Sunday, July 01, 2012

Old insects, new web


(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 30 June 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article554555.ece)

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen
Director: Marc Webb
Rating: 2.5 stars
With a superhero film that reprises a tale we already know, some things are a given. Of course the kid’s got mummy issues, and his girlfriend has daddy issues, or the other way round. Of course, he doesn’t know how to use his power till his girlfriend or aunt or mum or uncle or dad or BFF gives him a talking-to. Of course, he doesn’t grow up till someone dies. Of course, there will be a dose of chickpower – the comic series’ nod to a busty supergirlfriend. Of course, a teen romance will crawl its way into the maze of CGI that makes the movie. Of course, the climactic fight sequence has to take place either on an iconic building, or the tallest building computer effects can conjure up.
I think the audience was trying to figure out why on earth we needed an origin story right after we saw an origin story. And if we needed an origin story, why could it not be as powerful and fresh as, say, Batman Begins? Anyone who’s read the Marvel Comics knows that Peter Parker is not this kid who cares more about his girlfriend and auntie than his one-liners. I mean, what happened to that sarcastic, cocky twat, and why will he never make a screen appearance? The most sauce we get from Peter Parker here is his readiness to stand up to the school bully, despite his inferior build. Disappointingly, Peter Parker remains a nice guy in this edition, which I was hoping would bring alive the Spiderman of the early Marvel comics.
There is one new strand here, but it gets lost in the haystack before it is even fleshed out. The rest is pretty much the same. Aunt May (Sally Field) is raising Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), a precocious kid who will show off when he finds a new bag of tricks. And if she decides to pop off like his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), she knows he will be in the good – and slender – hands of Gwen (Emma Stone), the cute-as-a-button daughter of the police chief Stacy (Denis Leary). The villain becomes an icky insect; but in an earlier avatar, he was the friend and partner of Peter’s papa. Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans) is now holed up in the unimaginatively named Oscorp, and a scientist who believes he can re-grow his lost arm if he follows the lizard and injects its juices into himself. Yeah, he does believe that. Which is why I wasn’t particularly surprised when the security in his office was inept enough to allow the story of Spiderman to take off.
There’s a lot you could be pernickety about, and the anachronisms would be a good place to start. I do have photographer friends who’re partial to film (though, as far as I know, none of them has a propensity to scale skyscrapers or wear masks); but somehow, The Daily Bugle seems a strange name for a paper at a time when people use mobile phones. By the way, mobile phones are practically guest stars in this film.
If you’re looking for gimmicky 3D, and blitzy action sequences, and enjoy confrontations on top of a tower and things like that, knock yourself out.
The Verdict: This Spiderman film is one for mainstream superhero fans – fanboy geeks will be disappointed.

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