The Amazing Peter Parker

So with the year 2012 behind us, I’ve finally got a chance to revisit nearly every big comic book film from the comfort of my own home. I firmly believe that a little distance and time always enhances a viewing experience, so six months after the initial release of the questionable Spider-Man reboot a mere ten years after the last Spider-Man origin tale, here is my ultimate review of “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

I’m a firm believer that a good comic book movie does multiple things right and this film makes good on that promise. Some of the best written Spider-Man comics have moments of pure, awkward life, delivered from the perspective of real-life, that is:  the ones the readers live outside of the comic book realm. Peter Parker awkwardly responding to a date invitation in the wake of a moment of triumph over high-school nemesis Eugene “Flash” Thompson or being found in the bedroom of the teenaged daughter of a police captain, despite the innocence of it, by said police captain are perfect examples that this film does particularly well. These scenes elicit a well-meaning chuckle from me, as well as the movie-going audience with which I originally viewed the film, because we can relate but any avid reader of Marvel comics will tell you that these are a common occurrence in the pages of a Spider-Man book.

While this entry in the franchise did tread on well-worn ground, for comic and film fans alike, it provided enough new information as well as a fresh take on the source material that in fact yielded two outcomes:  it was a new hook for film fans to draw them into what would otherwise be a simple remake but also a wink to eagle-eyed comic fans who’ll recognize it as a reference obscure plotlines during a time when Marvel was playing with new directions for the character. A third, possibly unintended but certainly welcome (to me anyway) was that it took previously unlikely coincidences, like Peter’s intellect and innate ability as a scientist, and gave them context.

This brings me to my biggest point and why I find this adaptation the best Hollywood has managed to do so far:  for the first time in the franchise the characters were true to their four-color counterparts.  Peter wasn’t just an outcast at school, he was a nerd, a geek, a dweeb, pick your perjorative for an intellectual recluse; he embodied it. He did the things he enjoyed, did well in school and got mistreated for it, but most importantly, he was a science enthusiast. I’ve heard the argument made that in this film Andrew Garfield’s Peter was the loosest interpretation of the mild-mannered half of the character and that the previous films captured Peter’s awkwardness and insecurity better but I think the greatest misstep the previous trilogy made was the almost complete omission of Peter’s genius-level intellect and his powerful desire to be a scientist. I would argue that Peter, even in the oldest day’s of the comic, even in the Ultimate Marvel Universe (where this film seems to take some inspiration) may have been awkward but not insecure. Even before being granted his amazing abilities, Peter always showed a comfort with who he is, despite the way others may have felt about him or treated him while his awkwardness was simply a result of his prioritization of his mental health over his physical fitness. Here we see Peter stand up to a bully and lose, well aware of the implications this event might have on his standing in the high-school hierarchy. The on-point characterizations don’t end their though.
Unlike the third Raimi film, Gwen here is an amazing intellect herself who just so happens to be an attractive young woman and not a damsel in distress who’s really only just a plot device by which to generate more conflict between Eddie Brock and Peter. She’s not only intelligent, she’s a strong woman and really a role model, heroic in her own way without super powers.  Denis Leary gave one of the best performances as a passionate law-enforcement officer I’ve ever seen in a film about superheroes, himself also true to his comic book persona. Dr. Connors, though the “baddie” of the film was actually a sympathetic and compelling character in his own right; someone who did the wrong things but for the right reasons. Plus, in a delightful change of pace, not only was he not killed in the third act, he attempted to redeem himself, but only he put himself in a place that would be key to bringing him back later, again, like a good comic book would.

To continue, in what I would call some of the most genius casting since Robert Downey, Jr. became Tony Stark, Martin Sheen and Sally Field as the venerable Uncle Ben and Aunt May couldn’t have been better! Though only brief, we got to see them as concerned relatives, playful parents and passionate caregivers. I cried when Uncle Ben died because I knew how much hurt Peter was going to have in his life without him. I wanted to hug May when she tried to argue for Peter after he missed his responsibility because that’s something my Mom has done for me. As a parent I have a whole new respect for those two because it’s never been more clear to me how frustrating it can be to want to help someone who keeps refusing it. Finally, in the most pleasant surprise of the piece, watching Flash go from being a bully to a decent human being and witnessing the start of his Spider-Man fandom, another wink to long-time readers, was fantastic.

I quite enjoyed the first trilogy of Spider-films that Sony gave us, despite my massive distaste for the three biggest names attached to them but it was pretty clear that by 3, audiences could no longer relate to Peter or Mary Jane and if Joel Schumacher showed us nothing else it’s that too many villains in a film just can’t work. A recommended listen for any who are so inclined would be the Spider-Man 3 episode of Earwolf’s “How Did This Get Made?” podcast. A point they make very early on in their review was that any adolescent Spider-Man fan would have no reason to pay attention to most of the film that doesn’t feature characters in colorful costume, and likely irritated by those scenes. Perfect examples would be the work-place tension between Peter and competing photographer Eddie Brock, the scenes detailing the failing broadway career of Mary Jane or the love triangle between Peter, Mary Jane and Harry. I’d also like to point out that a love triangle featured into all three Raimi Spider-films. I’m not saying that the director didn’t know his characters or conversely didn’t know his audience, but when a Spider-Man movie features a bad Saturday Night Fever homage where the characters in the movie itself are making fun of Peter Parker (watch the women he passes as he walks down the street if you don’t believe me), perhaps you’re no longer right for the job.

My criticisms of the old films aside, this time around, even Spider-Man was more Spider-man-ey than before, actually being quippy and funny, taunting the Lizard as he actually lost the fight. Spider-Man might be strong and fast and able to sense danger early, but Peter Parker is still a kid who gets things wrong and therefore, Spider-Man gets beat up, repeatedly.
All in all, I’d say it was brilliant and regardless of the reason Sony approved, produced and released it, I’d say it was a fantastic effort. I look forward to the next one. My only fear, and it’s likely to be justified, is that eventually more corporate nonsense will muddy up a future effort. I’ll withhold judgement until that time comes however.

The Dark Knight Rises, Part 1 – Drunk Live Tweet rough draft

Drunk Live Tweet – The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 draft

As is normal, the following is a list of all tweet sized observations, jokes or comments I make while watching the film and drinking alcoholic beverages. Jokes followed by the hashtag are goo enough to make it to Twitter, those that don’t either do not possess my full confidence or I deem them to be unworthy of tweeting. Let the games begin!

The drink: I call it Michelangelo – two shots of Three Olive’s “Dude”vodka in a tall glass of Sunkist Orange. #TDKRP1

It’s both a work of art AND a Ninja Turtle reference! #NerdDoubleKill #TDKRP1

Oh yeah! I forgot it starts with a race!. Sounds wonderful. Nice Dredd helmet. #TDKRP1

OOH EVEN BETTER! A Speed Racer squint! #TDKRP1

She don’t know him very well, do she?

Heh, “nailing the Mutants.” #UnintentionallySexyTweet #TDKRP1

Whenever someone calls Commissioner Gordon, “Jim” I immediately think of Bones. #NotEmilyDeschanel #TDKRP1

“Dammit Jim, I’m a playboy, not a vigilante!” – DeForest Kelly as Bruce Wayne #TDKRP1

*monotone* Ooh. Wow. What a surprise, a reminder of his parents. How original. #TDKRP1

Do people really squint and shake their heads like that when they have nightmares? Looks silly.

Very good music though, gotta say. #TDKRP1

QUICK, TO A PSYCHIATRIST! HE’S SLEEP SHAVING! (Thanks to @TheOperatorGWC) for this one. #TDKRP1

Some of this voicework in the Harvey Dent scene kinda bad and by kinda bad I mean really not good. Don’t think they were using the right emotions. *

Some of this voicework in the hospital is kinda bad and by that I mean terrible. Don’t think they were using the right emotions. #TDKRP1

I am really loving how well they recreated some of the iconic moments thus far though. #TDKRP1

Really uncomfortable by the use of “mommy” in that mugging. #TDKRP1

What a freakin’ stupid pimp. You’re handed out wads of cash and you’re blaming the ho for your troubles?

OOH! THERE SHE IS! That could have sounded a little less creepy. #TDKRP1

Talk about a chiseled jaw.

That’s a good sign. The cops can’t even keep a positive attitude about their performance.

YES! THE BEST BATMAN COVER EVER!!! #TDKRP1

Much better use of the rookie cop and the vet than in “Rises.”

I’d just like to point out that in real life, cops are not trained to use the word “freeze.” Never been sure what that’s about on TV. #TDKRP1

The vet cop telling the rookie to quit pestering the crazy, huge vigilante was priceless! #TDKRP1

I’m so glad that somebody finally commented on the hyperbole idiots use when interviewed on TV.

Sure, he’s not guilty, we’ll let him go. Not like there’s a sociopath with endless assets at his disposal on the loose or anything. #TDKRP1

“Good ol’ Betty.” – Jim Gordon “You named the batsignal, boss?” -rookie “I AM THE COMMISSIONER!” #TDKRP1

Because as we all know, grown men wearing superhero t-shirts are always taken seriously and not viewed as man-children. #TDKRP1

Goddamn that is some impressive animation!

Nice Harvey, this guy is clearly on drugs. Where do you find these people? #TDKRP1

Running on a tightrope hundreds of feet in the air where the wind blows just because after ten years is easy! Like riding a bike. #TDKRP1

Aww, Paget Brewster’s voice was a delight until I saw the character’s face. #TDKRP1

Nice! They kept in the magazine rack with the DC Comics on it. Nice.

I remember this movie! I think it was Elizabeth Shue and something about babysitting? #TDKRP1

So apparently the Robin costume also grants amazing gymnastic powers. Musta missed that comic. #TDKRP1

Remember when you complained about the baby shitting himself, now you know how I feel. – Batman #TDKRP1

Intermission – Need another Michelang– OH MY GOD DID THAT JUST HAPPEN!? #TDKRP1

Yea for the Bat-Tank! #TDKRP1

Wait, is that RoboCop in the Batmobile? #TDKRP1

Martial art powers locked in them green bikini shorts too apparently. #TDKRP1

Y’know Bruce, can I call you Bruce, they may be less-than-lethal arms, but they just fell in front of your tank, that you didn’t stop driving. *

Y’know Bruce, can I call you Bruce, they may be rubber bullets, but if they fall in front of your tank… #TDKRP1

I wanto to tell that girl she made a poor life choice by being here in the voice of Matt Foley. #ChrisFarley #TDKRP1

Oh and Bruce, suffocation can kill someone.

“Little girl, what do you want to do with your life?” “I want to watch giant, sweaty men fight in the landfill.” #TDKRP1

The music in this film is oddly reminiscent of Tron Legacy.

“Dick called it the Batmobile, something a kid would say”. Really? I think a kid would have called that “Giant Tank of Doom,” or something equally spurious. *

“Dick called it the Batmobile, something a kid would say”. Really? I think a kid would have called that “Giant Tank of Doom.” #TDKRP1

Wait, why is Lana editor at the Daily Planet? My memory must be pretty fuzzy.

Much of the mod fashion in this is so very questionable. #TDKRP1

I think that guy with the fake sharp teeth just ate the fat guy! #TDKRP1

Oh, I completely forgot that the leg brace in “Rises” had a precedent here with the shoulder brace.

I’m not sure I understood a single word these Mutants said. #TDKRP1

I wonder if all of the references that date this piece of fiction to the 80’s are lost on a majority of this audience? #TDKRP1

BATMAN FACE ME! After I clean this poop water off. #TDKP1

If fights were readable in sign language, Batman just told that whole audience “Your leader is a bee-otch!” #TDKRP1

“I’m outie 5000, yo!” -Jim Gordon #TDKRP1

This was the creepiest scene in the whole darn thing. #Finale

This was the BEST scene in the whole darn thing! Gave me chills! #Finale #TDKRP1 Ed. Corrected myself, clarified my point.

This concludes the live-tweet of The Dark Knight Rises, part 1. Please don’t let my last interaction of the day be from a bot. #TDKRP1 Ed. My last “at reply” on Twitter was from a bot called Bixby Snyder in reference to my RoboCop tweet. Bixby Snyder the sitcom character featured in the original RoboCop film.

*Adjusted to fit the Twitter character limit