Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

A critic should never judge a movie in advance, but with The Amazing Spider-Man it was tempting. For one thing, I've just never been a Spider-Man guy. For another, advance word seemed to be skewing negative. Combined with all of this is the fact that Sam Raimi's take on the popular Marvel character is only ten years old. That's old in movie terms, but the franchise itself is still relatively new, with Spider-Man 3 breaking fanboy hearts as recently as 2007, a mere five years ago. But, let's not forget that one of this year's most anticipated movies, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, is itself the second sequel of a reboot. So reboots themselves aren't bad, it's all in the execution. Anything new can be newer again with the right team.

And so here I am defending Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man, though I do so cautiously and with a question in mind: just how much can you trust your immediate response to a movie? Spider-Man excited me the way a good summer movie should. But how much should this excitement be trusted? Obviously, it worked in the moment, but if I were to see it again would I feel differently? And what about those negative reviews? What am I not seeing? It's enough to make one throw up his hands and forget the whole thing.

The truth is it probably doesn't matter. We go to summer movies because we crave excitement. If we get that, the movie's a success. If we get more than that, huzzah! Most aren't worth a second look, but even if they aren't, does that diminish the initial experience?

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that The Amazing Spider-Man is objectively a mixed bag. If I see it again and come to that conclusion, the world will keep spinning, but I'd like to preserve the memory of me and wife leaving the theater with a blockbuster buzz, not taint it. And so I'm willing to call The Amazing Spider-Man a success, because despite some rocky transitions and some genuinely unbelievable choices on the part of the characters, I was thrilled by it. I can't say anything more profound than that--it just worked for me. The action was compelling and clearly framed, the jokes worked, and most important of all, I cared about the characters. This summer's major box office hit, The Avengers, also worked but felt more uneven by comparison, and I certainly didn't care for the characters in the same way--they're just too invincible. To make a character worth caring about, you have to make them vulnerable. Webb and his screenwriters did this better than Whedon, even if the second act of The Avengers is one of the best things I've seen all year. 

So those are my two cents and I'm stickin' to 'em. I wish I could offer a more detailed analysis, formal or otherwise, but whose opinion am I going to change? Audiences will like it or they won't, and there's nothing a smalltime critic like myself can do about that. All I can tell you is don't listen to the naysayers. Check it out for yourself, you just might have fun. 

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