Monday, August 20, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Six weeks ago, before I went to India for a week, and more relevantly, before I broke my elbow, I promised Ewan I'd take him to see the new Spiderman film, as he's got such a kick out Avengers, and had expressed an interest in more big-screen superheroics. Since we had some family holiday, and I could drive again, I finally made good on the promise and took him last week. Its been much reported that this film by and large only exists so that the studio can hold onto the rights from Marvel, who want to reintegrate their properties, and given the broadly excellent job being done with them part of says they should just be allowed to. But, The Amazing Spiderman is a film that should be judged on its own merits, outside of that context, although its hard not to feel that said context does have a bearing on the films problems.

First up I should say that I rather enjoyed the film overall. Its charmingly acted, the dialogue is snappy, the cast is great, frankly, and even though we were inflicted with a 3D screening it was used to decent effect, especially for the web-slinging sequences. Andrew Garfield particularly is a winning presence, and pulls off having to act a decade younger than he is, and when is Martin Sheen not a pleasure to watch doing anything? In fact, there is a lot to like about The Amazing Spiderman, a lot of things going for it, so why do I feel like it was such an awful waste of time and money?

Not my time and money, of course - I paid my cash and got enjoyment from it. But I've seen this film before when Sam Raimi made. Hell, I've seen this film before when Richard Donner made it about Superman and all the start-of-franchise superhero movies since. The beats are so familiar, so cloyingly predictable, that surely somewhere along the line someone must have thought "we can do better"? There is even a scene where good old blue-colour Americans come to Spidey's rescue, at much the same point that they do in Spiderman. Sure the scene is different, but the beat is the same.

The sense of a wasted opportunity continues with the choice of villain. The Lizard is a decent enough villain, and like nearly every other role, engagingly played, but by the end he's a near-motiveless CG monster to be beaten, and a lot of the nuance and sense of a wider, more tragic plot that is worked into the early going of the film just sort of drops away never to be mentioned again. I guess, given the "secret end credits scene" that it was all do with a longer-term plot but these things are done much better in other films with hobbling the plotting of the first one, thanks.

This is starting to sound a little ranty, and it's worth reiterating that both Ewan and I enjoyed it, and its engaging and funny and pretty good fun. But in many ways its a completely disjointed, derivative mess, and that fact that its engaging and funny makes it all the more frustrating because it makes me think of just how good this could have been! Ah well, maybe for the inevitable sequel, eh?