Monday, July 16, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

                Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Spider-Man fan.  I love the Toby Maguire films, including the much criticized third one.  So when I heard they were rebooting the Spider-Man franchise and bringing in new blood, I threw my hands up in protest.  How could they? Toby is Peter Parker.  Sam Rami is the only one who could direct these films.  Kirsten Dunst is M….well let’s just say I didn’t argue every last detail of the change.  As time passed and more started to come out about this new man of Spiders a strange thing started to happen, the fan boy in me took over and said “it is Spider-Man stupid, no matter what it has to be good.”  Now having seen the end product I can gladly say “kids always listen to the fan boy/girl inside you, they are always right.”
                By this point in history we all know the main points in the story of Spider-Man.  Boy likes girl, girl doesn’t really know boy, boy gets bit by radioactive spider and develops into a wall crawling super hero.  Along the way he, spoiler alert, loses a loved uncle, the girl gets to know what a great guy he is and he comes face to face with an enemy almost too big for him to handle.  So, since we already know all of that, lets turn to what we all really want to know about this new film.  What about this movie makes it better than the original and was it a good idea to reboot so soon?
                Let me be clear when I say I am not against rebooting a film franchise.  I feel many reboots or remakes are just as good, if not better than the original (Hulk and Incredible Hulk I’m looking at you).  My problem when I heard about this new Spider-Man was that the studio just didn’t seem to be making any of the right choices.  They picked Marc Webb a director with one small indie film under his belt, to helm this huge film.  From all the articles and trailers on the film, it looked like they were focusing on some mystery with Peter’s dead parents, that has never really played a big part in the comics.  Finally, they cast a British guy as Spider-Man, A BRITISH GUY? WHAT??  Strangely enough in the end it actually all came together and worked out.
                The number one reason why it works is because of Andrew Garfield.  British or not, he was perfect as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man.   As Peter, Garfield managed to bring out the real human side of this geeky, awkward, loner kid, just trying to understand where he fits in the world.  His interaction with everyone around him was so believable.  Where Toby Maguire sometimes came off as a little too “gosh honest” and wooden, Andrew grounded his Peter.  He isn’t the perfect teenager with a heart of gold, he is just a teenager doing his own thing.  When he finally becomes Spider-Man, Garfield finally gets right what I have wanted to see since the beginning of the Spider-Man movies.  He is a wise cracking, smart ass Spider-Man.  He kicks butt and makes funny comments while doing it.  I always thought that part was missing from the original films.  Sure, Spidey has always had an unusual amount of inner dialogue while he is in action, but in this film they managed to capture his sarcastic side that the comics are so good at creating. 
                Playing Peter’s love interest this time around is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey.  Being the fan of the comics I am, I was glad to see with this reboot they brought in Peter’s original crush Gwen.  Emma is such a better choice for the love interest than Kirsten Dunst ever was and she is a better Gwen than Bryce Dallas Howard was in Spider-Man 3.  Emma has great chemistry with Andrew and they make it enjoyable and fun to watch them together every time they are on screen.  Gwen is Peter's intellectual equal and it is clear why he would be attracted to her, unlike in the other films where at times Dunst’s Mary Jane was annoying and not all that likable. 
                The main villain this time around is the Lizard who’s human side, Dr. Curt Connors, is played by another actor from across the pond, Rhys Ifans.  It was nice to see Rhys with such a high profile part where he could show off his excellent acting.  He manages to make Dr. Connors a likable person that you can feel for and then turn around and make the Lizard such a scary unpredictable force. 
                The rest of the cast is rounded out with Sally Fields and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben, who were both good in their parts and very relateable, as they should be.  Finally, there is Denis Leary as Captain Stacey and personally, in my opinion, the best casting choice of the whole film.  Leary is great in this part.  He brings the grumpy misunderstood funny side to the film that J. K. Simmons brought to the others as J. Jonah Jameson.   I loved every second Leary was on screen and always looked forward to more.
                So with all that good could there be any bad?  Well, yes I had a few minor issues with film.  To start I kind of thought the pacing was off.  It took quite a while to really get going and then when we started to really see what Spider-Man could do it was over.   It was clear that Webb is great at directing the small moments between individuals because it all worked,  I just would have liked to see a little more of Spider-Man in action. My other issue with the plot was the whole subplot with Peter’s parents.  It was never really an issue in the comics and I don’t like how it looks like they are trying to make some kind of conspiracy connection to Peter.  Also, my other problem with the film is the same one I have had with every single Spider-Man film.  They keep trying to find reasons to take off the mask.  I know who is under the mask.  I don’t need to be reminded of it every time he gets in a fight.  I paid my money to see Spider-Man do the amazing things, not Peter Parker doing the amazing things.  Why is it ok to keep Spider-Man so hidden when he is Peter Parker, but it isn’t ok to keep Peter hidden when he is Spider-Man?  You don’t see Batman taking of his mask every time he gets in a fight.  No because we as the viewing public know who is under the mask and we are smart enough to not be reminded all the time.
                Other than those small issues this was a great film.  I look forward to seeing where they go with the next one.  The bottom line is if you were hesitating seeing this film because you thought it was an unnecessary reboot, put that aside and come see it because it is a good film in general.   If you are a fan of the original Spider-Man trilogy or superhero movies in general you are probably going to like this film. 

5 out of 5


A lot has been made about this most recent Disney and Pixar film being the first Pixar film to feature a female main character. When all was said and done male or female, main character didn’t really matter to me, I just thought it was another well done film.  Once again, Pixar showed they truly are the number one place for animated films.
                The story of Brave is not anything particularly new.  Basically, it is about Merida a Scottish princess with a will of her own.  Her mother wants to teach her the ways of being a lady and what to do to unit her kingdom, but all Merida wants to do is shoot arrows and find her own way in the world.  After rebelling when her parents try to pick her suitor, Merida makes a decision that could very well ruin everything.  Now Merida with her mother must work together to fix everything and along the way maybe come to understand each other a little more.
                One of the nicest parts about this film is how once again Pixar defied normal plot conventions.  With this being the next “Disney Princess” they could have easily followed the example set by all princess films before.  Instead, they threw out the idea of the usual princess finding true love story and made this more about a mother and a daughter.  By doing that, they set themselves apart and once you realize they aren’t going the same route it adds a bit of excitement to the film, because you don’t quite know where they are going to go next.
                As usual the voice talent is excellent.  Merida is played by Kelly Mcdonald(Boardwalk Empire) and she gives such a spark and energy to the character, but at the same time makes her very likable. Emma Thompson(Nanny McPhee) voices Elinor, Merida’s mother.  On display is Thompson at her most regal and just perfect for a Queen.  Fergus, Merida’s father, is voiced by none other than Billy Connolly(Boondock Saints).  He is almost instantly recognizable and instantly perfect for the part.  He brings such a powerful yet funny and warm sound to the character, the instance you hear him talk, you can’t see anyone else as the Scottish king.
                The animation in this film is beautiful.  Pixar has done a wonderful job of depicting the Scottish high lands.  Everything looks very lush and earthy.  Unlike where Toy Story, Cars, and Monsters Inc are very bright and modern looking, Brave darkens the color and makes everything look more ancient and old.  One of the most amazing things Pixar has managed to do with the animation is give Merida the most amazing wild head of hair I have ever seen.  I give Pixar a lot of credit for this hair, because I don’t think it could have been done a few years ago.  The hair is constantly moving and bouncing, it practically is a character of it’s own.
                The only minor issues I had with the film was maybe a few times the accents of some of the characters went in and out, which is strange since they are all played by people from that area of the world.  I almost felt as though the reason for the lack of accent was because the actors were trying to make it easier to understand for the general American audience.   The only other issue I sort of had was the advertising of this film misleads you quite a bit.  Throughout this film there is a lot of magic and bears.  At no point has the marketing for this film even touched on either of these aspects.  So when I went into this film I was expecting something completely different.  Luckily, what you get is still great, just different. 
                All in all, I think once again Pixar and Disney have made another great film.  They made a beautiful film that the whole family can enjoy together.  It is funny and heartwarming with plenty action as well.  Fans of the previous Pixar films will not be disappoint in Brave.  Also if you enjoy all the previous Disney princess films such as Tangled or Little Mermaid then you are definitely going to enjoy the newest one.
5 out of 5