9 Days Left!
We’re taking a short break from the constant Batman reviews to bring you my opinion of “The Amazing Spider-man”. Not that we’ve stopped completely, the Batman reviews are still further down. But if you’ve been following my reviews, you know that I’ve been on the fence about this new Spider-man movie. I got a chance to go see it for free, so that’s what I’m doing. A movie would have to be pretty bad for me not to be willing to see it for free. Like a documentary about Andy Dick’s life kind of bad.
The Amazing Spider-man
Here is a suggestion. Watch the previous “Spider-man” movies over and over again until you are downright sick of them. It should only take one or two times for “Spider-man 3” but a bit longer for the other two. It’s important to flush out the positive feelings you had for the films of yesteryear because “The Amazing Spider-man” is a brand new day. I know it sounds impossible, but forgetting the other films is critical to liking this film. TAS really is a good movie, but, if you let your politics of movie franchises cloud your judgment, you might not see that.
If you must compare the quality of TAS with the previous movies though, I would say it is somewhere between one and two. This version of events does a better job of building up Peter Parker as a character than the first Sam Raimi film, but doesn’t rise high enough in awesomeness to beat the second Raimi movie. The director of TAS, Marc Webb, just doesn’t have the flair and eye for detail that Raimi has. Sam Raimi has a very signature style and a great talent for inventive camerawork. You can tell you are watching a Raimi film just from the way the movie is shot. But the only way you can tell if Marc Webb directed a movie is by looking at the credits. I’m not saying Marc Webb is a bad director, but his skill level with TAS is somewhere between competent and okay.
One thing that does excel above the previous movies though is the script. It’s much smarter and darker than Sam Raimi’s attempts. A big issue with the first “Spider-man” movie was that it was a little too wacky for my tastes, but it kind of fits with how Raimi tells a story. However, this new Spider-man is much more serious. Peter still spits out cheesy one-liners while in a fight, but that’s Spider-man’s signature finishing move. To bad joke them to death. The rest of the dialogue though is fairly witty and well thought out.
As mentioned before, it is also smarter and darker. The defining characteristic of Batman is that he is a detective. It’s who he is, how he thinks, and what drives him. Peter Parker, beyond anything else, is a scientist. It’s nice to see the movies finally portray Peter in this fashion rather than as the loser in love of the previous films. TAS also compacts a major portion of the tragedy in Parker’s life in about two hours of film time. There just seems to be one too many deaths in this movie, but survivor’s guilt also defines who Peter Parker is. One of the two complaints I have about the script is that is it doesn’t really set up action set pieces very well. There just isn’t an inventive action scene here like the Spider-man vs. Doc Ock throw down in the latter half of “Spider-man 2”. Sure the action is fine, but nothing memorable. The other complaint is that too many characters are lacking. No Harry Osborn or Mary Jay Watson this time around. I’m glad they are building up to Norman Osborn as the chief villain, but it feels like Gwen Stacy was put in as the main love interest because MJ might be a little played out. It also feels like the movie has a habit of starting plotlines and not finishing them, but they are obviously saving stuff for a sequel. They better have it planned out though, or the sequels will repeat the mistakes of “Spider-man 3” faster than the Black Cat goes to first base.
Some of you might be asking if this movie ties into the Avengers franchise movies at all. The answer is a big fat NOOOOOOOOO. Spider-man is still being produced by a different studio than the other Marvel movies, so you don’t have the same people attending the same meetings. Marvel should have done some restructuring to get all of their movie franchises under one umbrella, but I suppose it’s too late to do that now. It’s just a little sad that the most popular of Marvel’s characters is excluded from the deep pockets and creative talent over at Marvel Studios. It doesn’t mean we can’t get good Spider-man movies, but we won’t be seeing Spidey in any Avenger tie-ins any time soon.
TAS was also shown in 3D for the gullible schmucks who care. I didn’t see it in 3D, and there didn’t seem much of a reason to do so. There are only a couple of 3D effects in the film with a very oblivious one at the very very end. I have a general distaste for 3D, but, even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t go see TAS in 3D. There is no way I’m paying extra money to spend two hours having a guy shoot white sticky stuff at my face.
To be frank about this whole move, TAS is like sleeping with your ex’s younger, smarter sister. Not as cute or as flexible, but still a wildcat in the sack. TAS is more serious than the previous movies, but that doesn’t always translate into better. It’s a noble effort made by people who wanted to get it right. I could nick pick the details until the sequel hits theaters, but such small concerns shouldn’t drag a movie down. It’s entertaining, but you might have issue with it if you are in love with the intense style of Sam Raimi. If you can’t ignore the Raimi movies, just compare this new Spider-man movie with “Spider-man 3”. Then you will like “The Amazing Spider-man” just fine.
The Dark Knight
I hate going into a movie expecting it to be really good. It causes me to be far too critical and I end up not liking it as much as I should. The hype surrounding Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight”, was so intense that it would be impossible to sit down for a viewing without the slightest foresight that it might be good. By the time the movie started showing for the first time, I was so worried that it would be a victim of inflated hype. I was however, more thrilled than I thought I could possibly be for a movie. I should have known better.
TDK isn’t just good, it’s great. I mean really really REALLY great. Nolan successfully took the backdrop of a dark comic book and adapted to form an engrossing masterpiece of a tragedy. And Nolan’s storytelling abilities had improved so much since “Batman Begins”. All of the little flaws and mistakes Nolan made the first time around were not made here as he reached almost pure perfection in creating this intense highbrow action flick. This is one of those rare occasions where everything just clicks and I truly have a hard time finding anything to criticize it. My gut tells me to say it’s a tad too long, but I can’t think of any scenes I would be willing to cut down. The story is so encompassing there aren’t any stupid little subplots that waste your time. I guess I’ll have to settle with TDK being near perfect.
Since I can’t think of anything bad to say, I’ll emphasize the good. The acting for almost every character was spot on. Everyone was convincing in his/her role and stays true to the character. Anthony Michael Hall comes off as a little cheesy, but it’s the kind of cheesy that is done on purpose. And any review of the acting in TDK can’t be done without paying mind to Heath Ledger. There comes a point where acting quits becoming a job, and starts becoming a craft. When someone starts putting work into the slightest of facial motions, that’s when an actor starts really earning his paycheck. The great performers are helped by a smart deep script that truly impresses. The dialogue is well written and maintains a deep plot structure throughout. The script is also a technical achievement by establishing creative action set pieces. TDK successfully drives forward the plot with speech and action. And the action itself is not only well structured, but well executed as well. The effects are spectacular which is helped by the fact most of them are done with traditional methods rather than cheating on everything with CGI. It also helps that the vast majority of the exterior scenes were filmed with IMAX cameras and doesn’t try to shove any crappy 3D down our throats.
TDK was a movie that had high expectations, but actually fulfilled almost every need of a great movie. It rarely falters and exceeds all standards of what we’ve come to expect from comic book summer action flicks. TDK is so much beyond a “comic book movie” that it actually makes my head hurt. It’s not only great for a first viewing, but satisfies every time you watch it. And enjoyment through multiple viewings is how you separate the good movies from the great.
Batman: Gotham Knight
I suppose it was only a matter of time before Batman got his own anime short story DVD. A trend that “The Matrix” started, this DVD is a series of short stories that follow along the same subject. It’s pretty much several different takes on the world of Batman. A couple of them tie into Nolan’s Batman films, but they feel forced on the DVD for marketing purposes. The whole thing is just a mixed bag of side projects with everyone making their best effort, but still manage only manage to make a half hearted Batman story. Any fan can appreciate this DVD for trying something new, but I don’t see them watching this over and over again.
I really wanted to have a good overall opinion of this DVD, but there just isn’t enough good stuff here to merit that. The first story “Have I Got a Story for You” is very good and is, by far, the best of the anthology. Things quickly drop after that though as the stories get more and more uninteresting. There is some serious craftsmanship at work here, but I don’t think there was enough of a consensus of what a Batman story means. An overall scope of what this DVD should be about is also missed. Giving these anime studios free reigns really hasn’t produced the product you would expect. There are just too many heads in the game to make this DVD truly enjoyable. We just needed one person to stand up and shout, “I’m Batman!”
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There are too many movies for me to review in full, so I created a twitter account to give brief opinions on the many movies I view. If you wish to read my smart ass remarks, follow M.O.V.I.E. Reviewer @MutantOpossum.
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