09 July 2012

The Parkour Knight Rises

I'm not exactly a comic book aficionada and I think the only previous Spider-Man adaptation I have seen previously is Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2. It probably wasn't my choice of movie and I don't remember much about it other than it seemed like an entertaining enough summer blockbuster. However, I do rather like Andrew Garfield and so I have been looking forward to the release of The Amazing Spider-Man (not as much as The Dark Knight Rises, mind you).

I thought Andy Murray's doomed Wimbledon final would be a good time to visit my local Odeon, but there were just as many cinema-goers breaking Kermode and Mayo's code of conduct as usual, not helped by the fact that a long film (probably about 20 minutes too long, IMHO) means more bathroom and refreshment breaks. Nonetheless, I did really enjoy the appropriately named Marc Webb's new movie, which reveals the relatively ordinary, if sometimes sad, origins of Peter Parker (Garfield). His parents disappear when he is young, he isn't very popular at school and he keeps getting beaten up for daring to stick up for even less popular kids. Plus his would-be-girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is dating one of the jock bullies. But he is very intelligent, he likes living with his aunt and uncle, and enjoys his photography and skateboarding, and life isn't completely awful.

Then one day, on a reccy to find out some more about his father's one-time partner and his biotech company, which is investigating the possibility of transplanting animal DNA into humans to cure all sorts of medical conditions, Peter gets bitten by a spider in the super-secret part of the lab and suddenly, he has super-spider-powers. Basically, he becomes really good at parkour, although his strength is also enhanced, complicating even simple tasks like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube and opening doors without breaking them. As for the silk shooting, a little bit of research on the web (tee hee) gives Peter the idea of creating a mechanism for firing extremely strong spider-inspired threads from a pouch on the gloves of his costume (which we also see evolving until he is happy with the signature red-and-blue lycra attire). Emboldened by his powers and his new costume, he goes into vigilante mode, putting both school bullies and would-be criminals in their place.

He doesn't count on his father's former partner Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) having less than ulterior motives. In particular, the lengths the latter will go to regrow his missing left arm. Nor does he realise that not everyone in  the city sees Spider-Man as a hero. The police chief, for example, who also happens to be Gwen's father, doesn't like the idea of being shown up by some amateur in a costume.

A lot of time is dedicated to Peter's past and his attempts to find out more about his parents' disappearance, which means there is less time for the tussles with the baddy(ies). This suits me fine, because I prefer my action movies to have enough plot and character development to convince me to sit through the action sequences. I am slightly biased but I thought Garfield was really good--he made a likable, funny and charismatic Peter Parker. I also liked the way Garfield played parts of his performance for laughs: Spidey is pretty slapstick as he discovers and gets used to his new powers. It made him a very human super-hero. As for Stone, she made a good heroine--she doesn't get anywhere near as much screentime as Garfield, but it's nice to see a 17-year-old girl who is presented as being pretty, popular, smart and good at science, and the chemistry between the two actors was great.

The most unrealistic thing in the movie, though, was the fact that Peter was using Bing to search online for costumes and his silk-shooting kit. Come on. Spider-Man would *never* use Bing. At least he didn't say, "hmm, super-strong spider silk? I'll just Bing it!" Oh, and could someone please cast Andrew Garfield in a film where he gets to be happy? Because after this, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go and Red Riding, having to watch his adorable sad face is making me sad.

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