The Amazing Spider-Man

Posted on July 18, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

I tried so hard to stay in denial about this movie. I avoided the production photos. I didn’t watch the trailer until I had no choice at the cinema. I put my fingers in my ears and went “la la la” when people talked about how good it looked. Why? Because I am a big fan of the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire movies, and the continual stream of reboots was starting to grate. Particularly as the dearly departed Spiderman franchise was barely even cold yet. So I went in to denial.

Unfortunately, I gave over to the geek side a long time ago, and if you dangle a Marvel movie in front of me for long enough, sooner or later I’m going to cave. And I did. And I’m not even sorry.

The only criticism I can think of for The Amazing Spider-Man is its dated sounding title. And we can’t really blame them for that since the obvious choice was taken.  In fact, disloyal though it may feel to say it, I think I like it better…Sorry Tobey.

Before I talk about the movie, I want to say a couple of  words about the cinema I saw it in. We went to The Everyman in Baker Street, and I wanted to give it a quick plug for all my fellow Londoners looking for a slightly different cinematic experience.  It’s a cute little theatre (one of 9 in London) with two cosy screens and a basement bar.  It was a big contrast to my last movie outing to the Imax, but it was a really friendly and exclusive feeling atmosphere, particularly on a Monday night when there were only a few of us there. Definitely a recommend if you happen to be a Londoner. Check out the website here.

Seeing the film in such a small theatre also meant I saw it in 2D rather than post production 3D. And I can say with 99% certainty that I don’t think I missed out on anything. I can think of one moment that was put in to make the 3D seem worthwhile. And it would have been gimmicky. There’s no need for this film to be in 3D, so if you have the choice save yourself the extra ticket price.

Right, on with the review.

The big question with any reboot is always can the new guy do it better than the old guy?  In this case, I’m happy to say that Andrew Garfield makes an amazing Spiderman (lol geddit?)  Perhaps slightly too pretty for Peter Parker, but he is so fantastically socially awkward that his geek chic feels plausible.  The characterisation of Spiderman also felt a lot more like the comics (or the cartooons that I grew up with) giving him more cheesy wise cracks and finally managing to make him feel young. One thing that the previous films never quite captured was that Parker was only supposed to be a kid, and that while “with great power comes great responsibility” he also had fun with it. Particularly in the 2nd and 3rd films (AKA Spidey: the EMO years) he was a little bit too serious and strung out all the time. Garfield manages to balance a sense of fun with the gravity of suddenly being depended on, without becoming too dogged by it.  I also liked that fact that this film plays more in to the vigilante idea, in a kind of Daredevil/Batman way; letting us see Peter develop his webshooting tech and making his suit. It gives a grounding and a sense of realism so often missing in comic book movies which, despite their fantastical plot lines, need that anchor in order for the audience to relate.

As far as the plot goes, the basic origin story is the same, but with some added dark past to Peter’s parents and slight re jigging of the facts (more hard core geeks can explain which of the many comic incarnations we’re following here).  There’s no MJ though.  Instead we’re given Gwen Stacey, who is a fairly similar character if we’re honest, but just so happens to work in the lab of the guy who you can tell from the first second you see him is going to turn evil. Rhys Ifans plays a great Curt Connors, fulfilling all the standards of slightly tortured scientist trying to do good and cocking it up most spectacularly and the design for The Lizard was good, managing to stop him looking too much like Godzilla (but still giving them the opportunity to throw in a joke about it.)

The action sequences are well choreographed, and while we’ve seen Spidey swinging through rooftops before it still looks pretty cool, especially in the first person view shots which I suspect were put in for 3D but look just as good without the poppy out bits.  I’ve got to give a nod to the ever fantastic James Horner too, for a score which compliments the story arc perfectly, particularly in the opening prologue.

The Amazing Spider-Man is simply a really good comic book movie. In the Age of the Geek when all things nerd are on the rise, we are being treated (or subjected, depending on how you look at it) to a cornucopia of graphic novel adaptations, which don’t all manage to pull off their leap to the bandwagon, but this one does.  You might not be a Marvel fan, or you might think you’ve seen Spiderman before, but even if comics aren’t your thing, I can recommend Amazing Spider-Man simply as a solid blockbuster. A great way to spend a couple of hours in what has turned out to be a hideously soggy Summer.

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Pleasantville

Posted on September 24, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

Here’s another one from the movies-you-may-not-know pile.

Pleasantville is a pretty strange film in concept, two teenagers (twins in fact) get sucked into a black and white 50s TV show thanks to a slightly creepy TV repair guy.  Their behaviour in “Pleasantville” begins to affect the town and its people so much that the very nature of their society is completely and irrevocably changed.  It almost sounds like a kids film, until you watch it and realise there’s some definitely not-for-kids themes going on.

So, is it any good?  Well, yes actually!  The film is totally predictable with the twins, played by Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon, swapping roles; Witherspoon becomes more straight-laced and while Maguire learns how to have fun.  But it’s the predictability that makes it so enjoyable.  In fact, the only thing about the film I didn’t like was the ending, which breaks away from the natural story arc and goes in a direction which I found a bit implausible.  (I also thought of a much better way of ending the film, but I want you to watch this film so I’m not going to ruin it for you!)

The best thing about this film is it’s use of colour.  At first, everything in Pleasantville is black and white, but every time someone removes themself from the normal pattern of events colour appears in the town.  The first to change is a red rose, with colour then spreading to cars, trees and finally, people.  The town ends up divided between the orthodox residents, who remain monochrome, and those who have given in to the looser morals and free thinking of our invading characters, who stand out in glorious Technicolor.  What results is an unexpected comment on racism, morality, culture and the nature of society.

To look at, the film is also brilliant, as the gradual integration of colour is very cleverly done, particularly in scenes such as the drive to “lovers’ lane.”

There are some great funny moments in the film and the appearance of “Greasers” and other bits of 50’s memorabilia really highlights the contrast between the two sides of society, and marks the shift in ideas between the 50s and 60s.  It would be easy for this film to play on the generation gap, having all the kids in colour and adults as the prudes, but the side story of the growing romance between David’s “mother” and the ice cream parlour owner (Jeff Daniels) is equally, if not more compelling than the main plot.  Daniels’ character’s discovery of Art is also a really nice moment, well performed by an underrated actor.

I definitely would recommend Pleasantville, as both a nostalgic look back at our romanticised view of 50s america and as a film which actually manages to make some valid points.  As I said, the ending isn’t great, and does leave a bit of a plot hole, but I’ll forgive it that on the basis that the rest of the film is really worth your time.

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