person for the job. But I'm glad that he had proven me wrong, just as how Webb had unequivocally stated that we haven't seen nothing yet with what Garfield can do with the role. He morphed into Peter Parker the shy lad, like hand in glove, and then transformed into the heroic Spider-Man sans mask, straddling and struggling with his dual identities just as how any scrawny teenager would if to be blessed (or cursed) with new found abilities, highlighting awkwardness and the building of confidence to perfection. Webb knew exactly what he was looking for in a leading man and allowed plenty of emotional engagement and attachment to Garfield's Peter, with Garfield proving him right, and now carries the superhero mantle with aplomb, nailing it as an unlikely hero.

Then there's Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, equally important as the romantic fodder for Peter Parker, and this update had given us a leading lady character who has beauty and brains combined, together with a degree of spunk that Mary Jane Watson in the previous three films had lacked, with the latter falling prey in each and every installment that it was getting pretty tired. Stone has proven to carry an entire film on her own, and here shares incredible chemistry opposite Garfield to make them that cute couple in school who have to battle the pangs of first love, and not only having to deal with that strong emotion, but loss as well. While that Maguire-Dunst upside down tongue gymnastics is something hard to beat, Garfield-Stone do have their little romantic stunt that adds a degree of fun that each of Raimi's version lacked. Which is a good thing especially when trying to sway over the nay-sayers.

I suppose almost everyone out there will know what to expect already from an origin movie, and James Vanderbilt's story kicks off into high gear from the get go, weaving and setting a new stage and universe in which this version of Spider-Man will thrive under, with Oscorp being that scientific conglomerate headed by an unseen, but constantly mentioned Norman Osborn, and having the mythos deeply involving the corporation, opening doors to possibilities that any subsequent film can cover, especially with that end credits scene. It also picked up from the Batman Begins template in a number of areas, but I'm not complaining because it's all good to successfully reboot the franchise, adapting elements from its comic book source which serve as canon, but giving it a different angle that maintains the spirit of things and events, even key ones like Uncle Ben's demise that truly shaped the destiny of the wall-crawler.

As always with the Spider-Man mythos, Peter Parker deals more with loss, and loses more than he's won, and having that retained in the film made it venture down a darker road, and being more vulnerable. And going back to basics never hurt, with one single villain in Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) as the Lizard, even if an army of Lizards were hinted at from merchandise, and keeping/hinting at others who may appear in subsequent movies. The villain-hero set up was reminiscent of the second Raimi film with Peter Parker and Dr Octopus sharing a connection before the latter went bonkers, and provided yet again another battle on the emotional front. The Lizard may be lesser known, but is a powerful foe that audiences may have already been primed for from Raimi's films if they were to do a little research on the recurring Connors character then.

Action wise, Webb had gotten excellent material from the comics and clearly dipped into them for inspiration, with Spidey's iconic poses and movement all making it into the film, coming off as poetry in motion. This was something that the earlier Spider-Man films had paled in comparison, with action sequences all being more kinetic in treatment, utilizing a whole slew of Spider-abilities. And the mechanical web shooters weren't all that bad, since again it went back to basics to showcase Parker's intellect, if only for a short while during a montage as does showing off his sewing skills. Webbing plays a big role in being the arsenal of choice, and the variation shown in this film is staggering, with the previous films never even coming close to how this Spider-Man excelled in fighting with them. And with those webshooters, you'll be itching for moments when the web fluid would run out, or to have something happen to them like how the Stan Lee (probably the best cameo appearances of all Marvel films here) devised in his stories, just to provide additional challenge.

Marc Webb had shown not only Sam Raimi can make a good Spider-Man summer blockbuster, and I'm pretty sure Webb's version can stand up to and probably excel from the predecessors, especially with better characterization balanced with his flair for visuals and surprisingly, delivering big action set pieces as well. It's a great responsibility being at the helm of film featuring a hero who's so well liked amongst fans, and Webb did great justice to the movie and characters, living up to the theme of with "great power comes great responsibility". If given a chance, watch this in the 3D IMAX version, where its effort in digitally remastering it for and filling up the IMAX screen, will not go unnoticed. Definitely highly recommended as it shortlists itself as one of the best this year, even if it's rebooting and revisiting a story that has been done countless of times before in various medium. This one rocks!

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