Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and “New Coke”, AKA The Amazing Spider-Man movie July 9, 2012 – Posted in: A Picture's Worth, Blog, Featured Columns

All contents ©2012 Mike Pascale. Visual content ©2012 their respective owner(s).

 

Quick reviews this week before Comic-Con.
My new rating system:

Own It (you’ll want to see it more than once)

See It (worth going to the theater)

Rent It (worth paying for but not the theater trip/expense)

Catch It (if it’s on TV or in the “free movies” OnDemand, worth a look)

Avoid It (two hours better spent sleeping).

 

First, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER:

 

Where I’m coming from: Abe Lincoln is one of my top three non-fictional heroes. Big fan.

Pros:
–Nice weaving in of historical facts and events. I even learned something–Mary Todd, Lincoln’s
wife, was courted by his political rival, Stephen Douglas, before they met (in the movie she and
Douglas, played by former FIREFLY pilot were engaged.) Plus, the way they tied in the fake
stuff with the real stuff was actually pretty clever. If you believe in the vampires, a lot of
the plot would make sense!

–Effective cinematography. Good battle scenes and fight choreography. Lincoln’s way with an ax
was Ang Lee-worthy. (Though the ramp up/super-slow speed technique was overused a bit.) Kudos to
director Timur Bekmambetov.

 

 

–Benjamin Walker as Lincoln. My wife thought he was too handsome (and they forgot to add those
bags under his eyes seen in so many photos) but otherwise I thought he looked the part and did a
nice job.

–Nice historical feel visually. (I say “visually” because of the rock music during the fight
scenes!)

 

Cons:
–A little draggy in spots. A lot of historical material/drama and plot setup; more vampire
battles and specifics would have been more entertaining.

–I would have ended it up to the Civil War and his becoming President, saving it for a sequel.
The movie covered nearly his entire life, a lot to cram into a couple hours.

–No explanation of how the vampires could walk around in broad daylight, exposed, with no ill
effects! Only thing said was that Lincoln’s mentor taught him “how the vampires could walk in
sunlight” but that was all–writer’s cop-out! At least in films like DARK SHADOWS, the vamps
would be covered up and only be out on overcast or rainy days. That has some logic to it. But
exposed skin in bright sunlight–and zero explanation? Contrived.

–The climactic scene on the railroad tracks a bit far-fetched. And Lincoln didn’t have super-
powers, so a bit more suspension of disbelief required.

OVERALL RATING: Rent It. (My wife says: See It.) We both liked it more than…

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN:

Where I’m coming from: Enjoyed the Ditko comics, but my favorite era is the John Romita one. Grew up with Ross Andru & Mike Esposito’s. Haven’t read a full issue of the regular series in a gazillion years. Sam Raimi’s film version is one of my top three favorite movies of all time.

Pros:
–Excellent CG. Overall better animation and swinging movement than the original (the
leaping animation on the 2002 film was the only major weakness for me).

–Great Stan Lee cameo!

 

 

–Dennis Leary is always a treat to watch, but his character was woefully superficial. Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben was good but not at Cliff Robertson’s level.

–The mechanical web shooters didn’t bother me. He never ran out of web fluid (or reloaded), which would have helped; nor did they “jam” like they did in the comics. But they were shown to be vulnerable.

–Emma Stone is a good actress. She wasn’t Gwen Stacy from the comics, but a good actress.

–The funny scenes, though few and far between, did provoke some laughs out loud.

–I didn’t waste my money for 3D, but it looked like there were ample scenes to take advantage of it. So maybe that effect worked well.

 

Cons:
“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” was NOWHERE in the film. Imgaine a remake of STAR WARS without, “May the Force be with you.” Or GONE WITH THE WIND without the “I don’t give a damn” line. Or CASABLANCA without, “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid”. You get the idea. Ben did utter a convoluted line about Peter’s father demanding every man’s responsibility but it had the memorability and impact of a ripe banana.

 

JJJ, sadly missed.

 

–Other things nowhere to be found: J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant, Harry Osborn, Joe Robertson (and most black people for that matter), Mary Jane, Peter’s wrestling gig, his photography job, finding Uncle Ben’s killer. And not even a hint of the Spider-Man theme song, which was used so well in the original.

–It’s a good 20-30 minutes too long. At a couple points, I was actually hoping it would be over soon. Not a good sign.

–Someone asks, “Who are you?” Instead of the perfect, on-character “Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”, PP just says, “I’m Spider-Man.” WTF?

–Flash Thompson changed from an obnoxious, handsome jock jerk into a violent, thug bully. Then changes into Peter’s pal much too soon. His comeuppance was lame; at one point you actually felt sorry for him and thought Peter was the jerk!

–Peter has become disrespectful, a sarcastic, cocky, smart-ass dick. Only a hit of geekery, a bit of awkwardness and zero vulnerability. Innocence eliminated. All the things that made Tobey Maguire’s character likable and fun to watch. Garfield is a GREAT actor, don’t get me wrong; and he’s better looking and more resembles John Romita’s definitive version. But the character he plays is not THE Peter Parker.

 

 

–No justification whatsoever for the change in the costume, which was built by Cirque du Soleil (no kidding!). The webbing is GONE, replaced with a graph-paper pattern. (I did prefer the spider logo on the back, though; definitely an improvement over the Ditko design. But that’s it.) No way could a high school kid make this kind of complex pattern.

–The entire origin was changed! The scenario with the thief and Uncle Ben was totally different (much less logic or impact). Big emphasis on Peter’s Dad. No reason for it either. (I’ve not read a Spidey comic since the early 200s, so I’m guessing this is the “official revamped” origin from recent comics. But it was changed for change’s sake.)

–The single radioactive spider was gone, replaced by a ton of them. Less unique. The way Peter discovers his powers was totally different, much less innocent, much less impact than in Sam’s version.

–Body double? Garfied either couldn’t or wouldn’t bulk up for this like Maguire did. So during the one scene as Spidey with his shirt off (as Gwen nursed his wounds), we see a hunky, headless torso–but not Garfield’s! Too obvious.

–How do you have an Oscar-winning actress like Sally Field and reduce her to little more than a sniveling, background, Edith Bunker? Not as old as the first one (no gray hair; and she didn’t age in the 10 years from the opening scene to the present), not as frail, and not as personable. A shame.

–Speaking of Aunt May, hardly any relationship or chemistry there at all. The scene in Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN where Peter comes home after Uncle Ben’s death to find Aunt May–she begins to cry and they embrace, in silence–always choked me up. One of the most effective and emotional scenes in superhero flicks. This current one skips it entirely!

 

 

–The Lizard effects were well done but nothing like the comics version.

–Curiously, there were two things director Mark Webb lifted from Sam Raimi’s version: 1) The villain talking to himself with a disembodied voice, and 2) A montage of swinging over rooftops at the end. (Although instead of the sun and a giant American flag, we get night and a giant moon. I realize the timing of the original due to 9/11, but it was and still is damn effective; gave me goosebumps and continues to do so. Not this one.)

–Instead of New Yorkers banding together to fight a common menace, they scatter like frightened roaches. What a compliment to a great city.

–At the end of Sam Raimi’s original, some of the theater audience applauded. Nothing on this one.

Bottom line? –I call it “New Coke.” Changed just for the sake of change. This is not “my” Spider-Man. It’s a Spidey for the current young, disaffected generation. Anyone over 30 need not apply. (As opposed to Raimi’s wonderful SPIDER-MAN, which pleased fans new and old, 6 to 60.)

 

OVERALL RATING: Catch It. I honestly wouldn’t bother seeing it again other than the fight scenes. Better time spent re-watching THE AVENGERS–or the Raimi SPIDER-MAN 1 or 2.

 

I know it made a bunch of dough but it will be interesting to see how much or little it drops off in the next couple weeks. I honestly think it got a boost from THE AVENGERS. The average moviegoer, hearing it’s from the same company, probably gave it more of a chance than had this come out first.

I haven’t seen ELECTRA, but I actually enjoyed SPIDER-MAN 3, DAREDEVIL and the first GHOST RIDER more than this flick. Not as bad as Ang Lee’s HULK or the last GHOST RIDER, but that ain’t saying much.

 

What did you think? I’d love to know. Please post in the Comments below. What Spidey did you grow up with, and are you a current reader?

 

Thanks,
Mike
Bru-Hed Closeup
P.S.: How about a nice original art commission of YOUR favorite Spider-Man? Or you or a friend AS Spider-Man? I’m happy to help. Just ask Craig here!

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