Nate watches the Amazing Spider-Man

Well I’ve put this aside long enough. As you can see from one of the categories, I am a casual Spidey fan and rather enjoyed the Rami Renditions. So how did the new movie hold up?

Here’s two reviews with opposite opinions.

Let me sum up the movie in a spoiler-free review this way: the Rami films are an adaptation of the original Spider-man comics. This movie is an adaptation of the Ultimate Spider-man comics. (not literally, but it really has that vibe)

Spoilers! I think there’s only one way to settle this: Old vs New (suck it Nostalgia Critic).

Peter Parker

Look at them up there, do I even need to say it? Tobey doesn’t quite look the part of high schooler (probably why he only spent a portion of the first movie in it) but he definitely looks like a dork/nerd/geek. He just looks like somebody who got punched a lot in school, hell he looks like he needs to get punched. Andrew is… Hollywood dorky: a beautiful person with messy hair. Now don’t get me wrong, by my standard “bloody-face” scale of action stardom, Andrew ends up with a higher score than Tobey (he LOOKS beat to shit by movie’s end). But it’s more than just looks. But it’s more than just looks. The original had one friend (Harry Osborne) and was invisible to everyone else until he got into the bullies’ crosshairs – even the BUS DRIVER picked on him. This new Parker at least associates and talks with Gwen (she knows who he is) which is a huge step up. He also has a skateboard. A skateboard! Dorks don’t ride skateboards! The new did try and show Peter’s intellect more and I did like that they reinforced his powers more (we see him doing “spider stuff” out of costume a lot more). Yet it seems to have come at too high a price. (winner: Old)

Spider-Man

This isn’t entirely fair, as obviously by now the special effects have improved greatly, there were several times in my first viewing where I couldn’t pick out what was CGI and which was stunt work. And since his agility and web-slinging are two of the things that greatly appeal to me in watching Spider-man action sequences (can’t tell you how many hours I put on Spider-man 2 for the PS2), the new wins this hands down. He’s faster in this, more agile and even quippier than before.

But there is one thing I have to go over: the powers. The originals were meticulous in how they established his abilities. We got some telling, then some showing. In the new? Nothing. Oh we see his powers, but we’re not told why a spider would give them to him. Yes, a bit of this reboot requires that you have some working knowledge of Spider-man when you come to it. Not that I mind, but it was a weird choice.

Also, the new has mechanical webshooters while the old had organic. I… think that there’s not really any “best choice” as far as this goes as both have their fridge logics and brilliances. As a rule, I think that when Spidey is in a long-form media (comics, tv shows, etc) mechanical are a better choice while organics should be used in short-form (i.e. movies), but we can discuss this more in the comments. (winner: New)

Love Interest

Poor Gwen. As soon as she’s on screen the first thing anyone thinks is: When does she die? I like Kirsten Dunst (and Mary Jane) a bit more but Emma Stone was serviceable here. (Notice that Spidey seems to have a weird curse? If you’re a naturally blonde girl, you play a redhead but naturally redheads get to play blondes. WTF?) It just seems inevitable that, like Rachel Dawes, we’re going to see the main love interest killed by the arch-nemesis next movie in Spider-man’s version of the Dark Knight. Well you know what? Much as I love MJ, I hope Gwen survives this entire movie run and even marries Spidey in the end. M. Night WISHES he could have a twist that huge. (winner: both)

Villain

Batman Begins taught us how to do an origin story: choose secondary, lesser known villains that emphasize but not overshadow your hero’s beginning. Green Goblin (awesome as DaFoe was) probably shouldn’t have been introduced in the first movie unless the writers were planning an overarching tale with all three movies about the Parker/Osborne war (which they sort of did, but did it half-assed). The Lizard? Basic enough that he could have worked great, but then they had to tie him into Peter’s origin (like Ra’s Al Gul) and threaten the city as a whole (like Scarecrow). They really should have trimmed him up some more, make the struggle more basic and primal. The CG on Lizard is also… mediocre, but then Goblin’s mask is rather infamous as well. Since this series seemed to have been going for a more realistic take, I wish they had made the Lizard less cartoonish (pun intended) if they used him at all. So I think Green Goblin barely wins this as his motivation was at least better and he fit better within his movie. (winner: Old)

Uncle Ben & Aunt May

Again, difference between classic & ultimate. Ben & May were originally… as much as Peter’s grandparents as his aunt and uncle. In the Ultimate universe… they’re more like what we think of aunts and uncles as. (and it is VERY hard to get over that they are being played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field)  Both have their own charm, but I generally prefer the more parental Ben & May to the “cool/hip” ones.

Now as for how Uncle Ben dies…  Both movies improved on the original story.  In both 616 and Ultimate continuity, Ben is shot by a home intruder later to be revealed the crook Spidey let escape.  A flawed moment as the connection between Ben’s death & Peter’s inaction is not very strong (after all, Peter could have caught the thug and then the guy got out on parole for example).  Both movies made the very smart decision of making Ben’s death IMMEDIATE after Peter’s inaction (which increases the guilt).  I slightly prefer this new movie’s handling of it because here Ben runs up and tries to stop the robber (sort of) on his own.  Not only was his death almost a direct cause by Peter’s inaction, but it was also because Ben was acting more of the hero than Peter was – his death was as much of an example as his life was.  (winner: tie)

Secondary Cast

Both movies had absolute show stealers: J.K. Simmons for the old and Denis Leary for the new.  Both of them make it worth going to the movie on their own.  I did like Flash Thompson more in this as he was a bit more of a character than plot device (plus the old one I kept mixing up with James Franco).  I’m hoping that in sequels the makers will play it smart and have Flash become Venom (as he is now in the comics) and leave out Eddie Brock all together.  The new one does have the best Stan Lee cameo EVER (of any of his movies) and… that’s it.  Peter’s parents play more of a role in the new movie, and by that I mean they have a cameo as MacGuffins.  The scene where the “common New Yorkers help Spider-man” was better done in the new or at least less sugary.  Still, there’s no Bruce Campbell.  No Bonesaw. 😦  (winner: Old by wide margin)

Plot

I didn’t hate Spider-man 3, but rather thought it had more plot than the movie structure could sustain.  This film comes VERY close to Spidey 3 overload, but it is saved by leaving several dangling plot threads that… can be left open (some for sequels, some because it’s fitting).  I did prefer how the new movie showed Peter growing more into a general superhero (we see him slowly grow from revenge focused to crime focused)  The new movie also tries to foreshadow everything, though this runs the gauntlet from subtle to too overt (near head-desk inducing).  But which one is more faithful?

Spider-man stories can be accurately described as soap-operas for boys. There’s a lot of drama, a huge cast and it’s all broken up by awesome fights between colorful characters. Which means that it is best suited for long form media (TV shows, comics, etc).  Translating it to movies is going to be a challenge.  Rami went with more of a grander overview.  Thus Mary Jane is the girl introduced in the movies and plays the love interest through all three because she gets Spidey in the end.  The nature of movies doesn’t permit us to play with the Betty/Veronica drama that the comics did.  Rami took the general brushstrokes of Spider-man, boiled them down to their core, and then used that in his movies (to stretch a metaphor beyond reason).  They may not be specifically accurate to the comics, but the original movies were accurate to the comics’ spirit.  In the new movie, things are more accurate to specific moments in the comics (though as a whole it’s more like three comic issues chopped up and spliced together).  So it’s kind of true to the spirit, but in a very superficial way.  You don’t quite feel the heart and passion in the film that pulsed behind every frame of Rami’s.  (winner: undetermined)

All in all I give this:

It’s pretty average as far as most Marvel movies have been of late (especially with Avengers now setting the new standard of judgement).  The spectacle is worth seeing on the big screen, but if your TV is large enough (or you don’t care about the action), I’d wait for a rental.

And now…

Nate’s Fridge Logic Moments from the Movie:

  • How many people in New York know of his identity?  His entire school at least!
  • Shouldn’t the football pop before the goalpost breaks?  Homework: how much velocity would it need to do the reverse?
  • Where does he keep putting all that hair when he dons his mask?
  • If Peter is so smart, why did he use “Bing” to do an internet search?

Update: NATE RECOMMEND HULK REVIEW SPIDER-MAN!

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