The Amazing Spiderman
Grade: B+ | 1st Viewing
The critical debate that seems to have curiously polarized responses to this film is intriguing and engaging, but ultimately hopeless; who is to say whether any film is necessary or unnecessary? Can a film ever be necessary, shy of a few politically or socially oriented documentaries? The question is, is this film good and how does it compare to the recent adaptation by Sam Raimi? I walked into this film having had a shitty day, with limited expectations, and walked out with a smile on my face having not checked the time once in the 2 hours plus I sat in the darkened room. If that isn’t what films are made for, I’m not sure what is.
Admittedly, I am a bit of a superhero junkie and I have a soft spot in my heart for Peter Parker, both in his persona and the biological origin of his power. It also bears mentioning that a previous installment of this franchise, Spider-Man 2 is partially responsible for my love of film. So this one has a personal bonus. But even so, it takes some doing for an action movie to hold me the way this one did. Writer James Vanderbilt ( of Zodiac, whom I believe is most responsible for this script, ) has done solid work in telling a story both verbally and visually. The opening sequence has hardly a word, but is a writer’s work. The film has several moderately developed characters that are thematically articulate, namely Gwen Stacy, who is brought to emotional life by the impossible not to love Emma Stone. Although the story remains simple and is only slightly deviant of the all-too-recent edition, Vanderbilt and director Marc 500 Days of Summer Webb find ways to explore some different territory while keeping much of what worked in the original.
The tone of the new film does not have the same pulpy sensibility or confidence in its awkwardness. And that ultimately weakens Peter Parker’s character, who comes across as more of an angsty but badass loser than a nerd. He isn’t vulnerable enough, despite the emotional sincerity of the well-cast Andrew Garfield.
Overall, this was a pleasant surprise for me that reinvigorated my interest in both Spider-man and superheros. Yes, this movie was designed as a cash grab to maintain a contract with Marvel. But they made a good film out of a corporate scheme. And you can’t look at Andrew Garfield’s surprise appearance at comic-con and tell me their hearts weren’t in it. Maybe this film won’t stick with me the way Raimi’s films do. But I’m glad I saw it and I can honestly say that I’d take a good “unnecessary” film like this over bad “necessary” films such as co-Best Picture nominees War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Superman: The Movie
Grade: B+ | 2nd Viewing
I remember catching this on TV with my parents when I was in late middle school or early high school, as my interest in both superheros and film sprouted together. I sat down, intrgued by the film, aware of its significance to my interest, but ultimately disappointed by my inability to see the film as anything other than incredibly dated and incredibly cheesy. Well, I watched it again this week. It is still a bit dated and very cheesy. But it was more watchable, more enjoyable, and much more beautifully shot than I remembered.
Marlon Brando is an inspiring and commanding image to start the film off with, saving the classic images of Superman, Metropolis, and the Daily Bugle for a solid ten or fifteen minutes into the film. Donner made a blockbuster, but he was telling a narrative that he took serious enough to only glamorize the film in a way that matches the tone of the comics and the nature of the ridiculously all-powerful Superman. Also, Donner created this entire narrative as a setup for his sequel, which although to this day is regarded as the best of the series, was spliced up by the studio. Fortunately, there is now a Richard Donner Cut.
But back to this film. Although Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor and both of his minions are annoying and regard themselves with too much knowledge as being morally bad people, they don’t at all suffocate what is an elegantly constructed homage to nerdiness that is centered around the lovely dual performance of geek God, Christopher Reeves.
I just picked up a copy of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut and can’t wait to keep this going, cheese and all.
Grade: C | 1st Viewing
Seth MacFarlane of the hit TV series, Family Guy, is quite intelligent and indeed quite funny. And while his first venture into truly cinematic territory demonstrates a visual touch, solid acting, great staging, some appealing sophistication, and at least a few genuinely clever scenes, it is a largely annoying romp that ultimately exists only as a slightly more offbeat and precise comedy than the average profane slacker movie, the genre from which it follows each cliche to a tee.
The story of a slacker that needs to learn to mature in order to cross that marriage bridge with a way better than him and likely professional girlfriend is nothing new. See Knocked Up or High Fidelity for classier renditions. Although the exact inverse of class is where this film is aiming and where it finds itself most at home, Ted is too similar to Family Guy and drags out its gag about fifteen minutes too long. MacFarlane has a distinctive style and I respect that. But Kevin Smith is up his alley in a much better way. At least he was ten years ago.