But the big comic book news this past week was the release of Marvel Studios reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man.
This new franchise starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spidey and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy sticks pretty close to Brian Michael Bendis' ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN origin and boasts an impressive supporting cast of Oscar® and Emmy® winners & nominees (Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Dennis Leary), so it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that fell flat. A reboot so close to the last film in the first series is certain to leave a bit of been-there-and-done-that, and people unfamiliar with the last decade of the comics may find the new origin a bit too contemporary, but the real problem for me was the overall predictability of the film.
Garfield has the right physique for the lanky Spiderman and this is perhaps the only film to truly capture the talkative, wisecracking hero of the comic book, but as Peter Parker, there was a slight disconnect. The awkward high school interactions between Parker and Stacy are believable, but something in Garfield's performance as Peter lacks believability. There is no guilt-ridden anguish as there was in Toby Maguire's performance, which made the daydreaming Parker a far more likable guy than this new brooding version. And while Martin Sheen is a fine actor, this film didn't seem to know what to do with him –or with Sally Field, for that matter. Sam Raimi's handling of the characters in his first two Spiderman films carried the care to attention of a lifetime fan. His experience in directing actors to award-worthy performances and his cross-genre gift at mixing action, comedy and drama matched perfectly with the tone of his films. Raimi's first Spider-man movie didn't feel like a mere set-up for more films, and though the tank had run out of gas by the third installment, the first two films are masterpieces of comic book cinema.
Marc Webb has almost no film making experience and it shows. His 500 Days of Summer and The Office episodes he directed help to reveal his gift for capturing awkwardness (which may have been the sell point for Marvel execs seeking a post-Twilight emo audience), but was no help in setting the pace of a blockbuster Hollywood movie. The film looks great and some of the POV shots really do give audiences the sense of being inside the costume at times. In fact, all of the action sequences were quite well done, but there was no sense of urgency to them. When an injured Spidey miscalculates a ledge and he tumbles off a rooftop, the long pause before his imminent return via crane was accompanied by zero gasps. The audience had seen this before and knew that the threat was non-existent. The whole film had a going-through-the-motions feel to it.
It could be said that a superhero movie needs a great villain to truly succeed and The Lizard seems like a third string sequel villain at best –not the guy that helps relaunch a franchise. This is not to say that Rhys Ifans gives a poor performance; he was fine. He's just not the Green Goblin. By choosing Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane Watson as love interest it's clear there are plot reasons that necessitate withholding the goblin until later, but where Christopher Nolan succeeded in saving The Joker for the second Batman film, The Lizard is no Ra's Al Ghul. Consequently, even the tried and true tricks fail here: Marvel Studios has made the post credit roll sequence a staple to which audiences look forward, but the bonus scene we are given in The Amazing Spider-man is confusing and lack-luster. Norman Osbourne's name gets dropped like panties on prom night all through this movie but where does it go? Nowhere. Since the first franchise is so fresh in everyone's memory, the big reveal turns out to be something we already knew, compounding the staleness of delivery with ho-hum fanfare. Regardless of these and other problems, it was a box office hit and plans for at least two more sequels are in the works.
Since I've mentioned the excellent work of Christopher Nolan, I have an excuse to share a fan art teaser poster for The Dark Knight Rises (special thanks to Messenjahmatt). Follow that link for a full page of fan-produced posters. The countdown continues...