Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why Was The Amazing Spider-man A Successful Reboot?

What Did Webb and Co. Do Right?

Well, they had him take his shirt off. That's a pretty good start

Hopefully you've read our article about why Spider-man was in desperate need of a reboot. If not, here you go. Now we're going to take a look at why Sony's second run at the webhead was superior to the original trilogy. Remember, this is mostly my opinion, and I'm not trying to pick a fight with Raimi fans. Rather, I'm trying to provide solid evidence from the comics, and also use knowledge about film-making and of the making of The Amazing Spider-man. Again, three reasons, and they won't quite be direct arguments against the points made earlier, but some will regard them slightly.

Before you go on, let me add that in its debut, the wall-crawler reboot made 62 million dollars. Not quite the huge amount Raimi's made, but the skepticism of fans probably drove away some viewers. The sequel will most likely make more, since the film is now a blockbuster and critical success (for the most part). Also, this article contains major plot points for The Amazing Spider-man and Never Let Me Go. You've been warned.

Why was this a successful reboot?

3. The Story

Yeah, he looks just like the movie
version here
Marc Webb made a bold but smart move in deciding to borrow from the Amazing Spider-man comics as well as the Ultimate Spider-man comics. His story is more in vein with the former, while Peter Parker is more like the latter. We'll focus on Peter later, let's give the story a good look.

Something that comic book movies didn't do at first, but has become a theme recently, is take their plots and character-arcs straight from the comics. We know that Ironman III will be loosely based on the Extremis story-line from the comics. X-Men First Class hopes its sequel will borrow from the classic narrative Days of Future Past. Comic books include some of the greatest stories ever told, so why not borrow from them?

The Amazing Spider-man did a lot more borrowing from the comic-books than I had even expected, some of it may not have even been intentional. One of Spider-man's first enemies was the Lizard, who had much more of that flat-faced look in his first incarnation. Honestly once the film started playing I couldn't have cared less whether he had a giant snout... He also fights the Lizard injured, and in the comics he once fought the Lizard with one arm broken. Irony? Yup. But more on the intentional stuff.

Gwen Stacy was and always will be Peter Parker's first love. Emma Stone did a phenomenal job pulling her character straight from page to screen, and her chemistry with Andrew was intense and real. Gwen was funny, intelligent, and independent. Spoiler alert, in the comics Gwen does die, and Captain Stacy's warning at the end of the film about the people closest to Peter getting hurt was distinct foreshadowing. Granted, Gwen never discovers that Peter is Spider-man in the comics, but for the sake of the movie, I found the changes Marc Webb made to help more than they hurt.

Another great thing that was drawn from the comics was Peter's artificial web-shooters. I enjoyed the tie-in to Oscorp's materials there, and how he was able to use their own stuff to make his web, and how it was actually processed from real webbing. The web-shooters make Spider-man more interesting, as they can be broken, taken, or run out of web. Being a hero isn't as easy as just shooting web out of your wrists.

Pictured: Logic. Tobey, how did your web even work? Veins?

Overall Marc Webb managed to change the story enough from the Sam Raimi movies that this is most certainly a different film. Oscorp is the centerpiece of this new franchise, and that's how it should be. Marc didn't try to throw in unnecessary elements. Peter will meet MJ later. He'll work for the Bugle later. Norman Osborn will appear later. Harry Osborn will appear later. It makes me more excited to see the following installments, knowing that classic Spider-man staples will be coming back.

2. The Vibe

Tom Cruise did something like this in MI 4, but he used
wires. Andrew Garfield used superpowers.
The Amazing Spider-man was, yes, grittier than the original trilogy. However, there was also more of a lot of other things. For one, the stunts were for the most part real. Excessive CGI was not used, and the 3D shots were spectacular. Stuntmen, and also Andrew, were climbing up the sides of moving buses, swinging on wires, and falling large distances. It's possible there are shots you thought were all CGI when actually only part of it was green-screen.

The heart and humor of this film blew away Raimi's movies. The jokes were existent funnier, and they happened more often. Aunt May and Uncle Ben felt much more connected to Peter, and Martin Sheen brought his own humor and heart to this film. The line "with great power comes great responsibility" wasn't used, but Sheen paraphrased it in a way that still built it up, without it being overly cheesy. Even though fans didn't hear their famous mantra, nobody missed the part where the same idea was made.

The characters are multi-dimensional. The villain isn't a bad person, his priorities are just majorly screwed up. Connors still wants to do what's best for humanity. In Spider-man, we never really learn why the Green Goblin wants to fight and kill Spider-man so bad. Even Willem Dafoe couldn't make his character more complex than he was written. The love interest cares a lot more for Peter as a person, and isn't the "damsel-in-distress." Gwen actually throws herself into harms way on multiple occasions to help her boyfriend out. The girl has guts and heart. Speaking of her boyfriend, we now get to the number one reason why this reboot was a success, and it is a fine reason indeed.

1. Andrew Garfield

Andrew has taken himself from a nobody to the somebody in a short span of time. He was good in The Social Network, showed some great acting chops in Never Let Me Go, and has now proven himself one of the best young actors alive. Peter Parker didn't feel like a comic-book character, instead he felt like a real person. At 28 years old, Andrew was able to convincingly play a high school student. He had real emotional issues, with his parents leaving and dying, Uncle Ben dying, trying to be Spider-man without upsetting Aunt May too much, getting bullied at school, and trying to care for the people he loves. His relationship with everyone on-screen is natural and tangible, from Uncle Ben to Captain Stacy.

Oh, you know, just being tangible.

He's also hilarious. I don't know of any other actor who could pull off one-liners like Andrew did in the red and blue. His various quirks and expressions were crowd-pleasers, and he made me think a lot about myself and who I am. One, because his character was remarkably similar to myself in real-life, and his emotional struggles really make you focus on the issues in your life and how you can deal with them.

In an interview I recently saw with one of Andrew's stunt-doubles, the double revealed that Andrew had come up to them and director Marc Webb with a list of ideas for the character of Spider-man. He wanted it to really seem like there was spider DNA in his body. So he asked that the wall-crawling look and feel as though Peter had 8 legs. He came up with the idea for the web-trap in the sewer. He instinctively grabs at flies, he contorts his body when he dunks the basketball to look like he has multiple limbs. Spider-man used webbing to wrap up the Lizard in the school scene. Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker and Spider-man were different in that when the suit came on, Spider-man was violent and too powerful. He just hit everything really hard. A spider would have a hard time fighting off a lizard, so Peter can't just hit the thing over and over again. He needed to avoid the Lizard with agility, creatively use web to trap it, and he still barely defeated the Lizard. This Spider-man is intelligent, not overly powerful, and still similar to who Peter is.

Andrew mocking the Tobey-crying-face
My favorite thing about Andrew is his ability to take a sad scene and make the whole world cry. James Horner's score at the death of Uncle Ben, Captain Stacy's death, and the scene where Peter tells Gwen they can't see each other anymore adequately convey the sadness Peter feels, but Andrew has a unique ability to bring real emotion to the screen. He breaks down when Ben dies, and the emotion lasts for nearly 10 minutes following the scene. Half of the theater I was in was crying the first time I saw it, and in IMAX 3D the second time, even more people were crying. It was heart-wrenching and frustrating to see Peter in such anguish. Captain Stacy's death was likewise sad, and considering how Peter and the Captain weren't exceptionally close until the end, it was more depressing when Peter let out that raw scream of emotion. There aren't many sounds that convey anger and pure grief more than the ones Andrew makes. If you want the best example of a scene where Andrew is in complete anguish, check out the scene in Never Let Me Go, where (SPOILER ALERT) he just found out he won't be able to spend much time with the woman he loves, because his organs need to be harvested for the person he is a clone of.

I thought I'd be done crying, but no, they had to throw in the breakup with Gwen. It was short, but the dialogue was perfect. "I can't do this - I can't see you anymore." It was hard to watch him wrestle with his want for Gwen and his promise to her father. But as the movie said, the best kind of promise is the one you can't keep. Look for Peter and Gwen to be together again in the sequel.

Honestly, after seeing this, I don't think anyone can do Peter Parker better. Ever. Andrew changed the character only slightly into a punk-skateboarder, but that's so he could still be outcast despite his intelligence and charm. The Ultimate Spider-man comics focus on Peter Parker's struggles as Spider-man, a young man, and a student. Andrew and Marc Webb portrayed this perfectly. After a performance like this, I expect to see an Oscar nomination soon for Andrew Garfield.

To read my review of The Amazing Spider-man, click here.

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