Monday, August 6, 2012

“The Amazing Spider-Man” – The department of redundancy department.

When is it okay to remake a movie? I think we would all agree on a few basic criteria. A movie can be considered for a remake if:

1. It didn’t win any Oscars. This should go without saying (yes, I’m talking to the people considering remaking Casablanca).
2. It is at least twenty years old. Nobody wants to see the same movie twice in a twenty-year span unless it actually is the same movie. This was grossly violated by Marvel when they remade The Incredible Hulk just five years after The Hulk.
3. It wasn’t great. Let’s say average at best. If the film was good, or great, you probably won’t be able to improve on it. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window was a masterpiece. Remaking it – into a TV movie, no less – was an affront to film connoisseurs (and most humans) everywhere.
4. It wasn’t terrible. Just like you shouldn’t remake a great movie, you shouldn’t remake an awful one, either. No one has ever said “Man that movie sucked. I hope they remake it in a few years.” Did I already mention The Hulk?
5. The new version is really a new version. A shot-for-shot remake (see Rule #3) – or even something close – isn’t an improvement. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. Gus Van Sant must have had a huge set of cajones to think he could do a better Pyscho. (Maybe there should be a sub-rule here called “Don’t remake Hitchcock. Ever.”)
6. It doesn’t feature the flavor-of-the-month actor/actress/US Weekly headliner. You can’t remake a movie just to place the current “it” person. I love Julianne Hough, but remaking Footloose simply to cast Dancing with the Stars’ biggest star is annoying.
7. It didn’t make a ton of money. Remaking a wildly successful film is nothing more than a money grab, regardless of how the studio touts the new version.

At this point in the review, I will not be offended if you stop reading and start listing movies that break those rules. All I ask is that you send me that list.

Given those rules, we can all agree that The Amazing Spider-Man should never have been made. It breaks not just one, but three of those rules (Rules 2, 3, and 7), and a strong case can be made that it also breaks Rule #5 (I’ll get to that in a moment). Spider-Man was made in 2002 and took in over $800 million at the box office. More importantly, it was freaking awesome. So why remake it, other than money? Exactly, there is no other reason. This was made simply because Spider-Man 3 sucked on so many levels that Marvel (and Disney) needed to “reboot” the franchise in order to keep milking their spider-cow. But, again, why remake it and not just make another sequel? Transformers had no problem moving on from the abomination that was Rise of the Fallen, and Spider-Man 3 was nowhere near as stupid as that one.

Now, let’s talk about Rule #5 and compare the two Spider-Man films. This isn’t a shot-for-shot remake, but you could make the case that it might as well be.

First, there isn’t a person on Earth who was better cast than Tobey Maguire back in 2002, so Andrew Garfield was screwed the moment he signed his contract. I don’t care how much anyone likes Garfield; this is no contest. Beyond that, Garfield’s rendition was a little too cocky in parts. At one point, he’s busting a car thief, gets confronted by cops, and mouths off to them while dodging bullets and taunting them. He’s supposed to be the hero, not a spider-dick.

Next we have the love interest. This is perhaps the biggest shock to any casual fan since none of us has ever heard of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the replacement for Kirsten Dunst’s well-known Mary Jane. Stone is an improvement over Dunst, but the story surrounding her character is not. The entire trilogy focuses on the evolution of Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane. The old Peter actually has to work to win over Mary Jane, whereas Stacy all but rips her clothes off for the new Peter. Not that we would have complained had she actually done that, but it shouldn’t have been so easy for him to get the girl.

Moving along, we come to the new villain, Dr. Curt Connors, a.k.a. Lizard (Rhys Ifans). Honestly, the only difference between Lizard and Green Goblin/Norman Osbourne is the name and that Lizard is, well, a human lizard. Both characters are scientists, both are employed by Oscorp, both inject themselves with a serum that makes them stronger, both develop split personalities, both have a soft spot for Peter Parker, and both are green. If that wasn’t enough, Lizard is able to grow back body parts in seconds and survive being riddled with bullets from multiple machine guns. This seeming invincibility, coupled with Lizard’s defeat of Spider-Man in their first fight, makes the inevitable conclusion that much more implausible.

(Side note: it took me forever to figure out that Rhys Ifans played the kicker in The Replacements. This isn’t important, but it drove me crazy through the entire movie.)

Wrapping things up are all of the other components of the film that were near clones of the original. Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) gets killed by a thief who, just prior to that, Peter allowed to flee a crime scene after being slighted by the person being robbed. Peter gets into a fight with Flash at the high school. Spider-Man is considered a criminal for being a vigilante and is pursued, this time by the chief of police instead of the newspaper editor. The villain is fired from Oscorp. A fight scene on a bridge. On the bright side, they didn’t try to recapture the upside down kiss; arguably the best scene from the original. If they had, every woman who enjoyed the first movie (because of that scene) would have collectively thrown up.

All things considered, the film was decent and entertaining, but had no point beyond rescuing the enormous piggybank of cash attached to the franchise. We learn nothing new about Spider-Man or Peter Parker, we don’t really care about his motivation (this time it’s revenge for Ben’s death, which goes unfulfilled), the romance is too easy, and the villain is nothing more than a scaly retread of a past villain. The only question left for the audience is what Doctor Octopus will look like in the sequel.

Rating: Ask for five dollars back. The movie might be good, but you already paid for it – ten years ago.

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