August 18th 2012

  Buy Issue 2882

Articles from this issue:

DEFENCE OF MARRIAGE: Marriage, religious liberty and the 'grand bargain'

TASMANIA: Labor/Greens push for same-sex marriage

EDITORIAL: Olympic Games: end the hype and chauvinism

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Prime Minister Gillard seeks to make her mark on history

GLOBAL WARMING: Climate alarmism is alive and well

BANKING: Playing with someone else's money

EDUCATION: School learning dumped in favour of Google-and-tell

OPINION: Syria: Why are we encouraging chaos?

SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE: Media shrugs while Russian espionage flourishes

FOREIGN AID: When aid money means killing money

OBITUARY: A humble man with a large vision: Mark Posa (1927-2012)


CINEMA: 3D super-hero takes to the big screen

BOOK REVIEW An admirable spur to further thought

BOOK REVIEW The divorce that shook Europe

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3D super-hero takes to the big screen

News Weekly, August 18, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man, 3D (rated M) is reviewed by Symeon Thompson.

The Amazing Spider-Man is a lumbering disappointment of a film, with the biggest question surrounding it being, “Why?”.

Why reboot the Spider-Man mythos when it was only recreated in 2002’s Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire doing a sterling job as the intense and often-complicated Peter Parker?

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

The plot of this latest reboot opens with a young Peter Parker (Max Charles) discovering his father’s study broken into, and then being spirited away to the care of his aunt (Sally Field) and uncle (Martin Sheen). Next we see Peter as an awkward adolescent (Andrew Garfield), keen to do the right thing and keen on the pretty girl, Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone).

Upon discovering that his father worked for Oscorp with the one-armed Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), Peter sneaks in as part of an internship tour, gets bitten by a genetically-enhanced spider and becomes Spider-Man. After his uncle is gunned down by a hood that he didn’t stop, Peter goes criminal-hunting, leading to his becoming a target of the police, led by Gwen’s father, Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary, who manages to go a whole movie without outrageous profanity).

And then there’s his father’s work with Dr Connors, genetic manipulation on a grand scale, teenage awkwardness, lessons about honour and responsibility, the iniquity of multinational corporations, standing up to bullies, and the usual, slightly lame, Spider-Man wisecracks.

The 3D cinematography, despite the claims made by the cast and crew in the promotional material, is neither awesome nor ground-breaking. It’s 3D. Wow. This reviewer feels honoured they bothered.

The soundtrack is decidedly odd. Rather than driving one’s emotions, or ramping up the drama of the story, it sounds as if it’s been composed from some bloke saying — “and now we need something grand, and now something scary, and now something heartwarming”. The overall effect is akin to hiring an orchestra to play a basic score, that’s been decided upon by someone whose musical literacy is limited to the last thing they heard at the flicks. This ain’t Hans Zimmer, or Philip Glass or Ennio Morricone.

The actors are good, but they’ve been lumbered with a script for which sub-text is text, and emotions need to be spoken out loud or else the audience might miss something. It sounds more like an early draft than a polished work, and if it was an early draft it would be entirely respectable and worthy of praise; but it’s not.

Which bring us back to the question of “Why?”. While there may have been weak points in the Sam Raimi trilogy, it was a superlative piece of motion-picture mythology. It was certainly intense, and in some ways Andrew Garfield is a much more suitable Peter Parker. He’s more of a decent ordinary guy, rather than the intense and anguished, almost existentially suffering Tobey Maguire version.

By the looks of things, this movie had more to do with Marvel comics feeling they ought do something with all the epic motion pictures out there, and felt that Spider-Man was an apt contrast.

This contrast is one of the key reasons for Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s continuing popularity. Unlike the much more flamboyant and grandstanding super-heroes Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Wayne (Batman), Parker’s an ordinary guy, who’s picked on at school.

While there may be plenty of fans of Iron Man and Batman, not too many people in the world are like them, or really would want to be like them. By contrast, Parker/Spider-Man is a decent kid wanting to do the right thing, lacking vast resources to do it, and relying on the ingenuity that appeals to bright kids who are stuck in less than ideal circumstances.

When push comes to shove, in their heart of hearts, very few people would really want to be Tony Stark, or Bruce Wayne or, to take another apt example, Sherlock Holmes. These characters teeter on the edge of insanity and self-destruction. They’re grand and larger than life and absolutely OTT.

While you may know someone like them — if you’re lucky — the chances are you’d keep a respectful distance and hope they’d not decide you were an enemy.

Peter Parker’s the safe bet, the nice guy who sometimes fails. Failure is a major part of his mythos, after all — the cute shy guy whom the girls like because he’s nice but not too weird or intense.

Maybe that’s the other reason for the reboot. If anyone remembers Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, “dark” and “suffering” are understatements for his portrayal. Sure he was cute, but would any girl want to deal with an emotionally disturbed loner who seemed unclear about what he wants? Whereas Garfield definitely is Mr Nice Guy, even if he wears red and blue spandex — and climbs walls.

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