Monday, July 9, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (Guest Submission By Matt Petras)

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy is fantastic - especially the stellar second film - but when I saw the trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man, I started to question why I even enjoyed Raimi's films. The trailers for the new film, from director Marc Webb, promised a sweet new suit, a potentially enthralling subplot about Peter's parents, a Spidey who's more spry and cheesy than Toby McGuire ever was, a villain who felt missing from Raimi's universe, and the beautiful Emma Stone as the love interest.

I had very high hopes going into The Amazing Spider-Man, and I wasn't disappointed. The latest obligatory superhero flick is tons of fun and serves as a better start for inevitable sequels than Spider-Man did back in 2002.

Spidey's new suit looks sweet.
The Amazing Spider-Man takes basic Spider-Man plot threads and makes them much more contemporary, delivering a relatable Spidey for the current generation of kids and an interesting take for those already familiar with one version of Spider-Man or another. The lives of his parents before they passed away, the rise of this film's villain, and how Peter gets the powers of a spider all cleverly intertwine, forming a strong basis for this new universe. The brilliantly written and impressively acted characters takes that basis and runs with it.

Peter Parker - played by Andrew Garfield - is still a science wiz and a photographer but he's really more of a hipster than a nerd, considering his skateboard, arrestive glasses, tight jeans, stupid haircut and youthful good looks. He's a great character but he simply oozes with charm during the romantic scenes with his love interest Gwen Stacy, played by the aforementioned Emma Stone. The progression from awkward spurts of conversation to holding each other in their arms is gold.

The romance is very strong in this film.
Peter's lovable Uncle Ben sets the thematic framework of the film. The classic "With great power comes great responsibility" line is further explained in this movie, when Ben says that Peter's father lived by the notion that anyone with the potential to do great for the world has a moral obligation to do so. It's no wonder that just about every take on Spider-Man uses this motto: It's an excellent angle for a superhero movie to take.

This motto is of course what compels Peter to make use of his new-found superpowers when he eventually is bit by the spider and becomes a masked vigilante. We see Peter defend what he has become with his Spider-Man persona through arguments with Gwen's dad, who also happens to be the Chief of Police. This leads to a compelling relationship between a man who believes in order versus Peter who merely values good. Garfield under the cowl as this film's Spider-Man is more-or-less flawless: He's sarcastic, funny, heroic and looks great in his yellow-eyed, spandex costume. There's a hilarious scene in which he mocks a crook he finds on the street and completely dominates him, showing off how fun he is, and a touching scene in which he removes his mask for a scared little boy in danger before saving him, which shows off the more nuanced emotional angle of the character.

This is all great, and I think they nailed Spider-Man as a character, but my biggest issue with this movie can be seen through two scenes pertaining to his origin. These two scenes show Peter using his new found abilities in public, unmasked, turning what could have been clever ways to introduce his powers into frustrating scenes that had me scratching my head wandering how these didn't lead to him being discovered. One of these was so bad that I was practically praying in the theater for it to be a dream.

The villain in The Amazing Spider-Man is Dr. Curt Connors, played by Rhys Ifans. He begins as a scientist who follows more-or-less the same motto as Peter, attempting to use cross-species genetics to the medical benefit of the world. Connors crosses himself with the genetics of a Lizard, seeking regenerative powers to fix his crippled arm. The side effects are too strong and he soon becomes corrupted by his new reptilian influence and attempts to evolve the city past humanity into the monster that he has become. It's a typical mad scientist character, but it still manages to be absolutely entertaining due to Ifan's endearing performance as the human that turns into the hulking, creepy monster.

Curt Conner before his transformation into Lizard.
The action is never as thrilling as the final act of The Avengers or the train sequence in Spider-Man 2, but it's still very impressive. Spider-Man flinging himself about, fwipping webs at his foes, as well as Lizard throwing himself around, smashing walls like they're made of paper never disappoints. The set pieces displaying Spider-Man and Lizard duking it out are all entertaining, but none particularly blew me away mostly due to their lack of creativity. What did blow me away, however, was the very striking stereoscopic 3D, which looks especially good when Spider-Man is swinging around the city.

The Amazing Spider-Man nails pacing. I don't remember a single part of the movie that isn't important, and never did I feel like they dragged anything out. The movie masterfully balances drama, comedy, and action, make me choke up, laugh, and smile respectively. 

The movie ends with a series of well-done dramatic scenes followed up with a clever last-line that introduces a dilemma that will no doubt be tackled in future films. I would prefer a more positive spin than what was provided, as this was, throughout, more of an exciting film than a serious one, but it does a great job of opening up for a new film on a very dramatic note. 

The Amazing Spider-Man succeeds as a fun superhero flick that's more than dramatic enough to keep viewers invested in what's going on. Spider-Man's secret identity isn't protected as much as it should be, and the ending is a little harsh for what is mostly a vivacious ride, but the movie remains successful. The characters are excellent, the action is entertaining, the drama is moving and the romance is lovable. What's almost certainly going to be a series of films is off to a solid start.


This is a guest submission from Matt Petras. You can find him at the following venues:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Yes, This Blog is Still Alive!

I've actually started getting questions on why this blog has not been updated since February 2012. People who follow me on Twitter and here on Blogger will recall a time when I used to post weekly, but the well has long since run dry. There is really only one reason for this, and that's simply that my writing focus has been diverted, though I feel you deserve a more detailed explanation.

In March, I was brought on as a writer for a video game website called RipTen. Having done various blogs over the years and always remained independent, this was my first opportunity to write for an established site. RipTen is an independently owned and operated gaming site dedicated to publishing news stories, game reviews, special features and interviews with industry personalities. This opportunity came out of the woodwork because I have known the managing editor on Twitter for some time, and he caught wind of the fact that I'm into game writing. I was brought on, eased in gently and I have been a regular contributor ever since.

This is a move that I have not regretted. The larger audience for my writing, access to review copies of games and the possibility of attending industry events part of the media are fantastic perks. Even better, I am part of a team of very dedicated, very talented writers who believe in the site and work long, hard hours to keep the content flowing. However, being part of this also requires a few sacrifices. The time commitment you make when working for a gaming website is a more than you might think, and personal endeavours like blogging will inevitably fall by the wayside.

This leads to the next point I wanted to make, which is the future and direction of this blog. Despite my lack of recent efforts, this blog is still something I am still passionate about, and my heart's wish is to get it up and running again. My outside endeavours prevent me from committing to a minimum amount of content, but even having semi-regular posts is a step back in the right direction. I have also had a few people approach me about writing articles and reviews for this blog, and the first of those is a movie review that will be posted tomorrow (July 8).

The long-term changes I plan on making are to the name and design of this blog. "The Consuminator" is a catchy name, however it no longer reflects my goals as a writer, nor does it reflect the core focus of the blog. The design also needs a fresh coat of paint, since the "paint-by-numbers" layout that I have adhered has long since gone stale. However, my focus now is getting my blog running again and keeping the content consistent. Re-branding and re-designing the site are back burner priorities, but still very much a part of my goal.

In the meantime, if you want to follow my writing on RipTen, click HERE for my author page. To everyone reading this, a million thanks for your continued patience and support. My output may have slowed down, however I have not completely fallen off the map and this blog will come back, hopefully bigger and better than before.

Until next time, stay thirsty my friends!