CINEMA: Spidey in full swing

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OPENS TODAY: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Directed by Marc Webb
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary and Rhys Ifans
Duration 136 minutes
Rating PG 13

SPIDER-MAN has been with us for ages but in movie land, it has just been 10 years. It started in 2002 with Spider-Man, followed by two sequels, all directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire as the masked vigilante.

After what seemed like a world wide web of super villains and dizzying leaps across the city skyline, Maguire passed on his costume to British actor Andrew Garfield for the fourth instalment (marketed as “a reboot” of the universe).

I suspect that director Marc Webb must have some misgivings about the big shoes he has to fill. After all, Raimi reaped a bountiful harvest in box office revenue with his trilogy.

The Amazing Spider-Man, to be honest, basically revolves around the same plot as envisioned by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko five decades ago. Of course, it is the director’s privilege to make changes to the script as he sees fit. And if you are curious whether Stan “the man” makes another cameo appearance in this movie as well — just like he did for the other celluloid interpretations of the comic book characters he created, fret no more. He does.

So what is the coolest thing about The Amazing Spider-Man? Two words — Imax 3D (where available). With the reboot, viewers have come to expect all kinds of aerial dives, spins, jumps and fantastic leaps and the good thing is, they are all there. And with the jumbo Imax screen and the crisp digital quality with 3D effects, it can be unnerving at times, especially when Peter Parker (Garfield) dives head first from very tall buildings.

Watching the adventure this time around has certainly moved up at least two levels as 3D makes it possible for viewers to experience the heart-dropping sensation of falling down high-rise buildings together with Spider-Man. For this kind of jaw-dropping experience alone, the price of the cinema ticket is worth it.

In this latest chapter of Spider-Man, Parker’s love interest is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Personally, when I was reading Spider-Man comics, I liked Gwen better than Mary Jane Watson. Stone wasn’t well fleshed out but that’s not important. The important thing was the chemistry between Peter and Gwen, which is so evident here they sizzle on the screen together — thanks to their rumoured blossoming off-screen relationship during filming.

I am ambivalent about the elusive sparks that are supposed to fly between the two young lovebirds, but the honour of excellent performances must surely go to Martin Sheen who plays Peter’s Uncle Ben, and Sally Field who plays Aunt May. It is always a joy to watch veteran actors dishing out their best.

This time around, Spidey’s arch-enemy is Dr Curt Connors a.k.a The Lizard (Rhys Ifans). The introduction of The Lizard is not unexpected as there were strong hints in an earlier Spider-Man movie. We have already seen big screen versions of Green Goblin, Dr Octopus and Sandman, so it was time for Lizard’s appearance.

In terms of artistic presentation, the movie seems to have a slightly darker theme, unlike Raimi’s trilogy. This instalment of the arachnid swinger, depending on your perception, is a tad more serious. Fortunately Webb has not forgotten to inject humour in certain scenes as Peter Parker is still a teenager and prone to engage in foibles common among youths.

The 64-dollar question is how does Garfield stack up against Maquire as Spider-Man? Strictly on a personal level, I still prefer Maguire even though he exhibits traits of being geeky, and at times, a dopey youngster. I suppose therein lies the charm of Maguire’s Parker.

As for Garfield, he reminds me too much of Hayden Christensen as young Anakin (later Darth Vader) in Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. Girls may prefer Garfield because of his youthful brooding looks but that quality has absolutely no effect on me.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is fun to watch in 3D (if you can make it, head over to Sunway Pyramid’s TGV Imax cinema). As far as special effects are concerned, this movie gets my thumbs-up.

Having said that, the movie seems to lack the “oomph!” that one has come to expect from a Spider-Man movie after 10 years of pleasing the audiences worldwide. It may not be fair to solely blame Webb who, to be fair, had to fill Raimi’s shoes when the latter (followed by Maguire) left the project in a huff over artistic differences.

In terms of expenditure, The Amazing Spider-Man has the second highest production budget with US$215 million (RM680 million). The record for the biggest production budget in the franchise is still held by Spider-Man 3 with US$258m.

This film is more than two hours long. You will get your money’s worth of entertainment if you gauge it by its length. And if you have been reading Spider-Man comics all your life and have seen Spider-Man 1, 2 and 3, then this is a must-watch.

The upside down world of Peter Parker


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