The Amazing Spider-Man is just that, amazing. Amazing that what were pulp comics 50 years ago are now the mass appeal entertainment medium of our time. The irony remains that the 80s abandoned the superhero template (what films were made scraped the barrel) in lieu of muscle bound explosions. Of course the technology then was unable to execute the special effects necessary for today’s brand of biff boom bam. A little Rambo was the bridge for stunt fueled extravaganza with encore appearances even if the novel First Blood had Rambo being shot by Trautman a la Of Mice and Men. Little surprise that Stallone vehicle The Expendables returns with CGI added to the brawn.
Okay, Amazing Spider-Man. The franchise itself for decades has been the subject of various scripts and lawsuits by multiple producers and studios including MGM and Columbia, the latter where Spidey now resides. Other than a few references in 60s polemic films like Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise, the Marvel universe was best suited by 60s cartoons (which gave us that great Spidey theme although that’s not heard in James Horner’s score for ASM) and became comatose with live-action television (The late 70s saw Spidey and Wonder Woman on the airwaves.) and low budget films that never saw the light of day like Roger Corman’s 1994 version of The Fantastic Four. It’s imperative that films of this ilk have budgets that exceed imagination, after all look what happened when Fox made two Fantastic Four films in the last decade. Those were movies hampered by, while high by regular film standards, budgets that cheated on CGI and thus the realism of the fantasy.
Amazing Spider-Man finds 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb pulling the strings and Andrew Garfield doing the swinging. Good choices. Webb provides a sharply lit and at times mournful view of daytime high school and nighttime metropolitan streets. Webb also interjects a semblance of pathos to Peter Parker’s predicament. Garfield shows his acting moves, at times insightful and at times angst driven, the same mannerisms that launched him in Boy A, and made him a go-to actor for dark roles like the first Red Riding mystery and Never Let Me Go. There’s a lot of Gwen Stacy but no J. J. Jameson.
The print I caught was the IMAX 3D presentation at the Edwards Marq’E and the presentation stunning in regards to clarity and 3D brightness. Only noticed some slim ghosting on the corners of the screen when I turned my head. Much of the swinging action is rendered in a point-of-view style mixed with tracking shots of same, all to a dizzying result. At one point Spidey yells out “I’m swinging here, I’m swinging here,” an obvious shout out to Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (I’m walking here.) Amazing Spider-Man really, really wants you to like it, so they included Sally Field and Martin Sheen (wearing an overbite that makes him look like Fletch).
– Michael Bergeron