First off, let me wish you all a late Happy Fourth of July and I hope you had a great holiday. Second, SPIDER-MAN! Yea, if were to talk to me, someone who knows me or read my posts, you probably wouldn’t have ever guessed that I was a huge fan of Spider-Man when I was younger. I loved the animated series, the toys, the stories and the characters, (and this was back when I didn’t give a crap about plots or characters). Everything about it I just loved.
However, as luck would have it, the Sam Rami films started to come out right when I was getting out of Spider-Man and superhero stuff in general. I saw the first film in theaters and loved it, but the second two I have a lot of indifference towards. Not so much because I think they’re bad, but they just came out at a time when I really just didn’t care about superhero stuff anymore. Not to mention, the second and third films kind of came out when the genera was at a low; that weird period where the crappier superhero films like Fantastic 4 and X-Men: The Last Stand were coming out and started to dominate the genera, (thank you Dark Knight and Iron Man for turning that around).
Now the third film, as we all know, met with a huge amount hatred from fans, for a variety of reasons, including Emo Peter, the dumbass dance scene, the plot holes and, of course, little to no Venom. The backlash against this film was so strong in fact, that Sony pulled the plug on any potential sequels, effectively killing the film franchise. But then a few years ago they announced a reboot to the franchise, much like the way Batman Begins rebooted the Batman film franchise or the way Superman Returns tried to reboot the Superman film franchise with a new director, writer and cast. And to be honest, this was the film coming out this year that I had the most indifference towards. I just didn’t care about it and from the ads that I saw it looked kind of crappy. But then I saw the generally positive ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes and made the decision to go see it and here are my thoughts on it.
The plot revolves around Peter Parker, as he attempts to try to find out just why his parents left him when he was four years old. This eventually leads him to Oscorp Industries and his father’s old friend and fellow scientist, Dr. Curt Connors. In the process he is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider which gives him superpowers that he uses to hunt down a robber who killed his uncle. Along the way, he continues to help Connors continues his father’s work, which inadvertently leads him to become The Lizard, and it’s up to Spider-Man to stop him. And I have to say, I really enjoyed this film and can honestly say that it re-awoke the Spider-Man fan in me that I long thought was dead.
For starters, the main storyline, while not Batman Begins good, (be ready for a lot of comparisons to that film), was surprisingly good and well-paced. While it does deviate a good deal from its comic book founders in terms of the original origin story, they still did a really good job with it; in my opinion better than the 2002 film. It made the transition from Peter being some nerdy photographer, to freaked out at his abilities, to being a bit of a dick with his abilities to both his classmates and criminal alike, (honestly who wouldn’t go a little nuts if they got super strength and speed), to the hero we all knew him to be. It worked perfectly, better than most origin story films in my opinion.
What really surprised me about the film was Curt Connors/The Lizard. Now judging from the way the film was advertised you would have thought that he would have been a straight up villain the way most of the villains in superhero films are. And to be honest this pissed me off. Curt Connors was always one of the more sympathetic villains in the comics and show series and the idea that he would become a straight villain just seemed like a huge betrayal of the character. However, the advertising was completely lying in this regard and I couldn’t be happier about it. His character is sympathetic and likeable and you really feel that he is a good man trying to do good things for the world. I also really liked how they brought him into this, making him an old friend of Peter’s dad and how Peter goes in to fill his father’s shoes. It was something that I thought was really cool and how it led to Connors becoming the Lizard worked really well.
Another thing that surprised me was that the acting and casting was, for the most part, spot on. In this regard, the film was damn near Batman Begins good. Andrew Garfield was perfect in this role, (which really freaks me out considering the guy is in his late 20s and can play a high-school student perfectly), going through the all the character transitions perfectly and in my personal opinion, is one of the better superhero casting decisions out there. When he gets upset at people or feels awkward around them it actually seems like a like a legitimate response to the situation and that he is actually feeling what he’s portraying. In short, he played the part perfectly.
Emma Stone, likewise, was a great pick for Gwen Stacy and the writing for the character was pretty good to. Unlike Mary Jane from the previous Spider-Man films, she wasn’t some dumbass in distress with no purpose other than to be rescued. She actually did helpful things and gave Peter a reason not to do what he was doing. Rhys Ifans was also a great as Connors, and as I mentioned before the writing for the character was great, although I wish he had more screen time. Sally Field was also pretty good as Aunt May but in my humble opinion, the best performance in this film came from Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben. With a relatively limited amount of screen time he manages to leave a really big impression through his dialog and performance, scolding Peter for the way he uses his newfound abilities and trying to impart moralities and values to him. It’s just a shame that he didn’t have more screen time because I honestly wanted to see more him.
The film also had a pretty good sense of humor, (although nothing that ever comes close to “Puny God” level of hilarity), knowing how to lighten things up to keep them from becoming Batman Begins level of serious but is serious enough to keep it from the Sam Rami level of goofiness and I felt they found just the right balance.
But the film does have some flaws, and like most of the other films I’ve reviewed this year, they do bother me. For starters, Denis Leary was not a good pick for Captain Stacy at all and honestly I don’t know why this character had such a major role in this film as he really didn’t serve much of a purpose. Well, he served one but it could have easily been done another way. There were also a few wired plot holes that popped up every now and then but nothing to noticeable or damaging in my opinion, but like most superhero films, it contained a good deal of SSBS which continues to annoy the crap out of me. There were also a few things that I felt could have been fleshed out a bit more in the story, like the relationship between Connors and Peter. It seemed like they were setting up something really good and it was a bit of a shame they didn’t go further with it. The same can be said about the school bully, Flash. One moment he is one the biggest bully clichés I have ever seen in a film and the next he is acting like a regular guy. I mean what the hell?
Where this film really failed to impress however, (and at times was flat out bad), was the technical department. The first thing that really stuck out were the action sequences. While they were better than say, Batman Begins, they really failed to impress and it’s painfully obvious that this was the director’s first action film. The special effects were also kind of subpar. For as much as I complain about CGI in films like The Avengers, in that film it was what I call good CGI. The CGI in this film however, was awful, especially the design and animation of The Lizard. I mean, that thing just looked bad.
And this may be a nitpick, but is it just me or did the editing seem wired at times? Like they cut too soon, or a scene was missing a frame or two or jumped cut at certain parts? Maybe I just blinked or something but it was something that kind of bugged me.
Speaking of nitpicking, is it just me or was the Oscorp building the same building they used for Stark Tower in The Avengers? I think it was! Oh well. Guess no Samuel L. Jackson kicking Spider-Man’s ass. Mildly disappointing but what can you do?
In conclusion, this film was a lot better than I ever expected it to be and certainly a lot better than it had any right to be. I went into it thinking that it was going to be a carbon copy of Batman Begins, and it is obvious that some things were lifted from it but it is not a rip off of it by any means and as I said earlier, it reawoke the Spider-Man fan in me. The storyline was really good and the casting and acting was spot on. While it does have problems in the technical department and it does take the film down a notch and keeps it from my “Great” category, it still doesn’t change the fact that the plot and character worked really well. It isn’t Batman Begins good but I can honestly say that I enjoyed it more than the Sam Rami 2002 film. If you’re a Spider-Man fan then I highly recommend that you give this one a look. You won’t be disappointed.
Comic Book Movie Rating